Books that guide you through the process.
If you place a high value on individuality but are low on cash, "The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces" ($24.99, Clarkson Potter) is right up your alley. Designer Kyle Schuneman favors quirky DIY over mass-produced cookie-cutter decor, and includes plenty of how-to guides. You'll learn how to decorate a wall with mirrored tennis racquets for a preppy vibe and how to make a "headboard" of old vinyl records. If you like the currently hot look of bold graphic walls, the book offers step-by-step instructions for painting everything from chevrons to argyle patterns.
The spaces featured in "200 Small Apartment Ideas" ($49.95, Firefly Books) are indeed compact, with many around 500 square feet and some as tiny as 230. But this is not a book for those on a tiny budget, unless you're just looking for eye candy. Editor Cristina Paredes Benitez has curated a collection of exquisite apartments from all over the world, all architect-designed, modern and minimalist, in keeping with a less-is-more aesthetic. The book includes both new and renovated units; floor plans are included if you want -- and have the budget -- to try this at home.
"House Beautiful: The Apartment Book" ($24.95, Sterling) has a little something for everyone, whether you're decorating a modest rental or an expansive condo. Organized by room, the book by Carol Spier covers a wide range of styles, from sleek and modern to eclectic to traditional (with a few that drift into stuffy/frumpy territory). Regardless of your style preferences, you'll find useful, practical tips that are universal, such as how to use color in paint and accessories, how to place and hang wall art, how to organize a closet and design tricks to make a space look larger than it is.
"Living in a Nutshell: Post and Portable Decorating Ideas for Small Spaces" ($25, Harper) puts a fresh, bright spin on DIY decor. The text, by author/designer/blogger Janet Lee, is as youthful and breezy as the designs, with chapters like "Flaunt Your Flaws" (such as turning an unsightly radiator into an ombre work of art) and "Bye-Bye Botox: Revitalizing With Vintage." Each project is helpfully ranked by time investment (from "Weekender" to "One Nighter" to "Quickie.") Bonus: The book's compact size won't overload your apartment-scaled bookshelf.