I like my apartment, but the longer I spend in it, the more I notice its middling little flaws. I’m not about to tear the place down to the studs (I doubt my security deposit would cover that, anyway), but I’m always in search of easy ideas that don’t require a year-long renovation or all my money to complete.
This is where browsing Reddit’s delightfully named subreddit, Amateur Room Porn, has come in handy. As its name might suggest, this page (and its discussions) are for non-design experts with a passion for interior decorating, eager to swap tips and show off what they’ve done with their everyday living situations—primary bedroom facelifts, DIY book nooks, and wall-art attempts. Where the other popular decor subreddit, Room Porn, features more professional-looking homes and larger (like way larger) spaces, Amateur Room Porn is more focused on modest spaces like one-family households or city studios. It’s a reminder that, regardless of means, location, or design knowhow, everyone wants to live somewhere that suits their situation, personality, and just feels like home.
While scrolling through bedrooms in Baltimore and dining rooms in Düsseldorf (I can dream!), I realized that it’s actually much easier to upgrade my space than I initially thought. If the community of DIYers on Amateur Room Porn are to be believed, it’s all in the small changes: a dash of color here, some cozy seating there, and a little sleight of hand when it comes to natural light. It’s a testament to its name that someone as renovation-averse as I am can come away from ARP with a whole slew of ideas to make my home feel more like, well, mine.
Here are the six biggest takeaways I’ve gained from looking through my new favorite subreddit.
Your outdoor space can feel like a living room
If you have a porch, deck, or patio at your disposal, don’t dismiss it as a dumping ground for muddy shoes and lawn equipment. Instead, think of it as another sitting area and furnish it as such with comfy seating and string lights, or lots of cushions and a fun area rug. Your outdoor space should feel cozy and comfortable to get some fresh air, chilled drinks, and lots of laughter. For me, that means finding the comfiest folding chairs and carting them out to the gated area in front of my apartment (when the neighbors’ kids aren’t playing out there, that is).
Color is your friend
As much as I love a monochromatic space (and there’s plenty of that to be had on ARP), a well-placed pop of color can undeniably add some much-needed life and energy into an otherwise run-of-the-mill room. Take, for example, this dining room that incorporates glimpses of color in the archway, seating, and decor. Meanwhile, if you’re all-in on color, an aqua couch serves as both the focal point in this California living room as well as a point of contrast against the pinks and yellows. Although I’m much more accustomed to sticking to neutrals, I’ve learned I shouldn’t fear an emerald green or Prussian blue.
Unlock thrifting’s potential
If you’re willing to play the long game (and potentially spring for a steam cleaning), delving into the sprawling world of thrift, antique, and consignment shops can make all the difference in feathering your nest. Where it’s a corner and an entire room, any space can come together with some savvy thrift shopping. I should stress, however, that taking this route over shopping at a big-box storeroom will require patience, as my fruitless hours of poring over online second-hand stores has more than proven. That said, I keep looking at this charming living room in Rochester, NY, and am reassured that spending time to accumulate pieces that fit my style will be well worth it.
Create the illusion of light (if you’re low on the real stuff)
I could spend all day drooling over the rooms drenched in natural sunlight that pepper ARP, but I’d rather celebrate the posters who have found some downright genius ways to optimize whatever amount of light their home can get (as a single-window studio-dweller, I’m floored). The key, it seems, is to stick as closely to a light color palate as possible, as these Redditors in Nashville did. Their ample use of plants and mirrors shouldn’t be overlooked, either—these elements further enhance the sense of light and life in the room. If all else fails, I’ll have to try rearranging the furniture to free up space around my windows and, in turn, allow in more light.
Vertical space is usable space
For too long I’ve confined myself to eye-level and under-the-bed storage options. Shelves can, indeed, go all the way up to the ceiling, as this kitchen can attest to. And making use of the entire wall needn’t be boring or utilitarian—a media console with shelves that seem to go on forever provides stylish storage and an opportunity to showcase plants, photos, and other decorative touches.
Studios don’t have to be sterile
When I moved into my studio, my first instinct was to drastically pare down my belongings, for fear of making the place look crowded and cluttered. While there’s nothing wrong with a little decluttering, you don’t have to shed your quirky knick knacks if you don’t want to. Well-stocked (and equally well-placed—see our tip on vertical space above) shelves and gallery walls can work in small spaces, provided you set them up with intention. That means some kind of sorting system on the shelves and frames around the wall art. And don’t forget the impact of houseplants, either—greenery can make even smallest spaces feel homey.
This post was updated in June 2022 with more of our favorite spaces on the popular subreddit.
Where do you go for design and decor inspiration? Tell us in the comments below.