Interior Design

Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas Inspired By "A Series Of Unfortunate Events"

I vividly remember my husband’s sad, sad grad school apartment. He had nothing on the walls, and his few pieces of mismatched battered furniture all came from the “last chance” section of the Goodwill Store. I still have nightmares about his lovely mustard-yellow plaid sofa. We actually had our first fight about that sofa, because when we got married, we disagreed about whether to give that “beauty” a home in our apartment. (Guess who won?)

This old yellow plaid sofa is an example of the kind of second-hand furniture to avoid --Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Idea
This is not exactly what my husband’s grad school couch looked like, but you get the idea.


So, as I helped my youngest child furnish and move into his first apartment this past month, I was determined to ensure that it was both comfortable and attractively decorated. Given that my son is attending law school and living on loans, it was imperative that I devise some very Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas.

I started this process by asking my son what kind of style he was attracted to. Knowing my decorating-challenged offspring, I was not surprised that he didn’t declare his preference for a specific period or type of design. However, I was taken aback, when he presented me with a picture of “The Reptile Room” from the Netflix production of the weird and wonderful  A Series Of Unfortunate Events and stated that he would like his decor to look something like Uncle Monty’s living room, except without the reptiles!

(Image Credit: Netflix)

I love the totally over-the-top sets from this excellent show. But I knew there was no way to duplicate this lushly-layered and decidedly quirky interior on a shoestring. So, what to do? I decided to try to distill the look down to its essence. I determined it to be basically, a Victorian Era English gentlemen’s library, albeit with a twist. The decor includes several generously-sized pieces of masculine furniture, a rich jewel-toned color scheme, lots of books, and a variety of patterned fabrics.

Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas

My son was attracted to the dark green walls in the “Reptile Room” set, so we agreed on a dark green and navy blue color scheme.  Since we couldn’t paint the walls and the carpet in his apartment was beige, I chose to anchor the seating area with this 5 x 8-foot navy and green plaid area rug. Just by layering it over the bland wall-to-wall carpeting, we immediately added a lot of personality to the space.

Brumlow Mills Green/Blue Traditional Plaid Area Rug --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Brumlow Mills Green/Blue Traditional Plaid Area Rug

Since our inspiration featured a leather sofa, we decided to search for a deep brown faux leather couch for the living room. The apartment’s limited square footage mandated that we acquire a sofa between 70-75-inches long. However, identifying one that fit the bill turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. The loveseats we found were too small (ranging from 58″ to 60″) and most of the sofas were too long (ranging from 82″ to 98″). Finally, I found this Serta RTA sofa online. The disadvantage of this was that we couldn’t sit on it before we bought it, but fortunately, it turned out to be relatively comfortable.

Virtually every stick of furniture we purchased for the apartment, including this sofa, shipped in a box and had to be assembled. I was quite concerned about how hard that assembly would be and also how the pieces would look once we put them together. However, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on both counts with everything we bought.

Serta RTA Palisades 73" sofa is the perfect size for a small apartment --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Serta RTA Palisades Sofa in Chesnut Brown bonded leather which shipped for free from Wayfair in a box but did require some strength to assemble properly.

We added some color and interest to the sofa with a navy throw blanket and four pillows. I chose two pillows in dark green velvet and two more in a William Morris Seaweed pattern.

Since we were going for a Victorian period (1837-1901) look, I selected this handsome Mission style (late 19th century) tv cabinet because it could also provide much-needed storage for some of my son’s many books. I was more than impressed with the quality. The details of the arched glass-front doors, the wrought iron cabinet pulls, and the rich cherry finish give this piece an expensive look for the bargain price of just $200.

The Mission style tv cabinet with its arched glass doors and wrought iron hardware looks expensive but was a bargain --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Arched-Door Mission Style TV Stand in a cherry finish

Although we bought it on sale, our one splurge item was this gorgeous blue tufted velvet armchair from Pier 1. It doesn’t really count as one of my Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas, but because it looks so luxe, it was well worth stretching our budget a bit to have it in the room.

lThe bue velvet tufted chair with turned legs and brass tack trim is an elegant addition to the English gentleman's library decor --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
The Pier 1 Chas Navy Blue Velvet Armchair with its button tufted back, decorative brass tack trim and espresso finished turned legs was the perfect addition to our gentlemen’s library look.

The set design that inspired our room includes several trunks. This makes sense, as the character of Uncle Monty travels all over the world in search of exotic reptiles. Because of this, it seemed like a no-brainer to choose a trunk-style coffee table. This espresso finished trunk fit perfectly with our scheme and the decorative brass tacks coordinate with the tack trim on the blue velvet armchair.

Clay Alder Home Hi-Line Nailhead Espresso Cocktail Table Trunk is perfect for our well traveled gentleman's library decor --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Clay Alder Home Hi-Line Nailhead Espresso Cocktail Table Trunk

Light fixtures are a great way to bring in character without breaking the bank. We bought several lamps for both ambient and task lighting. This globe style lamp was our version of the very unique desk lamp from the “Reptile Room” set.

Menlo globe desk lamp --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Menlo Glass Globe Lamp

Another thing that I had to address was the window treatment. The apartment had these functional, but truly unattractive vertical blinds. They definitely didn’t work with our English gentleman’s library theme, so I desperately wanted to cover them up or at least, add some drapery panels.

Vertical blinds may be practical but are not very attractive --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"

The problem with this is two-fold. One:  the leasing company frowns on people drilling holes in the wall to hang draperies and two:  it is difficult to find drapery hardware deep enough to hang curtains on top of vertical blinds. However, I did some research and found these fantastic NoNo Brackets that are made to fit over the blind valance–no drilling necessary. These brackets are only $14.95 a pair, which makes them one of the best Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas I found.

NoNo curtain rod brackets are perfect for apartments because they are made to fit over the top of a vertical blinds valance --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
NoNo Bracket – Dark brown curtain rod bracket attachment for outside mount vertical blinds

We purchased a matching dark bronze drapery rod, and we were in business.

Inexpensive but handsome bronze finish drapery rod --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Bronze finished 5/8″ drapery rod

I chose these draperies which look like men’s suiting to coordinate with the other elements in the room.

Men's suiting material draperies --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"

Unfortunately, my son’s apartment is on the first floor which necessitates keeping the blinds drawn all the time. To allow light into the room and maintain privacy, sadly, it was clear that he needed sheer curtains instead of my lovely plaid draperies. I didn’t want to give up on having some pattern at the window, so I chose these blue and white striped sheers. They don’t scream gentleman’s library, but they do to add character to the decor.

These striped sheer draperies allow light in the room while providing privacy --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Dark blue and white striped sheer draperies introduce another pattern into the space. They also allow light in without sacrificing privacy.

A final Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Idea that I introduced was this fabulous emerald green Peel And Stick Wallpaper. While the spotted black panthers are certainly not reptiles, I think that world traveler Uncle Monty would have approved. We placed the wallpaper inside of a bookcase, but I think we could also use it to create a feature wall.

Fabulous pather peel and stick removable wallpaper is a great way to add pattern and character to a bland apartment without permanently altering the walls --"Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas"
Panther Peel & Stick Removable Wallpaper
English gentleman's library style decor inspired by a set from "A Series Of Unfortunate Events" --Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas
We worked so hard moving and putting all his furniture together that I didn’t even think of taking a photo. My son took this not so great picture for me with his cell phone, but at least you can get some idea of how it turned out.

Now, admittedly, my son’s apartment doesn’t look anything like the Series Of Unfortunate Events set. However, I do think I managed to come up with some Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas to create a stylish space inspired by a very unlikely source. And maybe, if my son has any of his mother’s over-developed interest in collecting, in time, he can acquire additional decor items to flesh out the quirky gentleman’s library design further.

#inexpensive decorating ideas, #apartment decorating, #small apartment, #apartment furniture

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in :

Why My Family Room Decor Is Always A Work In Progress

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6 thoughts on “Inexpensive Apartment Decorating Ideas Inspired By "A Series Of Unfortunate Events"

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. My son took the photo I included in my post shortly after we left on the day that we moved him in. I shudder to think what it looks like now after he’s been living there a while. I felt like I needed a HAZMAT suit when I cleaned his room and bath after he moved out!

  1. Well, your son is one lucky kid!!
    My graduate apt. was filled with very inexpensive items: all “early attic reject” from family and friends. Kitchen chairs were actually borrowed from the university cafeteria. The times they are a changin’

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