Who else got bitten by the home improvement bug during quarantine? I’ve been obsessively following a number of interior designers, taking inspiration from celebrity houses, and checking out overpriced sites I can’t afford window shopping for home decor.
The question always becomes: “What is my home decor style?”
For most of my adolescent and adult life, I viewed my home as a den for sleeping and grabbing a brief unenjoyable meal when I wasn’t dining with friends in NYC’s latest hot restaurant. But gone are those long, languid SoHo nights, or on the Lower East Side, or in Dimes Square, and rarely — but admittedly sometimes — you’ll find me in the West Village. Instead of spending my days at my company’s Brooklyn office and then and my nights in downtown Manhattan, I spent months and months and months — 24/7 — in my teeny apartment.
Suddenly it became clear to me that my apartment needs a ton of work.
I must not have been the only one, because simultaneously, home decor accounts were blowing up on TikTok. But it wasn’t merely celebrity homes — those unreachable, well-staged spaces. No, the trends revolved around normal people, living normal lives. It was refreshing to see millennials who rent actually giving a sh*t about where they spend their days. But more than that, these millennial abodes were inspiring.
According to the New York Times, many people found inspiration in their homes — at a budget-friendly price: “These influencers on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube are luring a younger generation eager to figure out how to fix up their homes on their own, on an extremely tight budget. Relying heavily on Dollar Store finds and Home Depot lumber, these influencers reject the idea that an Instagram-worthy living room requires a four-figure or even a three-figure budget. Renters and homeowners can learn how to turn Ikea dressers or yard-sale lampshades into sassy centerpieces.”
But it was never just about aesthetics. It’s about taking pride in our spaces, having some control during uncontrollable times. And making your home a reflection of yourself in a time when clothes, travel, and all the other things we used to fuss about were obsolete. “All this enthusiasm,” the article continues, “makes the case that with enough spray paint, hot glue, and fruitful thrift-store runs, almost any space can look like it belongs on the internet.”
Soon, I undertook a few DIY projects, drawing inspiration from the renter-friendly hacks and designs I’d come across online. Floating arches, adhesive contact paper, LED sconces — I tried them all. Bit-by-bit, my home was more satisfying to live in. And looking back, I’m proud of the few skills I picked up during that time, and what I did with the little I had.
While my apartment may not be a sprawling mansion worthy of Selling Sunset or an Architectural Digest feature, it’s still my apartment. I take pride in the small space I’ve curated. It may not be filled with expensive furniture, but I’ve picked up some tips and tricks from the hours I’ve logged consuming home decor content.
With the interior design knowledge I’ve accumulated, I know that the best way to decorate a home is to make it personal. Without sprinkling parts of your personality into your space, how will anyone know it’s you who lives there? Besides, who wants to live in a magazine spread. Give yourself something you can look forward to coming home to. Adding carefully selected pieces can elevate the look and the cozy feel.
Again, this is something I learned from TikTok. Select objects for your home that convey personality. The NYT dubbed this Shelter Tok, saying: “Where function isn’t negotiable, form thrives. Much like a teenager’s bedroom, Shelter Tok is about masking a lack of control with personal objects and good vibes.”
And even now — on the other side of the pandemic — coming home to a gorgeous space is a luxury we realize we can afford. The article continues: “On Shelter Tok, such control is a thing of the past. A majority of American TikTok users are below the age of 29, a group that includes young millennials (only 37 percent of whom will own a home by age 34), Gen Z (age 24 at most) and others too young to even think about building a windbreak. According to Bloomberg, 18 percent of millennial renters have no plans to ever stop renting; many will continue living in the kinds of situations where you can barely get permission to repaint. Some Shelter Tok videos might result from actual renovations — fixtures, appliances, wallpaper — but the audience is there to identify with the taste displayed, not implement it.”
So do it, indulge in a bit of pride about your space. Display flashes of your home on social media, post about your DIYs. And above all, don’t feel limited by your budget. Find items that will make your home pop.
Here are some of the best pieces to shop that will help you do just that — without breaking the bank.
I used to think rugs were some archaic convention I could do without. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Rugs anchor a space, tying your pieces together into one cohesive design. Without a festive rug, everything in your space looks like it’s floating. In open floor plans or smaller areas, rugs can also designate different spheres. This was especially necessary during #WFH. A statement rug instantly adds a ton of personality. And what’s an Instagram-worthy apartment without a checkered rug.
Why are all the TikTok rooms glowing? LED lights are one of the easiest trends to achieve. Simply stick a strip on whatever surface you choose and voila, your room glows in any color you desire. Visit any college campus at night and most of the rooms will be aglow with LED-powered blues, reds, and greens.
But this is not just any old teenage aesthetic. LED lights are a super cheap solution to not having sconces or inconvenient outlets. Run an LED strip under your kitchen cabinet and illuminate the shadowy corners of your cooking space. Or run one alongside your bed for an alternative to a bedside lamp and save space. The opportunities are endless, so let your imagination run wild.
Adding greenery to your space can give it an immediate facelift. In fact, many people became plant parents during the pandemic, taking comfort in the simple act of nurturing something, helping it grow. Sadly, I wasn’t one of those people. I learned very early that I do not have a green thumb, and all my brief attempts have been unsuccessful. So, to add greenery and life into my apartment, I opted for this surprisingly convincing, faux olive tree. It provides the aesthetic I want without slowly dying on me. Godspeed to any of you with thriving Birds of Paradise, though.
Hear me out: your apartment needs a disco ball. This retro accent will transform any space from drab to bon vivant — and fill it with light and life. Place your disco ball near any window and — when the sun hits — your room will spangle with flecks of life which give you a daily reason to just stop, sit back, and appreciate the little beauties.