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There's nothing quite like moving into your first flat in London, a great step as you forge your independent living.

You may have been in digs at university or college, living cheek by jowl with other students, or you may have decided you can move out from the family home and make your own decisions about how you want to live and how you want your new home to look.

London is one of the great – some would say the greatest – capital cities of the world, and as well as the excitement of moving into your new flat, you will have the city's cultural, sporting and other recreational treasures on your doorstep.

Now that you've got the keys and the space is yours, how are you going to decorate and furnish it? With the best will in the world, London rents aren't exactly cheap, so you may be wondering how you're going to make your new home an attractive and comfortable place to live in without spending a fortune.

Actually, it's a lot easier than you may think, and it's perfectly possible to fit everything out without breaking the bank and leave yourself a bit of extra money for a few nice evenings out.

Creating your décor

Flats can have small rooms, so you need to look at ways to increase the way the size of a room appears. The easiest trick is to use a floor length mirror, positioned so that it catches most light by reflecting a window. Mirrors don't have to be expensive, so check out a local market if you have one, or head online to www.for-sale.co.uk to explore the options for cheap second-hand products.

Walls and ceilings can pose problems, especially if there is old wallpaper that you don't really like. You have a number of options here. It can be a hassle to remove wallpaper, but sometimes it's worth the trouble so that you have clear, clean walls to do what you want with. If you're going to paint, think carefully about your colour scheme. If you want to create a sense of space, you're best off using light and pastel colours to accentuate natural and artificial light. Greens and yellows give echoes of nature, and blue is a soothing colour, often used in bathrooms.

You can make some statements with your colours, such as some bold reds or oranges as features for walls, but avoid too much as you may feel hemmed in.

If you'd rather have wallpaper and not remove the old stuff, you could consider removable decals or stickers, or removable wallpaper. You can stick these easily to walls, add your own personal styles and colours to rooms, and know that they are easy to apply and easy to remove. It means that you can change the look of your rooms when you feel like it without spending a lot of time or money.

You should also think about your lighting. If you've created a bright, vibrant feel through your colour schemes, think about adding simple and inexpensive uplighters and other lamps to create a pleasant ambience when the nights draw in. Little spotlights to pick up wall features can also work very well.

Making an impact on your new flat

You may think it's going to cost you a lot of money to get your flat fitted out with furniture and other fixtures and fittings to make it comfortable. Yes, you can spend a large amount of money on designer products, but this is really not necessary. With a little time and effort, you can find some superb second-hand bargains online, so when you've got a careful eye on the pennies, this could well be the route for you.

Get planting

You don't actually have to grow plants from seed (though you could and that's really cheap), but adding plants to your space gives it a real lift, especially when there are beautiful flowers or stunning foliage to admire. Plants add extra life to rooms. Why not scavenge in your local park? Find some pine cones and put them in a bowl. Look for small branches that will look good in a vase or pick up some interesting rocks or stones that will make a feature on a table top. This stuff is free, so what's not to like?

Declutter

Most of us move home with far too many things that we've built up over the years, especially things generously donated by parents who want to ensure we have absolutely everything they think we need.

When you survey your new flat and what you've moved into it, do the declutter. The chances are there will be a considerable amount of junk. Get rid of it, either by donating it to a charity or selling it online. What do you really need? Sort it and your flat will thank you for it, and you will be much more relaxed about your space.

Find online solutions

Local markets can be great, but if you haven't got one near you or haven't the time in a busy working and social life, look for what you want for your new flat online. You can find fantastic bargains as well as a whole range of things that you had never thought about but that will suddenly give you that flash of inspiration as you work out how you can fit it in with your overall décor.

Be proactive – young people are particularly good at deciding what they want in their home, so you should go for what suits your aesthetic, not somebody else's.

Live your dream

It's your first flat, so even though you may not want or be able to spend a lot of money on your furnishings, there are plenty of ways to achieve the look and feel that you want. Imagination is the key to unlocking exactly what you want, so be bold, explore your options, and have the dream flat to come home to at the end of the day.


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