Carrie L. Stary is an interior designer that has been working in the industry since 2000. She is co-founder of Interior Focus, Inc., which she and her partner started in 2008. Interior Focus, Inc. works on contract interior design for offices and commercial spaces all over the country.

Interior Focus, Inc. 
P.O. Box 110636
Cleveland, OH 44111
) 221-5100

Carrie L. Stary received her bachelor’s degree in interior design from Bowling Green State University in 2000. Since then, she has worked for several furniture dealers in the Cleveland area, and decided to turn her interior design focus on commercial spaces with her company, Interior Focus, Inc. that she co-founded in 2008. She is no stranger to having to work with a budget. Here are some of her tips for young professionals and folks looking to decorate their first apartment on a budget.


As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Stary suggests looking curbside for furniture and other items that you can breathe some new life into by painting it a new color or stenciling a pattern on it. Chairs are often left out on the curb, why not give them some new paint and re-cover the seat cushions with a fun fabric. Stary also notes that secondhand stores and yard sales are also a great way to find “new-to-you” furniture and other items.

Paint The Walls

As far as interior design goes, painting is a relatively cheap way to put some new touches on an apartment. Stary does recommend checking the lease or with the landlord regarding painting the walls. She also adds that a fresh coat of paint, not necessarily a loud color, always makes a difference. A neutral color may save you from the need to repaint, so to save time and frustration later, Stary suggests taking note of the paint brand, name of color and type of paint, so when a touch up is needed you or the landlord are prepared.

Peel & Stick Wallpaper

This is one of Stary’s favorite products. Add an accent here and there on different walls or the shelves and back of a bookcase. Stary describes this wallpaper as “high quality contact paper in modern designs.” She has even seen people use it to decorate an old beat up refrigerator door. A roll or two cost from $30 to $60 and can go a long way.

Related: Ask A Cleveland Expert: Shopping For Home Decor On A Budget

Make Your Own Art

Art can be expensive, the art and the framing of the art. Stary offers suggestions on creating pictures for the walls of the apartment from an old calendar, vacation photos, using scrapbook paper or make a collage. She even thinks kids drawings work as some inexpensive art for the apartment. Frames and pre-cut mats can also be purchased relatively cheaply at craft stores; she suggests Pat Catan’s or Michael’s.

Know Your Budget

Stary does state that there are some things that shouldn’t be done cheaply; items that are bigger and you will probably keep longer than other items, like a good sofa or mattress. Know how much you want to spend and have a plan. Keep an eye out for sales on these bigger items. Also remember to look for sales, coupons or store rewards not only for the bigger items, but for accents like candles, pillows and window treatments. Some of these smaller items are also often found in the clearance bins, but she does warn that just because an item is on clearance, doesn’t mean you need it or that you should buy it.

Related: Home Improvement Tips For Renters

Marcia Hudgel is a writer, yoga teacher, wife, mother to her animals and aunt to 10 nieces and nephews living in Cleveland, OH. She writes about family, animals. Her work can be found on