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1) phase out the plastic shit. hardware stores like home depot etc sell cheap furniture that's easy to build (i'm a single woman with zero experience with a screwdriver aside from this). assemble it in your apartment and keep the box so you can just disassemble it when you move. wood shelving units are standalone and ~$12 each if you're going for the cheapest. paint them whatever colours you'd like.
2) cover your ugly carpet with nicer carpet. get a big area rug in a brighter, contrasting colour or with an interesting pattern that'll steal the attention from the carpet beneath. this might be something you'll need to save for and it'll be a pain to lug up the stairs alone, but it's not entirely unmanageable.
3) get mirrors. makes the space look bigger and if you find one with a cute frame, it can add character to the room.
4) lights everywhere. if you have the usual shitty light sources and tiny windows most crap apartments have, the more light the better. invest in lamps.
5) plants. succulents and cacti are hard af to kill, and plants along the window sill or near the window makes the apartment look cuter imo.
6) consult google and pinterest for ideas. there are a ton of sites that focus on prettying up shitty apartments without repainting or hammering holes in the walls.
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I just moved in a new apartment with my family (too poor to move on my own yet) and since my new room is smaller than the previous one and some of my furniture is too old, too big or too damaged to keep, I sold them or got rid of them. I have to buy a new desk, a new chair, a new closet for my clothes and shoes, and a bookcase. Right now I have a bed and a bedside table and almost everything I have is in boxes or in a suitcase.
As I said I don't have a lot of space and I have a cat who might want to scratch the new furniture so I'm not sure what I should buy (and if I should avoid wood especially). I'm having doubts for the closet because I don't know what size I should choose. I'm thinking of getting mostly white furniture so it would look clean and not too old-fashioned. By the way I went to Ikea the other day for the first time and found some interesting things but I don't know which other stores I should go to to compare the products and prices so I would like some recommendations please (in Europe btw).
I can only recommend stores, not sure in which country you are tho:
Most of these stores dont exist in France where I am. I should have specified the country, sorry.>H&M home
I completely forgot this one exists, and this reminds me that I should also check Zara Home.
it's a kinda obvious advice but if you don't have too much money and since you are looking for modern/white/ikea-ish furniture i suggest you to buy second hand stuff.
things at emmaüs are not always in style or perfect so i suggest buying from students.
in two month or even now you will find a TON of furniture for cheap or even sometimes free when students are living the rentals. and it's all ikea/fly/conforama simple and small-room appropriate stuff.
also i have 5 cats and they wont scratch the white furniture since it's not wood but a sort of vinyl over a particule board.