A beginner’s guide to decorating your home

    You’ve finally decided it’s time to get a real sofa and stop eating off paper plates. Maybe you’re just starting out, with a new job and a new apartment — or maybe you’re not. Either way, like many people, you may be on a tight budget, with little left over for decorating.

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    To help you get started, several design professionals offered tips on how to make your place look like a grown-up lives there without spending a fortune.

    INVEST IN THE ESSENTIALS “I always tell people who are decorating their first apartments that it is important to spend money on the bigger-ticket items, like sofas, beds and dining tables,” said the interior designer Sheila Bridges. “You can always accessorize with inexpensive things like toss pillows, bedding and lighting to pull everything together.” Investment pieces — like that little black dress or the perfect-fitting blazer in your wardrobe — will act as a foundation you can build on.

    MAKE SURE YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU If this is your first place, “it is likely that you will move in the next few years,” Ms. Bridges said. A well-made sofa or bed can go with you, but you’re not going to take the wallpaper. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense to splurge on custom curtains that won’t fit the windows in your next home.

    Art, on the other hand, “will make a huge impact on your space and can be brought with you from apartment to apartment,” said Megan Opel, an interior designer at Laurel & Wolf, an online design service. “I advise splurging on original paintings from your favorite artists, because nothing will make a space feel more like you than personally curated art.”

    But it doesn’t have to cost a lot. “Custom framing can take any hand-me-down or thrift-store find from trash to treasure,” said Kimberly Winthrop, a senior designer at Laurel & Wolf, who recommends Framebridge.com for “affordable and quick custom framing.”

    UPGRADE YOUR LIGHTING It might not occur to most people to swap out existing light fixtures. But as Ms. Winthrop pointed out: “Changing the lighting is much easier than you think and can make a big impact. It is also very easy to swap back out when the time comes for you to move out.”

    PASS ON PRICEY ACCESSORIES Don’t blow your budget on throw pillows, blankets or towels — or anything else that you know you’ll have to replace on a regular basis. Apart from the wear-and-tear aspect, Ms. Winthrop said, “our taste in home décor can sometimes change as often as our taste or trends in fashion.” And changing small things like these is an easy way to refresh to your space.

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