15 Home Upgrades Under $150 For Things That Have Been Lingering Around Since College

Even if you've been done with the dorm for a decade, these home interior swaps will work on an intern's budget.

apartment upgrades under 150

When you graduate from college, you hope you’re leaving with a solid job offer, a ton of knowledge to help you in the real world, and cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

What’s one thing that shouldn’t graduate with you into your new life? Your old college furniture.

College is about survival mode, and being thrifty enough to enjoy your time without adding too much to your student loan debt. Likely, then, your furniture and decor was a hodge-podge of what your roommate contributed, what you could afford, and perhaps a few things you saved from the dumpster.

But you’re ready to make your place look like it belongs to an up-and-coming young professional, so we’re helping you upgrade from the traditional “college dorm furniture aesthetic,” to “real-world adult” with these 15 upgrades, all under $150.

That IKEA Chair Everyone Had (You Know the One) to a Real Armchair

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Brandi Upholstered Club Chair – Target, $125.24

A club chair is a comfortable and stylish alternative to the POÄNG chair’s nondescript pseudo-Scandinavian look, and the deep blue tone is a great way to give your room some color, while still maintaining a masculine feel.

(It felt like everyone had that POÄNG chair, right? Right?)

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Baxton Studio Sorrento Mid-Century Retro Modern Fabric Upholstered Wooden Lounge Chair – Amazon, $148.30

Another option is this wood and fabric armchair, which offers a mid-century modern feel with wooden accents and tufted backing.

Your IKEA KALLAX Shelves to HEMNES Bookshelves

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HEMNES Bookcase – IKEA, $149.00

KALLAX shelves are great for storing small items in cubby boxes (and in a college dorm room, you need all the storage you can get), but to give your book collection a more polished presentation, consider upgrading to a full, proper bookshelf with backing.

These HEMNES bookshelves from IKEA are reasonably priced and come in several color finishes, though I’d encourage you to stay away from getting black bookshelves, as they can make your entire space feel darker.

A Boring Couch to A Couch with Pillows and A Throw Blanket

While you’re styling up your couch, make it look nice by putting two square pillows into the corners, and one rectangular pillow (called a “lumbar pillow”) in the middle. Casually throw a stylish blanket over the back or on one of the arms, and it’s like a whole new couch!

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QINU KEONU Throw Pillow Case –  Amazon, $8.99 (Note that this is just the pillow case, not the cushion inside.)

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MIULEE Velvet Throw Pillow Case – Amazon, $7.99 (Also just the pillow case cover.)

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Walhome Knit Throw Blanket – Amazon, $32.50

For even more recommendations of reasonably-priced throw blankets, check out the Primer article, 15 Statement Blankets That Won’t Break the Bank.

Thumbtacked Posters to Properly-Framed Posters

Who said you have to get rid of your beloved movie and comic book posters? For many guys, that’s treasured artwork!

Instead of getting rid of them, simply upgrade how you display them by putting them into proper frames. I recommend wood frames, but some plastic frames can look tasteful, too.

IKEA’s RIBBA frame series is a long-time favorite of Primer founder Andrew Snavely, for its clean lines and versatility to fit into basically any decorative aesthetic, so get a few of these and frame those favorite posters to give them an updated, “mature” feel.

Blank Walls to Interesting, Art-Filled Walls (for Cheap)

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Mick Jagger's mugshot – Part of The Ultimate Collection Of 42 Free Wall Art Prints.

Perhaps you never collected posters in college. In fact, your walls were bare then, and they’re bare now. Blank walls can make a space feel cold and impersonal, though, so investing in some artwork and frames is a quick way to inject some personality into your rooms.

Check out our guide “The Ultimate Collection of 42 Free Wall Art Prints” for some awesome, free prints we’ve found by scouring the internet that you can easily print and frame for way less!

Black, Soulless Bedding to Textured and Patterned Bedding

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Eikei Washed Cotton Chambray Duvet Cover in Neutral – Amazon, $96.80

Too many guys make the mistake of settling for all-black bedding—black bed sheets, black pillow cases, and a black comforter—because they’re totally lost on how to decorate their bed.

Keep it simple: Stick to neutrals, and add personality by including different textures and patterns for your throw blanket and pillows.

We like the soft, stone-washed look of this duvet cover (inner duvet not included), plus the inclusion of a cable-knit throw blanket that looks like a rugged sailor’s sweater, and some cool mud-cloth patterned decorative pillows. Get some crisp white sheets and pillow cases, and you’re all set.

Want extra details on how to style your bed? Check out my other Primer article, The 13 Best Picks for Masculine Bedding: Comforters, Duvet Covers, and Blankets for Men with Style.

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Stone & Beam Transitional Chunky Cable Knit Throw Blanket – Amazon, $45.19

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Hofdeco African Mudcloth Pillow Cover – Amazon, $15.99

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Woven Nook Decorative Lumbar Throw Pillow Cover – Amazon, $24.95

Using Black for Every Decorating Choice to Incorporating Jewel Tones and Dusty Hues

Have we already talked about guys defaulting to “black everything” when decorating? Not enough? It happens to be a point of concern for me, so I wrote an entire article about it: Beyond Black and Charcoal: The Modern Man’s Guide To Decorating With Color And Texture.

I might be biased, but I think it’s full of practical tips for how guys can confidently incorporate more color into their spaces while keeping it masculine. You should check it out.

Lifeless Corners and Shelves to Tucking Plants Everywhere

Costa Farms Premium Live Indoor Snake Plant – Amazon, $37.99, and United Nursery White Bird of Paradise Live – Amazon, $44.95

Low-maintenance houseplants are a perfect way to bring some of the outdoors in, and charge your space with life and color. If you’re worried about having a black thumb, check out Primer contributor Brandon Peeples’ I Have Over 50 Plants in my LA Apartment, So I Put Together a Quick and Simple Plant Guide to give you confidence in your plant-parenting skills.

No Rug to A Beautiful, Neutral-Patterned Rug

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Moser Hand Braided Rug 5’x8’ –  Wayfair.com, $139.99

Stay away from outdated geometric print rugs, and opt instead for neutral rugs with interesting textures. We like the Moser Hand Braided Rug above for its textured look and salt and pepper color, which is neutral enough to work with basically any room and will hide dirt well.

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Abrielle Natural Area Rug –  Wayfair.com, $142.99

Another great option are rugs with a natural “rope” look. Tip: Layer a faux cowhide or another decorative rug on top of this rug for extra style.

Insufficient Lighting to Cozy, Well-Lit Spaces

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Markey Reading Floor Lamp – Wayfair.com, $38.99

Lighting is one of those things we hate to spend money on. Fixtures are expensive! But adding even one or two additional lamps, especially in corners where lighting is limited, can dramatically change the look and feel of a room.

Gone are the college days where an overhead light and a desk lamp was considered “OK enough.” Light up your new apartment to make it cozy and functional.

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HAITRAL Small Bedside Table Lamp – Amazon, $25.59

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Keystone 19″ Desk Lamp –  Wayfair.com, $34.07

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Rivet Gold Bedside Table Desk Lamp with Light Bulb 18” –  Amazon, $52.49

Your IKEA LACK Coffee Table to A Grown-Up Coffee Table

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P PURLOVE Modern Wood Coffee Table –  Amazon, $121.99

Yet another dorm room staple, the basic look and function of IKEA’s LACK side table was perfect for your tiny, nondescript dorm room, but could definitely use an update.

The herringbone pattern, hairpin-style legs, and rugged unfinished oak wood of this Amazon find is a steal for under $150, but if you want something that looks a little more sturdy, check out the cast iron + wood look of the table below.

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Tyronza Coffee Table – Wayfair.com, $118.99

Drawers in Disarray to Everything in Its Place

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DIOMMELL Foldable Cloth Storage Box ,Set of 6 – Amazon.com, $12.59

Putting bins inside your drawers to keep your t-shirts, pants, socks, ties, and underwear organized and separated sound fussy?

Just try it—being able to quickly scan the contents of your drawers and select what you need will help you feel like a well-optimized machine when you’re getting ready for work or the gym in the morning.

You’ll probably wonder why you took so long to make the switch.

Check out more 22 Genius Space-Saving Amazon Products To Organize Your Tiny Apartment

Your Bike and Guitar Cluttering Up Your Floorspace to Doubling as Wall Art

Guitar Holder by EchoHillForge – Etsy.com, $55.00

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Superbox | Wall-mounted Bike Rack –  Etsy.com, $155.00

Commute to work on your bike? Love to pick up your guitar and strum every once in a while? Why not let your most-precious items also act as wall art, and free up valuable floor space?

Bike and guitar wall mounts are a great way to display your passions, while also acting as functional art.

Mattress on the Floor to Having a Proper Bed Frame

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Zinus Paul Metal and Wood Platform Bed with Wood Slat Support –  Amazon.com, $142.85

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Mellow 12″ Classic Soild Wood Platform Bed Frame w/Wooden Slats in Pine –  Amazon, $158.94

Getting your mattress off the floor not only looks better, but it also prevents mold. Simple, clean-lined bed frames work perfectly for most every aesthetic.

No Curtains to Having Curtains (That Are Properly Hung)

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jinchan Linen Blackout Curtains –  Amazon, $14.99

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Balfour Wrap Curtain Rod and Hardware Set – Wayfair.com, $31.49

Aside from not having curtains, another big decorating blunder I see many guys make is improperly hanging their curtains. Hint: It all starts with correctly positioning your curtain rod, and knowing how to measure the length of curtain you’ll need.

I found this quick (2:48) tutorial from Pottery Barn on how to properly hang curtains to be clear, concise and helpful.

Once again, it’s hard to go wrong with neutral-colored curtains with texture. These tan linen curtains from Amazon have a nice texture that makes them visually interesting from afar, and the cast iron curtain rod will work with almost any type of decorating theme.

Have a favorite find under $150 that upgraded your space? Share it below!

Lindsey Silva is a native Texan currently living in Germany. She writes about home decor and real estate, and dabbles in academic editing. Her interests include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, balcony gardening, binge watching Forensic Files with her husband, and spending an unhealthy amount of time on Reddit.