If there’s one thing travel nurses know, at work and at home, it’s white walls—sterile, “don’t you dare paint me” white walls. All too often, travel nurses move from housing to housing in pursuit of assignments; you leave your apartment walls bare since three months hardly seems justifiable to paint or decorate them. Unfortunately, you end up feeling like a stranger in your own home, and that just won’t do.
There are cheap and easy ways of decorating drab apartments to make them home while you’re on assignment. Rather than investing in huge, antique headboards and mounting bookshelves up to the ceiling to make your bedroom uniquely you, however, these ideas will transfer easily from one home to another, so neither the process of decorating nor moving will deter you from implementing them.
- In general, stick with thrift stores, second-hand and consignment shops, and local stores to keep your style eclectic (and cheap!). You’ll be surprised to find as many gems as you do in an ordinary flea market. Plus, vintage is classic and cute.
- Look for look-at-me accessories like pillows and art to give a room you’re not allowed to paint some color. Amassing a small collection of travel art always gives you a story to tell to guests and friends, and antique gilded frames and local artists’ work tell stories of their own.
- If you’re reluctant to drive nails through your walls, don’t worry—just look for art you can lean against the wall, like a quirky surf board, a big European painting, or an Oriental vase. Something as organic and odd as a tall birch tree branch in the corner of a room can look both homey and modern.
- Invest in a few rugs that pop out in the middle of your blah apartment floorboards or carpeting.
- An antique lamp with a new shade can add a touch of class and focus to an eclectic room.
- Bare, harsh apartment lighting can be an eyesore, so instead of going through the effort of replacing them, try this trick: pin the four corners of a pretty scarf or a square of fine fabric around the light fixture so it hangs low enough not to get hot. Experiment with colors and see which ones compliment your apartment and your personality.
- Ottomans with storage space are one of the most valuable things you’ll invest in when traveling. Store unsightly extras like pillows, throws, magazines, and paperwork in them, cover, and stick them in the middle of your living room. You can get two ottomans and slide a sheet of glass or a mirror over them to even make an impromptu coffee table.
- If you still have your rickety, slab-of-plastic-with-four-legs college desk, recycle, donate, or otherwise get rid of it. Instead, go find two filing cabinets of the same height (a bit under hip level) and press them against a wall. Arrange them with enough distance between them so that when you put a sheet of melamine or sanded-down, painted wood across, you’ve made a DIY and storage-plenty desk. You can find supplies easily at thrift stores or Craigslist for super cheap prices. Paint them, cover with pretty fabric, or whatever you want.
- Are some walls still unnaturally bare? Get a large piece of corkboard and cover it with fabric and hang it on a wall. Pin art, post cards, pictures, and various clippings on it, framing them with ribbon or paper to give it some color and class.
- Search antique and thrift stores for little things that scream you and make them the focal point of a coffee or bedside table. Fill a jar with fragrant tea leaves, collect sea shells, or fill a cup with tiny flowers.
- When in doubt, keep it simple, keep it clean, and don’t let it clutter. Don’t be afraid to recycle or donate, just don’t hoard things. This will make your move to your next assignment easier and cheaper, and encourage you to decorate your next apartment to make it your new home.