5 Simple Ways to Decorate Your Apartment Abroad

How to decorate your rental abroad

Why do you even need to think about decorating your apartment abroad?  

You can’t always choose where you live when you move abroad.

Once I lived in a little cupboard-room in Rio. A floor-fan the size of a jeep wheel was winched precariously above the bed. There was a six-foot freezer wedged in the corner. Together they made an immense racket, but at least they masked the scuttle of cockroaches and the buzz of mosquitos. 

Perhaps you don’t have the language skills, a guarantor or the know-how to track down an apartment deal abroad. Resulting in a questionable rental space that leaves a lot to be desired. 

You didn’t pack decor items in your bulging suitcase. But guess what, I’m a believer that if you live in a little grey cupboard of misery you could very well sabotage your experience of living abroad.

I developed a skill after moving to 3 countries in ŧhe span of less than a year. A hack for decorating an apartment without accumulating junk that becomes a burden when you move. 

Here’s 5 quick ways to decorate your rental abroad. 


Decorate with Plants

Macrame plant hanger with heart shaped philodendron

Plants are the pets you’ve always wanted. 

They are givers from day one: 

  • Purifying the air
  • Raising humidity levels
  • Brightening the space
  • Constantly growing! 
  • Survive alone while you vacation (within reason) 
  • Great leaving gifts for when you jump ship 

In my apartment I have an Ivy plant and Heart-leaf Philodendron hanging on hooks from the ceiling. Then a potted Chinese Evergreen and a Twisted Drake Tree. Three budding tomato plants, and a succulent on the desk. 

For those of us that constantly move country, plants are an environmentally-friendly way to quickly fill up your apartment abroad. 

Fill your Apartment Abroad with World Fabrics

I have a self-restraint issue with exotic patterns. I just can’t get enough.

Open air markets are my weakness. Though you can’t buy everything, you CAN cram copious local fabrics in your luggage. Each piece will remind you of that trip and add a little colour (or a lot, CALM DOWN BRAZIL) to your apartment. 

My world fabrics include the following: 

  • A throw from Ecuador. 
  • Table runner from Guatemala. 
  • Two teacloths from Italy. One with all the wines and cheeses, the other with the hundreds of pasta shapes from the Italian menus.
  • Cushions from Brazil 

My mum’s house is also adorned with exotic fabrics from places she’s never been. Her house is where my suitcase goes to vomit excess world fabrics.

Overwhelm Guests with Snazzy Cushions

You can’t always choose your sofa, but you can fill it with a multitude of cushions. 

In Brazil I made some cushions out of my Grandma’s hall curtains, which had Native American patterns on them. Get creative! 

Afterwards, you can pack the covers and donate the cushions. Cushions are always needed in charity shops, thrift stores and shelters. 

Why not collect cushion covers from all over the world? 

Fill Your Apartment Abroad with Photos

Get the ol’ photos out. 

Set up your own DIY collage of photos and use command hooks that don’t make marks on the walls. Pictures can always knock away some of the nostalgia. 

Here is the USA I made a DIY set up with string and pegs. My string-lights disappeared mysteriously on the voyage, but I will replace them. 

Maybe add lights, paper lanterns, Polaroids. 

In mine I incorporated postcards from museums and galleries I’ve visited around the world. 

What can I say? 

I get a kick out of seeing my dog lined up next to a Van Gogh.

Cover Rental Walls with Fairy Lights

Due to my very DIY wedding both myself and my mum are overrun with fairy lights.

These are the real deal. Attach command hooks to the top of the wall and hand a string of wall lights. It covers an entire blank wall effortlessly and you can pack the lights away afterwards in your suitcase.  

Note that if you bring lights from abroad you might need an adapter. Though an excellent alternative is solar powered lights, you just place the panel by the window. 

Anyone else picked up decorating hacks for their apartment abroad? 

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