Etsy News Blog

Goodbye Dorm-Life, Hello First Apartment handmade and vintage goods

Airelle_bio.jpgArielle Wilkins is currently a college student, as well as a member of the Etsy Street Team, Etsy U, whose members are entirely made up of current college students. On her time off from school she works on her brand Abreaka Studios, as she creates in-your-face bold and vibrant works of art. She also spends her time doing what other college students do: going crazy while working on homework and occasionally relaxing.

Every college student has a dream of getting their own apartment. The dorms are too strict, sometimes expensive, and it’s a hassle having to move belongings in and out every year. That first apartment releases the obstacles of dorm living and is a step toward moving up in the world.

I currently attend the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York and the dorms in the area are way too expensive, in my opinion. So, I saved up all my money, convinced my parents (they are very overprotective, as most parents are) and rented a studio in Brooklyn. I am definitely excited about this step in life, but I am even more excited about decorating my apartment!

Currently my apartment is in prison state. White walls, no color, very bare…kind of like the dorms. I want my apartment to represent my personality and artwork. I want color everywhere! I want color on the walls, floors, furniture — basically I want people to be blinded by color when they step into my space. I also want it to be very organized. As a designer I have so many art materials, paintings and other projects that can easily become a big mess in a small space. So I need to create a psychedelic Zen with my apartment.

It will be tough to achieve my vision due to some limitations: I don’t have that much space, I’m not allowed to paint the walls, and I have a tight budget. But with some creativity, I will find a way to do it. Here are a few awesome pieces by wonderful sellers that would bring fun and excitement to any student’s first apartment — while addressing the typical related challenges: space and budget.


There are a few ways to add a burst of color to walls — without the labor of painting. One simple way is to hang up artwork. I love the urban graffiti look with bright colors, which makes a big statement on a blank wall. First is this very funky Animal Kingdom painting by mattcrump. Then, we have the beautiful pop  Dancing Rosy painting by Erin Crawford (evon), and lastly, an urban punk illustration print titled Love or Bust by lindaketelhut.


Another no-brainer way to add color to walls is by using vinyl decals. They can easily be removed, come in many different designs/colors, and overall add much-need interest to a plain background. Why not frame your photos with this these Vinyl Wall Sticker Decals by SimpleShapes, or brighten your walls with these retro flower decals by byrdiegraphics? Perhaps bring some zest with this floral decal by surfaceinspired or or add a grid of colors with this geometric decal by circlelinestudio.



Good organization is key when living in a small space. Here are some awesome items that are funky yet get the job done. Why not store your coats with these refurbished coat hooks by halfpintsalvage? Next is a great way to clear up your floor with these restored display wall shelves by justmenicki3. Add a touch of simplistic beauty to the color craze with this elegant shelving unit by andrewsreclaimed. Finally, a strong conversation piece bookshelf by kiki5244.


Unfortunately, along with the white walls, my kitchen cabinetry also bears that same pale color. I decided to add some interest by switching out the doorknobs. There are many wonderful sellers who have different styles of knobs and drawer pulls on Etsy. First up are these cool colored glass drawer pulls by beachyrustica.  And lastly is this vibrant rainbow of hand painted knobs by mitsel8.


The last thing you can do to color up space is with pillows. Do you have plain chairs, bedding, or a boring couch? Here are a few pillows that bring a splash of color to those low-key pieces. I am originally from Texas, so I figure why not represent  with this awesome Texas pillow by lovecalifornia? If you aren’t a big fan of Texas this seller offers other state pillows as well! I love food, especially desserts, so it would be awesome to rock this cake pillow by RaineStyleHome. Finally, why not bring a burst of color with this beautiful flower pillow by dedeetsyshop?


Thanks to Arielle for sharing her first apartment finds, they’re great recommendations
for any student or young professional venturing out to live on their own.
What would you want in your first apartment? Let us know in the comments below.

Etsy Finds: Decor | Graduation Posts | Housewares Category

Floppy Disk Coasters - NEON -
Floppy Disk Coasters - NEON -
Circus Sideshow Lamp Shade Lampshade
Circus Sideshow Lamp Shade Lampshade
Contemporary Clock cast Concrete and fused glass art design by ZulaSurfing
Contemporary Clock cast Concrete and fused glass art design by ZulaSurfing
$386.00 USD
Vinyl Wall Decal Sticker DJ Turntable Urban Music 335B
Vinyl Wall Decal Sticker DJ Turntable Urban Music 335B
$49.95 USD
Lookie Loo Drawer Pulls Knobs
Lookie Loo Drawer Pulls Knobs
Black Wing Lamp
Black Wing Lamp
  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry says:

    Great ideas to cure blank wall drabness!

    6 years ago

  • EvenAndy

    EvenAndy says:

    Nice bright pieces that would make her first apartment beautiful! I especially loved the I Love Cake Pillow:)

    6 years ago

  • blueskyclouds

    blueskyclouds says:

    I also think that large-scale photographs are often overlooked as making a big statement and adding life to walls. Usually people opt for posters, but a very large photograph can be striking and unique. Great suggestions here, too!!

    6 years ago

  • thelittlemarket

    thelittlemarket says:

    A splash of colors!!! Thanks for the great finds!

    6 years ago

  • StudioZen

    StudioZen says:

    Great finds Arielle! Have fun furnishing your apartment!

    6 years ago

  • Kibber

    Kibber says:

    These are some awesome colorful suggestions...... I am myself looking to add some color in my overstuffed drab workspace :)

    6 years ago

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye says:

    Oh! I love this! Awesome post!

    6 years ago

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    SimpleJoysPaperie says:

    Nice article! Congratulations on getting your first apartment! :) I love the shelves by andrewsreclaimed.

    6 years ago

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts says:

    Great splashes of color!

    6 years ago

  • Ayca

    Ayca says:

    Great article!Congrats!

    6 years ago

  • vintagehomerecycled

    vintagehomerecycled says:

    What great ideas for spicing up boring ole white walls.

    6 years ago

  • ReclaimedObjects

    ReclaimedObjects says:

    I know I should'nt toot my own horn!! but--- You need a mirror to make your small apartment seem larger! besides! Its great to look at your own Relfection!

    6 years ago

  • SeaFindDesigns

    SeaFindDesigns says:

    So funny... just had to stay at a dorm in MD last weekend... Yeah... it really could have used a few of these items.... or all!

    6 years ago

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu says:

    Congrats! What a great post!

    6 years ago

  • candacejean

    candacejean says:

    Congrats on getting your apartment! I work for an architectural firm and we were recently awarded a new student housing/residential life building, so it's neat to see the design process behind the dorms before construction begins. Hope ours don't end up too boring! My first apartment (on my own, no roommates) was when I was recently separated. My son wasn't quite a year old, so I had free reign over the decor. It was wonderful having that decorating freedom! I still miss its eclecticness a bit. I really like the black and white wall/bookshelves!

    6 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    i remember my first apartment. i wish etsy existed back then.

    6 years ago

  • jcisco112

    jcisco112 says:

    I love your bright and amazing. I love the cake pillow. Perfect gift for anyone.

    6 years ago

  • trillity

    trillity says:

    Just the post I needed...I will be moving soon to a small apartment that will probably need some major decorating work!

    6 years ago

  • SusanKJewelry

    SusanKJewelry says:

    god luck!

    6 years ago

  • NaturalAmber

    NaturalAmber says:

    Wow, you are super talented! I absolutely love your shop.

    6 years ago

  • realfaery

    realfaery says:

    Cool article! Congrat!

    6 years ago

  • badplatypus

    badplatypus says:

    Great article! I'm always trying to think of something to do with those white walls that I can't paint or even put nail holes in :P I love the vinyl squares!

    6 years ago

  • shannonbatescreates

    shannonbatescreates says:

    How fun! Yeah, I wish Etsy existed when I was moving out into the real world, too... I made a lot of my own decorations back then, though, so it was fun! :)

    6 years ago

  • LuRuUniques

    LuRuUniques says:

    The bright colors are so cheerful. The first apartment is always special.

    6 years ago

  • BetaBoutique

    BetaBoutique says:

    Oh yes, so many inspirational finds here!

    6 years ago

  • ParamiPanda

    ParamiPanda says:

    I've been waiting my whole life to be out of college houses and into my own apartment, so I <3 this!!! Unfortunately my roommate cares a lot more about not spending money than living in a cute place, so I'm spending most of my money on the essentials like furniture, and less on the lovely bits of decor...

    6 years ago

  • ArtisticIntentions

    ArtisticIntentions says:

    Great stuff - beautiful colors!!

    6 years ago

  • OrangeistheSun

    OrangeistheSun says:

    LOVE the graffiti-esque prints!

    6 years ago

  • yoshibearstudio

    yoshibearstudio says:

    "Psychedelic zen" is a bit of an oxymoron, but... I totally get it and I love it! Haha! What a wonderful (and inexpensive) way to make a dull space exciting!!

    6 years ago

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage says:

    haha. i love the the floppy disc coasters!

    6 years ago

  • undermyfeet

    undermyfeet says:

    Love the stuff!

    6 years ago

  • 28thStreetvintage

    28thStreetvintage says:

    vibrant color!

    6 years ago

  • atelierpompadour

    atelierpompadour says:

    great ideas!some new fav from your finds!!

    6 years ago

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers says:

    Awesome finds for your pad!! Make your place fun and colorful and unlike anyone elese! Design it ETSY style!!

    6 years ago

  • batzy

    batzy says:

    great info and items :)

    6 years ago

  • modchicvintage

    modchicvintage says:

    Funky and retro inspired pieces! I'm constantly impressed by the talent on Etsy.

    6 years ago

  • TheNightjar

    TheNightjar says:

    love the decals : )

    6 years ago

  • aliciablim

    aliciablim says:

    I love the bright colors!

    6 years ago

  • sarahknightdesign

    sarahknightdesign says:

    Wow! Good work arielle:) The transition from college to "real life" is always interesting- but it looks like you're going to make it!

    6 years ago

  • simplyworn

    simplyworn says:

    go for it...get creative and have fun!

    6 years ago

  • reyaveltman

    reyaveltman says:

    Walking into your own apartment filled with all that color would be such an inspiration every day! Wonderful findings here.

    6 years ago



    Love the bright colors!

    6 years ago

  • VintageZen

    VintageZen says:

    Love it!

    6 years ago

  • PhineasandLou

    PhineasandLou says:

    Love this!! Great finds, but you have such great style...your shop rocks!!

    6 years ago

  • bowlabeau

    bowlabeau says:

    This has given me so many ideas! Thanks for the inspiration!

    6 years ago

  • akcArt

    akcArt says:

    Congrats to you Arielle for taking that big step! Love your work! Wishing you continued success!

    6 years ago

  • bbbennyandthejet

    bbbennyandthejet says:

    sweet helicopter vinyl decals! instant M*A*S*H vibe.. ;)

    6 years ago

  • opendoorstudio

    opendoorstudio says:

    OH how I wish Etsy were around when I had my first apartment! I will never forget the fire extinguisher and brown lidded tupperware my husband gave me.... then again... that brown lidded tupperware would be back in style! gotta love that!

    6 years ago

  • lindaketelhut

    lindaketelhut says:

    Congrats on your new apt Arielle - it's so fun to decorate! thanks so much for including me in your post!

    6 years ago

  • VictoriaGabrielle

    VictoriaGabrielle says:

    I've just done the same thing! haha!

    6 years ago

  • Wishfulness

    Wishfulness says:

    this article came at the perfect time! i am looking to get my own apartment in the next few months! can't wait!

    6 years ago

  • BonTons

    BonTons says:

    Love the decals

    6 years ago

  • JustBakin

    JustBakin says:

    Loving the flower pillow.

    6 years ago

  • rainpeople

    rainpeople says:

    so fun!!! thanks for the great ideas & bright visuals! XO

    6 years ago

  • AnnTig

    AnnTig says:

    Gorgeous colors! Wonderful design ideas! Thank you.

    6 years ago

  • InfamousQBert

    InfamousQBert says:

    people were always so impressed with how "grown up" my apt looked in college. i really attribute it all to my mother's and my artwork that was up all over the place. most people had a few pics and maybe a framed movie poster. even unframed, the large canvases of "real" art just made such a difference!

    6 years ago

  • dkshattuck

    dkshattuck says:

    My first apartment was SOOOOOOOOOO Boring! Good luck to you!

    6 years ago

  • CityChicCountryMouse

    CityChicCountryMouse says:

    I wish Etsy was around when I had my first dorm room, it would have been so much cooler! Best wishes!

    6 years ago

  • artwithallie

    artwithallie says:

    Oh my goodness I can't imagine not being able to paint the's what I love to do so I'm feelin' for you! But then again it does open it up to a wider range of possibilities doesn't it? I just love color (or colour here in Australia) and like I always say..."I don't do drab"!! Have a great time with it Arielle!! Would love to see the results.

    6 years ago

  • kitchenwizard

    kitchenwizard says:

    I get so jealous of people making the move from dorm to first apartment. <3 I LOVED that period in my life - SO exciting!

    6 years ago

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass says:

    Where did I put my sunglasses?! :) Great ideas!

    6 years ago

  • H2OCouture

    H2OCouture says:

    Great Colors!! Congrats!!!

    6 years ago

  • kristimcmurry

    kristimcmurry says:

    I'm so bummed that I didn't find the Etsy U team before I graduated in May!!! GAH! I can totally relate to this. I was on cloud 9 when I got my own place my junior year. It was amazing.

    6 years ago

  • vintagemimosette

    vintagemimosette says:

    For the DIYers, an inexpensive way to paint an old piece is to haunt the clearance paint aisle at the hardware shop. They often have small cans of paint that customers turned down because the color wasn't "just quite right" for them, at a very minimal cost to you!

    6 years ago

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage says:

    great's always fun decorating!

    6 years ago

  • urijewelry

    urijewelry says:

    Thanks for sharing Arielle. I love the term "psychedelic Zen"! Good luck and have fun in your new space!

    6 years ago

  • craftpile

    craftpile says:

    So cute!

    6 years ago

  • nickandnessies

    nickandnessies says:

    Congrats on getting your first apartment :) What a fun time!

    6 years ago

  • lorenabr

    lorenabr says:

    Love the finds:)

    6 years ago

  • Stargazer02

    Stargazer02 says:


    6 years ago

  • carlossantiago

    carlossantiago says:

    nice pillows from the pillow guys, PARK matt & carlos

    6 years ago

  • MiriMoMo

    MiriMoMo says:

    Love this entry^^ I'm a uni students aswell living out of home (an NOT in the Student village). Thanks for the great pointers, as decorating on a bugget has always been trouble <3

    6 years ago

  • raindropdesigns

    raindropdesigns says:

    I'm a college kid too and love your ideas for apartments. You give me hope! Thanks!

    6 years ago

  • wittywhiddy

    wittywhiddy says:

    Hey cool, I'm about to move in to my first apartment in August!!! I just ordered some pillow covers, that's about as far as I've gotten, so you're ahead of me...:)

    6 years ago

  • allthepreciousthings

    allthepreciousthings says:

    Thanks for highlighting bulletdesigns - I love this new shop!!!

    6 years ago

  • styleforlife

    styleforlife says:

    Incredible subject, just perfect! Thanks for sharing! xoxo Emily at EL Vintage

    6 years ago

  • JesseMosher

    JesseMosher says:

    great finds . There are a lot of perfect items on etsy for a first apartment. It's a great place to find unique pieces to show your style .

    6 years ago

  • ScarletandtheSea

    ScarletandtheSea says:

    Fantastic finds!!

    6 years ago

  • nowonder

    nowonder says:

    Great ideas for spicing up the walls!

    6 years ago

  • IndyGrrrlProductions

    IndyGrrrlProductions says:

    So colorful. I love everything : )

    6 years ago

  • FerntreeFlowers

    FerntreeFlowers says:

    As wonderful as all these picks are, be sure to exhibit your own work. Afro Pop is awedsome!

    6 years ago

  • marbled

    marbled says:

    Cool article! Congrats!

    6 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    I love that I heart cake cushion because well I do love cake! Awesome picks, I remember my drab student flat I did it up with lots of posters.

    6 years ago

  • themefragrance

    themefragrance says:

    Passing this on to college students I know....though spare can be fabulous with a discerning eye a few pieces make for a strong statement, and arresting visuals.

    6 years ago

  • MsPremiseConclusion

    MsPremiseConclusion says:

    Great ideas! I'm sure your apartment will look so amazing. I really love the wall decal idea, especially since tenants are often discouraged from painting the walls.

    6 years ago

  • AshTreeCreations

    AshTreeCreations says:

    I'm a recent grad as well with a new place and DEFINITELY have the decorating bug, too!! :)

    6 years ago

  • BeadsInTheBelfry

    BeadsInTheBelfry says:

    awww happy first apartment and you found some great things!!!

    6 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    I still have things from the very first place my better half & I moved into when I was 19... happy days! A good investment is some lengths of decorator weight fabric to use as throws over the (usually) horrible furniture that comes with the place... just hem each end & you're good to go. If you make the hem at one end wide enough to accommodate a rail they can double as door curtains! Bright floor rugs are useful too, as well as being easily portable from one crummy apartment to the next. It's a great time in your life, enjoy it!

    6 years ago

  • StellasKnits

    StellasKnits says:

    Fantastic ideas to add color to a monochrome life! Brings back memories of my college days....sigh.

    6 years ago

  • riricreations

    riricreations says:

    Great article~I remember those days well~love that Texas pillow.

    6 years ago

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine says:

    My first apartment wasn't colourful, everything was black and white. The rule was if you painted, you had to repaint to white before you moved out, so I didn't bother. Now I love colour - "Blam" "Kappow" Pillows! No Etsy, no Ikea back then (no HGTV, no design blogs), just garage saleing and grabbing furniture from the curb. It's surprising what you can do with some spray paint, fabric, vinyl and a staplegun (and help from those who actually know what they're doing). I don't recommend cinderblock shelving if you have to carry all those blocks up several flights of stairs. My friends balanced their shelving boards on canning jars filled with stones.

    6 years ago

  • ebeepaperie

    ebeepaperie says:

    What a fun post! I love all the finds! :)

    6 years ago

  • Snowdon

    Snowdon says:

    ooh loving that beautiful leaf decal!

    6 years ago

  • candysaurus

    candysaurus says:

    I love love LOVE the lamps!

    6 years ago

  • AutumnJo

    AutumnJo says:

    Great blog! The vinyl decals are so perfect for someone like me who changes their mind every couple of months about wall color!

    6 years ago

  • senioritis

    senioritis says:

    Congrats on the new apartment Arielle, best of luck filling your new space with loads of color. We especially like the street art and vinyl decal work that you featured above. Oversized street art in viyl form would look pretty sweet on your white walls ;)

    6 years ago

  • RomanceCatsAndWhimsy

    RomanceCatsAndWhimsy says:

    All that color will definitely jazz up your apartment! Great finds too! :)

    6 years ago

  • soulmessenger

    soulmessenger says:

    Love these ideas. Vinyl decals are awesome!

    6 years ago

  • edithandeddie

    edithandeddie says:

    Wonderful finds! Good luck with that studio, I'm in your situation and it has been a fun challenge decorating mine!

    6 years ago

  • circlelinestudio

    circlelinestudio says:


    6 years ago

  • Lawlessfairy

    Lawlessfairy says:

    I`m obsessed with wall decals, and want to move out to my own apartmemt, and do there ineteresting design. Great blog

    6 years ago

  • abreakastudios

    abreakastudios says:

    thanks everyone!! I really appreciate it!! Arielle :)

    6 years ago

  • MaleiasCloset

    MaleiasCloset says:

    I love what you pulled together! Wonderful colors!! Also, one natural to another...I love your hair!

    6 years ago

  • Chariot90

    Chariot90 says:

    Awesome colors! Thanks Chariot90

    6 years ago

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm says:

    Great shop arielle enjoyed reading your article, wish you continued success and your apartment rocks. :)

    6 years ago

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist says:

    a very exciting move! have fun decorating your space :)

    6 years ago

  • davisdesignsau

    davisdesignsau says:

    Loved reading this... my eldest daughter is currently at this exciting stage, and having lots of fun creating her own world! Lovely time for being young!! Lots of creative ideas too!! Love it.

    6 years ago

  • inajuicebox

    inajuicebox says:

    The feeling of moving into your first aparment is wonderful. Great colorful finds!

    6 years ago

  • beachglassshop

    beachglassshop says:

    beautiful hues!

    6 years ago

  • wintersummer

    wintersummer says:

    Love the colors!! How exciting _____ oo // \ (_,/ _/ \_/__/> /_/ _

    6 years ago

  • VibrantTrains
  • KateHeidi

    KateHeidi says:

    great post, i often wondered how i was going to manage when i move out into a rented place and i'm not aloud to paint walls!

    4 years ago