Room To Improve

How To Find Your Aesthetic — & Shop It

What to know about the trending design schemes all over your social media feeds.

by Ashley Abramson

In an ideal world, your apartment should feel like a reflection of your personality. Trending design schemes like Danish pastels, Regencycore, and cottagecore can give your space a much-needed upgrade, but it can be hard to figure out how to incorporate your favorite design vibe into limited square footage — especially without breaking the bank.

Your apartment may not be huge, but with a bit of strategy, you can transform it into a space you love coming home to. Even better? You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make that happen.

Here’s how to find and shop your favorite aesthetic, according to interior designers.

Danish Pastels Aesthetic

If a well-lit room filled with minimalistic furniture and dreamy pastel colorways would make you stop in your TikTok scroll, Danish pastels — a youthful Scandinavian-inspired design scheme popularized on social media recently — is right up your alley. “After everything feeling heavy the past few years, Danish pastels bring a sense of happiness and hope,” says David Quarles, an interior designer and design influencer based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Because this aesthetic has such a light and airy feel, it’s a natural fit for small spaces. Quarles says darker schemes can be difficult to pull off because they tend to make already cramped areas feel smaller. When you’re working with a smaller footprint like an apartment, it’s best to incorporate the Danish pastels vibe into pieces you already need, then sprinkle fun decor throughout your space.

Quarles suggests keeping your walls neutral, ideally white or cream, and incorporating bits of mint green, blush pink, lavender, and light yellow throughout. Aim for soft lines in your furniture — think a curved sofa, a boucle swivel chair, or a cushioned headboard in your bedroom.

Cream walls and soft furniture set the stage for more playful decor and textile — and if you’re on a tight budget, Quarles says these small details are the perfect way to incorporate a bit of Danish pastel joy into your apartment. Pastels, of course, play a role, but so do playful shapes and textures like a checkerboard print rug, a squiggly mirror or picture frame, or a curvy vase.

Playing with lighting is another option, too; for example, hanging a disco ball by your window to catch light or adding a soft pastel lightbulb to your lamp can also help you embrace the aesthetic. “You can also implement pastel neon signs with your favorite catchphrase,” says Quarles. “I have one that says ‘It was all a dream.’”

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Regencycore Aesthetic

Want to feel like royalty? A trendy spin on “grandmillennial” style and the perfect blend of maximalism and elegance, Regencycore has exploded in popularity over the last year, likely as a result of the Netflix series Bridgerton. “As the show has grown in popularity, so has the desire to have a Regencycore-inspired space,” says Anna Franklin, interior designer and founder of Stone House Collective, a design company that works out of Wisconsin and Colorado.

To make Regencycore work in an apartment, Franklin suggests swapping out neutral tones for items richer in color and design — for example, floral bedding with rich color tones or a luxurious velvet chair. Keep your furniture traditional, ideally in a dark-stained wood finish, to embrace the sophisticated look.

Adding items to the floor takes up space, so think vertically: Try replacing your blinds with floor-to-ceiling drapery in a moody color and incorporating decorative elements to your walls, from a gilded mirror to opulent frames.

Franklin’s favorite way to bring Regencycore to life is with ornate wallpaper with a small repeating pattern, a staple in 19th-century design and a statement that doesn’t take up precious space. Molly Damon, another interior designer at Stone House Collective based in Colorado, says removable wallpaper is a great way to achieve a stately look in a rental. And if you’re on a budget, she suggests raiding your grandma’s house or a flea market for china or ginger jars, which you can display on a bookshelf.

Cottagecore Aesthetic

A trendier play on traditional farmhouse design, cottagecore embodies the vibes of a rural countryside cottage design aesthetic, says Damon. Although the aesthetic has been gaining popularity on social media as of late, cottagecore rose to particular popularity in the design industry during the last two years.

“As people began spending more time than ever in their homes, they wanted it to feel cozy, comfortable, and beautiful while bringing the feel of nature inside that they were missing from going outside,” Damon says. And the release of Taylor Swift’s Folklore album probably didn’t hurt either.

When making over your apartment, Damon suggests considering tiny swaps instead of large additions to keep your space from feeling cluttered. Lay the foundation with earthy neutrals — browns, rust tones, greens, and creams — and accent with pale-toned colors, such as dusty pinks or blues. Aim for antique-inspired furniture pieces such as a dark-stained wood coffee table or spindle dining chairs in a cheerful light blue or green, and then incorporate cozy-feeling patterns like gingham or florals throughout your space. Hand towels, tablecloths, blankets, and throw pillows are easy ways to incorporate cottagey prints.

Damon also suggests swapping out sleek, modern decor for vintage-inspired pieces. Trade your modern art for rural landscapes, your plain lampshade for one with lace or scalloped edges. Natural elements, whether a straw or rattan tray or a bouquet of fresh wildflowers, can also impact the cottagecore feel of a room, says Damon.