By Elly Leavitt and Alyssa Clough

Published on April 18, 2018

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Photography by Michelle Herrick and Kate Lines

Your 20s are a truly transitional time in life. Everything seems to be constantly changing—including the city you live in, your apartment, job (and salary!), friends, relationships, and priorities. Most times, it’s also when you finally get to furnish your first apartment, which is both scary and exciting, not to mention expensive. And whether you like it or not, what you choose to hang on your walls contributes to the feel of your apartment in a big way. The good news is that there is plenty of affordable art out there—but how do you navigate all the options and figure out what to do with them? Consider this a beginner’s guide to filling your new wallspace…that won’t break the bank.

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Photography by Framebridge

Don’t be afraid to get help

You don’t need to be an art history major or work at a gallery to have an impressive art display in your home. You just need a bit of help; and luckily, there’s no shortage of virtual destinations to help you achieve that. Our personal fave? Framebridge, whose just-launched online gallery wall-maker tool walks you through creating a custom display step-by-step—it even comes with a life-size hanging guide so even the DIY-averse will have no trouble installing the wall of their dreams. Simply upload your photos, rearrange the layout to suit your liking, and enter your shipping info.

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Photography by LAURA RESEN

Don’t splurge on the frame

Custom framing can double—or triple—the cost of your print or poster. New York City-based interior designer Lauren Wills reminded us to be smart and make sure there is a frame available online or at a store near you before purchasing. Ikea is a great resource, but be warned, they have funky, European sizes.

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Photography by @thebezar

Order online

There are so many great online resources where you can find affordable prints, poster, photography, and real art. Etsy and Bezar make it easy for you to connect with unique vendors, art.com will have any standard poster you’ve always had your eye on, and Minted has everything in between.

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Photography by KELLI HALL

Don’t be afraid to invest

While you might start out pinching pennies in your early 20s, over the years your salary and how much you’re willing to spend on your home will only increase. That means whatever feels like a lot of money now won’t feel like a big investment in a few years and you’ll get your money’s worth in the meantime.

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Photography by @parabopress

Turn your Instagrams into art

Let’s be honest, we all think we’re professional photographers these days. But the truth is, our iPhones do take quality photos that can be printed and blown up into impressive prints. Social Print Studio and app Parabo Press are just two sites that allow you to print (and sign) your own artwork.

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Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Don’t buy too big

When you’re young (and living in the city), moving every year is a grim reality—as are space constraints. Wills reminded us that just because you have a ballin’ big living room now, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the same amount of space next year. She recommends sticking to 24×36 at the largest for any pieces you’re investing in.

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Photography by MICHAEL RUBENSTEIN

Don’t overthink it

This is Wills’ number one piece of advice. If you like it, buy it—and try not to worry so much. Chances are, if you like whatever you’re considering buying, it will fit with your lifestyle and whatever you already have in your home. You’re the one who has to look at it every day, and if it pleases you, that’s all that matters.

This story was originally published November 2015. It was updated April 18 2018. 

See more stories on art: 

The Best Websites for Art Lovers on a Budget
Planning a Gallery Wall? There’s an App for That
This Is How Parisians Display Art in Their Homes

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