Decorating your apartment on a budget

Milestone Management /Creative Commons

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This is the moment you’ve been waiting for: You’ve signed with a flourish across the dotted line and paid your first month’s rent, and now your keys are in your hand as you eagerly stride toward the door of your first apartment. With a twist of your hand, you unlock the front door and push it open — to be greeted by nothing. White walls, empty cabinets and the grungy bathroom remind you that your newfound independence comes with great responsibility — the responsibility of decorating — and possibly furnishing — your own living space. Though the task may seem daunting, the Clog has got you covered. We bring to you a list of the best, most inexpensive places to go apartment shopping in Berkeley and how to get the most bang for your buck.

1. Free & For Sale

From bed frames to dish soap, Free & For Sale offers an assortment of everything the average college student needs for his or her first apartment.

Pros: Almost everything sold here is heavily discounted. Whether students are simply being kind-hearted or rushing to move out, they tend to mark down items by 50 to 75 percent of the original values. Pickup is easier to deal with since students are conveniently located close to campus.

Cons: Transactions are fast-paced, and items sell out within minutes. You have to be on top of your Facebook messaging game to even be considered in the running. Additionally, an item may be worn out, depending on its history of use.

What to Buy Here: Large pieces of furniture like beds, couches, desks and dressers. Items like these can be exorbitantly priced at furniture stores, but you can often save hundreds of dollars through just one transaction on Free & For Sale.

Example: This desk was sold on Free & For Sale for a fraction of its original price:

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2. Savers Thrift Store

Savers is basically Free & For Sale reproduced in an actual department store. It offers a range of bed and bath products, furniture, clothes and kitchenware.

Pros: It’s located at 1414 University Ave., so you can bus there. Items are 25 to 75 percent off. Savers invests much of its profit back into community programs, local charities and small businesses, so you can benefit Berkeley while shopping here.

Cons: Items can be quite dated. Machines like coffee makers and rice cookers can be purchased here, but they’re older models that are far from cutting-edge.

What to Buy Here: Smaller items such as measuring cups, vintage decorations, kitchen skillets or bath towels. Though Savers does sell some furniture, selection is very limited, and the furniture is often in less-than-appealing condition.

Example: We bought this pink shower curtain for only $4! New shower curtains normally range from $15 to $30.

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3. Daiso

You’ve probably passed by Daiso on Telegraph Avenue and couldn’t help but be lured in by the colorful products and promise of a discount. Daiso is a great option for students who are shopping on a budget.

Pros: Daiso products are sold for between $1 and $8, but the average price is $1.50. They offer decorative items like candle holders,as well as practical items such as desk organizers and toilet bowl cleaners.

Cons: Some things look as cheap as they are. The neon colors and flimsy plastic might make you feel that you’re shopping for your middle school days rather than for your first apartment.

What to Buy Here: Smaller items such as nail polish remover, picture frames, cups and kitchen gloves. It’s also worth investing in something random that you might not be able to find elsewhere — where else can you get a half-moon shaped sushi plate?

Example: We bought this flowery trash can and pink toilet plunger for $1.50 each — a steal in comparison with normal retail prices.

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4. Artist & Craftsman Supply

Your go-to store for art and decorations, Artist & Craftsman Supply has everything necessary to put together a colorful, homey apartment.

Pros: The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, and the employees are more than willing to assist you with any decisions or project preparation. This craft store is relatively cheaper than others in the area, though it’s not as cheap as big retailers like Michaels. It’s located at 2573 Shattuck Ave., which is easily accessible by bus.

Cons: This place can seem kind of confusing for the beginner artist, since there are so many options to choose from and and so many aisles to get lost in. Make sure to come in with a plan of what you want to create and a list of materials you’ll need to put it together — don’t expect to have the decor ready for your purchase. Be aware that you must put in some crafting time to complete your projects.

What to Buy Here: Paint, Sharpies, duct tape, wall hangers and anything else you’ll need to make your apartment beautiful. Try working on projects like a kitchen blackboard, canvases for your bathroom, painted silverware or washi-tape picture frames. Look up  “Apartment Decorating Ideas” on Pinterest and go from there!

Example: Using metallic origami sheets, glitter duct tape and a colorful painting, create an eye-catching centerpiece for your living room wall for less than $20.

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5. Sundays on Telegraph

You’ve probably browsed through the booths at Sundays on Telegraph Avenue at least once, but have you viewed these stands from the perspective of an apartment shopper? Each individual stand has something unique to offer that will brighten up your apartment and add flair.

Pros: There are styles and colors to cater to each personal palette, and items range from dream catchers to pieces of art. You’ll get to meet the interesting and impassioned individuals who create these products.

Cons: Some of these booths can be a little more pricey. Just be on the lookout for the best deals you can get, and avoid the products that seem too costly.

What to Buy Here: Paintings, art and small decorative pieces for your walls. Artwork, prices for which range from $5 to $30, offers all of the beauty and complexity of lavish paintings without the expensive price tag.

Example: We bought the piece of art shown here for only $15 and used it to create an intriguing wall of mirrors.

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Image Sources: Milestone Mangement, Free & For Sale 

Contact Vasudha Doijode at [email protected].