7 Tips to make military housing cozy on a small decorating budget

Home sweet home.  You’re spending a lot of time there these days, huh? Since that’s …

home sweet home wooden sign

Home sweet home. 

You’re spending a lot of time there these days, huh? Since that’s the case, now’s the time to make it feel cozy and welcoming. 

April is not only time for major spring cleaning, but it’s also National Decorating Month! 

If you’re stuck at home for an extended period of time, what goes better with spring cleaning than a home makeover? You already know PCS orders are delayed, so you may as well get comfy in your current residence. 

When you move your life in boxes every few years, it can feel overwhelming to start from scratch when it comes to making housing homey. 

While you may be moving again this year (maybe), that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy decorating your current living situation to your tastes. It’s amazing what a few throw pillows and a coat of paint can do…

Below are 7 easy and inexpensive ways to make your temporary house feel like home on a small decorating budget.

1. Splash Your Walls With Color

a hand painting different colors on a wall
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Most rental properties allow tenants to paint the walls with the caveat that they’ll paint them back to the original color upon moving out. Painting the walls is a great way to give your entire home a facelift that doesn’t cost a fortune. This is probably the best decorating budget line item that immediately make a huge difference.

Ways to make painting a little more fun: 

  • Add an accent – Consider creating accent walls if painting isn’t your favorite household activity.

  • Let the kids have a say – Children can choose room colors to make the new place feel like home.
  • Purchase the right tools – Invest in painter’s tape and take the time to tape-off ceilings, baseboards and doors.

  • Get the family involved – If you’re all home anyways, you may as well make the painting process fun. Kids can help paint with a little bit of direction.

If you’ve bought your place, you can do as you please. Unless you’re painting the outside and have an HOA — in that case, you may want to hold off until you’ve checked the rules.

2. Curtains Add Privacy + Style

curtains in a bedroom
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If you feel a certain room is missing a decorating detail, but you can’t put your finger on it, it may not have the right curtains. Adding curtains not only adds appeal to any room, it can help with temperature control, too! 

Tricks of the trade for curtain selection:

  • Measure all windows – Before you pick out new curtains, make sure you take the right measurements before ordering.

  • Reuse what you have – You may end up with several different sizes of curtains after moving several times. Consider tying long ones for shorter spaces. If you’re crafty, hem the curtains to fit your current windows.

  • Add some layers – On bedroom windows and living room windows, consider a layered look. Hang a back curtain that’s sheer and add another one that frames the full window.

  • Get creative – In addition to curtain options, consider pairing it with unique valances, ties, and inexpensive hardware.

Check out your favorite online retailer and have your favorite style shipped to your front door. Don’t forget to carefully read the return policy to ensure you can return them with ease if they don’t work for your space.

3. Add a Personal Touch

wall decals for easy decorating budget idea
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Whether you’re moving into on-base housing, an apartment, or your first home, making it yours is key to making it feel like a real home. Instead of keeping it generic, add your own personal flair to create the space you want to live in and enjoy.

Here’s how to make it your own:

  • Display your favorite art – Hang art at eye level for best viewing.

  • Hang family photos –  Personalize your new home with your best photos that serve as reminders of happy and fun times. Doing so brings those feelings into your new space. Add groups of photos to mantles, shelves, or walls.

  • Show off – Showcase personal mementos and keepsakes from past trips, previous homes, friends, family, gifts, etc. Doing so always gives you a good conversation starter for guests who come over.

  • Treat yourself – If you don’t have much in the way of decor, it’s time to spend a little money on your new home. Check out retailers for new wall clocks, art work, picture frames, etc. to give your home that personal touch only you can create.

 Make the new space familiar with art and photos that you’ve displayed before. Now is the time to organize your old photos, swap out old pics for new ones, and generally update your galleries around your house.

4. Dress Up Those Blank Walls

easy artwork on walls for decorating budgeting
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It’s almost a given that most military housing has long blank walls that seem to stretch out into canvasses of nothingness. This can create unique challenges but also fun decorating opportunities!

Gussy up your walls with: 

  • Temporary wallpaper – This may be an option if you want some fun texture on your walls. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for easy removal. 
  • Add some fire – Faux fireplaces create visual interest, a central focal point, and may provide a mantle for additional decorating. Plus, these small heating units are portable!

  • Hang decorative mirrors – Big walls were made for huge mirrors. You can also add groups of small ones in different shapes in a mirror collage to add more light into a room. Just be sure to use the proper wall anchors so they don’t fall.

  • Add some sentiment – Vinyl removable art and or phrases can add a whimisical touch to areas like the kitchen above a coffee bar.

Don’t let your blank spaces go to waste. Consider it a creative canvas to do as you please with it. If you’re crafty, you can even make your own DIY signs and art work to hang around for a real personal touch!

5. Tie Everything Together

throw pillows on couch
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Pillows and blankets automatically make a room feel more cozy. These decorating elements can also add a nice tie-in to other decor you have in any given room. Add these items to couches, chairs, beds, stools, and baskets for a lovely touch that instantly pulls together your room.

  • Go neutral – Consider investing in neutral furniture. Then add color with soft blankets and pillows.

  • Easy update – Even if you’re on a budget, you can make a space cozy and the colors are easy to update later.

  • Adds a cohesive look – If you like to match items, throw pillows and blankets make it easy to coordinate rooms and add polish to bedrooms.

Whatever pillows and blankets you buy, make sure they’re actually made of material you like. If it looks pretty but isn’t necessarily good to snuggle up with, maybe consider a different fabric. These are one of the easiest changes to make, so you can switch them out often!

6. Make it Feel Airy 

succulents on table for easy decorating budget hack
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Does your housing feel cramped and dark? There’s an easy fix for that! Aside from using lighter colors to decorate the space, purchasing extra lamps and house plants can make your home feel more open and inviting. 

  • Add light everywhere – Floor and table lamps add light and additional decorating opportunities to each room.

  • Pick your shade – Inexpensive bases and lampshades can be found easily. Or, Google DIY lampshades for a truly customized item and fun household project!

  • Add some warmth – Electric candles add visual warmth without the danger of fire.

  • Bring nature inside – Indoor plants add color and gorgeous focal points for various rooms. Plus, these can be easily moved and aren’t very expensive.

  • Go fake – No green thumb? No problem. Consider faux plants if you aren’t a gardener or if anyone has allergies. 

Need some inspiration? Check out Pinterest (or your local nursery) for the best house plants to purchase to bring the beauty of nature indoors. Consider creating a Pinterest board for your favorite lighting looks, too.

7. Create a Bathroom Sanctuary 

flowers over bathtub for decorating budget hack
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A bathroom is more than just a place to clean off the day’s grime. For some, it’s a place to de-stress and relax, too. If you want to make your bathroom feel more sanctuary-like than bathroom-like, a few fixes can do just that. 

Create a cozy bathroom by: 

  • Give items a specific place – Add baskets with rolled washcloths or towels. This adds color and makes them easy to access, too.

  • De-clutter – Utilize drawers and cabinets to keep surfaces uncluttered.

  • Add some floral decor – If there’s room, consider adding vases with fresh or artificial flowers to your countertop, window sill, or bath tray for a pop of color.

  • Don’t forget the shower – Add a colorful shower curtain with decorative hooks if you don’t have a ton of space or a big budget to re-do the whole bathroom.

  • Add inexpensive “spa” items – Decorative soaps, bath bombs, electric candles, and even a rain shower head can make it feel like your perfect spa getaway.

  • Hang relaxing art – If there’s wall space, hang up a small shelf or vinyl art that adds to the overall ambience. 

For an even more spa-like atmosphere, consider installing tealight candle holders above a bathtub. Don’t forget to bring in a mini speaker for some spa music, too.

Maximize Your Decorating Budget to Make Your House a Home 

framed pics on a wall
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While it’s important to make every new duty station feel like home, you don’t want to break the bank with every home makeover. It’s true you’ll be moving in a few years, so don’t plan to invest in your decor like it’s your forever home. 

You’ll want to invest in the rooms you spend the most time in. For some, that may be the kitchen. For others, that may be a reading nook or a bedroom. 

Tips to make the most of your decorating budget and time: 

  • Look at what your budget is 
  • Create a wish list based on the budget
  • Consider focusing on one room at a time
  • Shop various retailers for best prices 
  • Set your plan for decorating/styling 

Whatever room you decide to tackle first, keep a budget in mind. It’s way too easy to get HGTV inspired and blow your budget! Here’s to shopping and using a decorating budget to make any house your home. 

Happy National Decorating Month! 


How do you decide on a decorating budget when you move so often? What room do you tackle first? Let us know in the comments below!


Feature image Courtesy of Unsplash



The editorial team at Sandboxx.