TORONTO - It was a common refrain echoed by many apartment dwellers — and one that left Kyle Schuneman feeling frustrated.

"I would hear a lot of people say 'It's just a rental' or 'I'll just be here for a year....' And I just kind of felt like: 'Why are you wasting this time?'" the designer said in an interview.

"We only have these spaces once and they're your own, and you should be able to splash your personality around no matter what the regulations are. There are always solutions to creative constraints."

In "The First Apartment Book" (Clarkson Potter), Schuneman highlights various ways individuals can show their creative sides within small spaces, including repurposing existing pieces, craft projects and scoping out new and vintage finds. The colourful tome features real-life home facelifts where Schuneman helped apartment dwellers overcome design obstacles within their respective homes.

RELATED: Decorating Ideas: 30 Unique And Inexpensive Ways To Redecorate Your Home

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  • Use Cushions As Seats

    Instead of spending loads on pricey chairs, reach for oversized cushions (in bright colours and bold patterns!) to increase a room's seating capacity.

  • Say No To Mass Produced Art

    Instead of buying expensive artwork, get creative with large collages, wallpaper scraps or maps or hang a beautifully patterned fabric from wooden dowels. Off-the-shelf frames with kids art can make your home unique.

  • Paint An Accent Wall

    Paint an accent wall a high-contrast colour (the brighter the better). All you need is a single quart to make the transformation happen.

  • Decorate Your Countertop With Flower Pots

    Countertop in need of some life? Pop some plants inside colourful metal planters for a cheerful look at a cheap price.

  • A Juicy Addition

    Add this no-fuss centrepiece to a table! Ripened fruit in a wooden bowl is simple, accessible and chic.

  • Create A Focal Point

    Whether it's a single item or a group of items placed together, creating a major focal point can make a room look more spacious -- and can save you more cash than by spending money on several ornate pieces.

  • Mix And Match From Different Sets

    Uniform sets are out; mixing and matching is in. To create a gorgeous and trendy living room, dining room or table-setting, mix and match pieces from different furniture sets.

  • Decorate With Black And White

    These classic colours can create dramatic space that looks expensive and has a lot of bang without the buck.

  • Buy Bold Lamps

    Use lamps that have shape and sculpture. Lamps that are too small can make your space look cheap and are often just as expensive as show-stopping lights.

  • Reuse Your Furniture

    This budget-friendly tip prevents you from spending loads when you can just revamp the old. Don't have the money to spend on a new media unit? Try an antique armoire.

  • Don't Spend On Decorative Cushions

    <a href="http://www.marthastewart.com/274323/pillow-projects/@center/277001/diy-decorating" target="_hplink">Try turning old pillow cases and bedsheets into chic throw pillow shams</a>.

  • Stencil Away!

    To create gorgeous patterns and accentuate any space, all you need is <a href="http://www.diynetwork.com/topics/stenciling/index.html" target="_hplink">cardboard, paint and an exacto knife</a>! Detailing your home has never been so easy and budget-friendly.

  • Help Your Hallways With A Rug

    A large decorative rug or hallway runner will hide scuffs and mask worn hardwood; it's much less expensive than having your floors refinished or sanded down.

  • Store Wisely

    Instead of buying new pricey storage units, cover old boxes of varying sizes with different papers and materials. You can even paint them!

  • Chalkboard Walls

    Chalkboards and blackboards are an easy, budget-friendly purchase and add a fun touch to kids' rooms, kitchens and studies. You can even paint your own on a wall using store-bought paint.

  • Use Nature As Inspiration

    The great outdoors is just outside your window. Collect branches and place them in a large vase or fill different sized jars with herbs, leaves and flowers to add colour to a beige room.

  • Sea You Later, Expensive Accents!

    Oceanic accents are trendy and keep your budget in control. Giant clams and oyster shells can be used on their own for decorative purposes and can also make great bowls to hold anything from candy to potpourri. Sticking a variety of shells in all different shapes and sizes on different walls and frames can also make your home worth sea-ing.

  • Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

    Mirrors come in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices. Hanging mirrors on walls, or installing them in opposite windows or doorways, also creates the illusion of space.

  • Mix And Match Low With High

    Mixing high-end products that are on sale with inexpensive accessories will give any room a chic look that's on-trend for fall. So go ahead: combine high-end pieces with vintage accessories and flea market finds.

  • Hang A Collection

    Hang eye-catching ornaments in your kitchen, like an eclectic collection of silver trays or pots filled with greenery.

  • Appeal To The Senses

    An affordable way of making your house zen? Bring in pleasant sounds and smells with wind chimes, table-top fountains and aromatic candles.

  • Add A Fresh Coat Of Paint

    To add a lift to a room, get some new paint and coat the walls. A cheap way to get your rooms looking clean and fresh!

  • Cluster Materials Together

    Grouping together intriguing framed photos in interesting ways creates a unique presentation -- and is much less costly than displaying art, photography or building a shelving unit.

  • Change Handles, Drawer Pulls And Door Knobs

    Changing cabinet handles, door knobs and drawer pulls can bring a whole new style and look to your existing cabinetry. Faucet handles are also a quick and cheap fix that can up the glam in a home.

  • Fake Architectural Detail

    Materials like painter's tape allow you to paint horizontal or vertical lines or create shapes like rectangles or squares on walls.

  • Create Your Own Window Drapes

    Hang fabric panels on rods that are wider than the actual window frame; this costs less than regular window draping and gives the illusion that your window is much larger than it actually is.

  • Add A Ceiling Fan

    Upgrade your living area or bedroom with a small ceiling fan -- they often cost under $100.

  • Add Cover Slips

    Revamp large pieces of furniture with slipcovers. This, combined with changing around pillow shams and materials, will make it appear as if you've done a major reno or room overhaul.

  • Invest In Casters

    Want a floating island in your kitchen, but don't want to spend the extra dough? Invest (barely) in a caster. You can even attach wheels onto one to create rollable storage.

  • Monogram For Less

    Doing this craft yourself with iron-on decals -- and foregoing spending money on it professionally -- will add some oomph to staid home objects without breaking the bank.

The 27-year-old Chicago native has been designing since age 19, starting off art directing in Los Angeles and prop styling and working with commercial clients before taking on interior clients.

His friends, peers and others would tell him they wanted what they'd see in his portfolio for their own homes — but couldn't afford it.

"I was living a bit in juxtaposition of 'I'm young, I get living in small spaces in cities, not having lots of money,' but at the same time, working with these very high-end people that you can let your creativity fly," said Schuneman, founder of Live Well Designs.

"For me, it was much more about showing people in their 20s and 30s that good design doesn't have to be expensive."

For those unsure of where to start design-wise, Schuneman will ask questions about a store that represents their style, the type of landscapes they like, or even peek into their closets — all which can be tell-tale signs of their favoured esthetic.

Schuneman said it's key for individuals to assess how they need their space to function and to keep scale in mind when working within smaller environs. So avoid placing an oversized sofa in a studio space.

"You really want to work with proportions," he said. "That doesn't mean you have to lose comfort by any means — but you just have to be realistic." Playing around with the placement of larger pieces is a great rule of thumb for small spaces, he noted.

For a studio in Seattle, a bed was positioned horizontally while the desk was then placed perpendicular from the wall, creating a built-in effect. The desk also doubled as a nightstand.

Various how-to craft projects incorporated within dwellings featured in "The First Apartment Book" can be replicated by readers by following step-by-step instructions. In addition to more conventional offerings such as pillows, shades and wall stencils, there are other inventive projects like a chicken wire pot rack, a record headboard and mirrored tennis racquets.

"I didn't want to create a craft project that I knew people wouldn't do or wouldn't want to do," Schuneman said. "There isn't sewing involved. There aren't things that intimidate me, and I kind of worked with my gut in that regard. If it didn't intimidate me, then I thought it won't intimidate others."

In instances where renters face redesign restrictions, Schuneman offers creative alternatives. In a Boston apartment where the landlord wouldn't allow use of paint, he created fabric-covered padded panels that would Velcro to the wall.

For couples or others sharing accommodation, Schuneman said the aim should be to showcase the design tastes of both dwellers. Working with roommates in Boston, the streamlined sofa and colonial side table in the "living room" area suited the style of one, while the industrial reading lamp and colourful chevron carpet tiles reflected the tastes of the other.

A common theme woven throughout the book and also embraced by Schuneman as part of his design philosophy is the emphasis on tailoring spaces to reflect how people truly live.

Schuneman humorously refers to Cleveland-based client Holt as an "entryway stripper" for his tendency to take of his tie, belt and empty his pockets within moments of walking inside his place. He recalled finding ties and belts "stacked six-deep on the doorknobs" when he walked into Holt's apartment.

At a local flea market, Schuneman found small bowls for change, a vintage tie rack, a plaid magnet board for bills and a set of lamps for the entryway table — all for $50.

The designer said his goal is to help individuals build confidence in honing their creative eye, notably in seeking out finds. Even if they still feel they're lacking, they can always seek out a friend for a second opinion while on the hunt, he noted.

"If you want to try something out, the worst that can happen is that it can not work out."

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Online:

www.kyleschuneman.com