This is a weird topic for a discussion post. Why are you writing it?
In a recent post-mini-camp skills exchange thread, I jokingly mentioned that I could "help make your room look Awesome!" To my surprise, a couple people were actually interested. Note: I'm not an interior decorator, and what follows will be the extremely basic 101-level breakdown. Follow these instructions, and your room will look significantly nicer than the average 20-something male's (I'm assuming gender, based on the 92% male readership of this site), but not look like it was done by a professional or anything.
Why should I care about Making my Room Awesome?
(aka "Why would you be able to put the word "Rational" in this post, should there not be edicts against it?")
1) It's Low-Hanging Fruit- If you haven't spent much time or effort on room decoration, then it will take very little money or effort to make significant improvements. $200 and a weekend will have your room looking super-awesome for the remainder of your stay at your current location.
2) You probably spend more time there, than any other location- Your environment effects your mood, and your bedroom is likely to be the environment you spend the most time in. It is what you wake up in, setting the mood for the rest of the day. It also sets the mood (or lack thereof) for....
3) Romantic Considerations- 'nuff said
Psh! It doesn't count if you don't Use Math.
How much does it cost?-- I recently Awesome-ized a room, and it cost about $250. Assuming you re-decorate every two years (either because you move, or you just want a change, or your stuff is getting old), then that ends up being about $10/month.
What about time?-- Assuming it takes you about 2 weekends of part-time work, then that is about 30 hours of work. If you value your time at about $15/hour, then that's about $450 total. So it actually costs more in time than it does in money, but that's still only about $19/mo.
Note: Ways to make the relative cost of time less-
- Enjoy it: decorating is fun, if you let it be!
- Use it as an excuse to ask for accompaniment from the romantic interest of choice: "Gee! I'm about to go comforter shopping and have no clue what to look for! I sure could use help...Wanna come?"
So, if you add up monetary and time cost, you get $29/mo to have an awesome room. Considering the small return you get on apartment rental (a $450/month rental is not that much better than a $421/month rental), Awesome-izing your room is a much better investment than renting a slightly nicer place.
But I don't care about having a nice place anyways!
How much do you already value having a "nice" living space?--In my city, you can get a room that is safe and livable, but gross and/or not "nice" for about $250/month. If you are willing to spend $450/mo on rent, then you are willing to spend $200/mo on having a nice place. Assuming you live there for one year, that is $2400 per year. Note, that at this point in the discussion, your definition of "nice" probably also includes location, neighborhood, roommates or lack thereof, etc. Point being, that you are already spending a couple thousand dollars a year on having a living space that is more than just somewhere to sleep, so you can't rationalize that you just don't care about living somewhere nice, unless your ONLY consideration when apartment shopping was price and location.
OK! Let's do this!
(or..."meh, I'm unconvinced. I think I'll hit the "Back" button now")
1) Make sure your room is decently clean- We're not talking perfection here, but no amount of decorating can overcome having a gross room. Keeping your room clean would be it's own post, but generically: laundry off the floor and into a hamper, books on a shelf, no dirty dishes or food. Protip: Those plastic shoe organizers that hang on the back of doors are actually perfect for organizing all sorts of small non-shoe items (pencils, deodorant, scissors, lighters, ipod, etc)
2) Spend 5-10 minutes on the internet- Google "bedroom decor" or "bed set" or something similar, in order to get a basic idea of what's out there, what's popular, and what you like/dislike.
3) Buy a comforter set- In my experience, very few single males have even made it to this pretty basic step, so just buying a comforter set will put you ahead of the game. Beds-in-a-bag are the easiest way to go for the newly-initiated into the world of Awesome-Bedroom-Making. They are much cheaper than buying all the pieces separately, and do all the work of matching a set for you. They tend to come with a comforter, sham covers, throw pillows, and bed skirt. Valances (the top part of a curtain set) and sheets are also occasionally included.
Protip- Make sure that when you buy your bed set that you've already planned out what you are going to do with your room to complement it.
Protip- You'll be using this for sleeping comfortably, so make sure that it isn't scratchy, stiff, or otherwise generally uncomfortable. Don't buy it without running your hands across it first!
4) Paint- (Note- This is the step that makes the biggest difference, though may be less optimal for renters. IMO, if you intend on staying at a rented location for 2+ years, it is worth losing your deposit to paint, need be) Use your comforter to pull wall colors off of. You can just bring in one of the throw pillows to the paint store, and they will use their Super-Magic Technology to mix paint that matches.
Protip: You want to paint at least one wall (generally the far wall) an "accent color" which is either darker or more vibrant than the other walls. This makes a HUGE difference.
5) Hang some wall decor- This does NOT mean unframed posters. Unframed posters signal "college dorm". If you would like to display your personality via geeky stuff (comic books, fantasy art, etc), this is acceptable, but frames should be utilized, or they should be mounted in some other way. Think of it as protection for your art.
The wall decor part is pretty individualized, so if you make it this far and want specific help, feel free to message me. There are lots of really cheap, do-it-yourself options here too.
(Note- I wrote more on where to get Awesome Art stuff in this comment, below.
Lighting protip: Dimmer switches are pretty awesome. You can have your room be really bright for studying or board gaming, or you can have it be mid-level for nighttime web browsing or hanging out (when super-bright light would seem harsh), and even have it be dim mood-lighting for more intimate moments
Scent protip: Bad-smelling rooms are bad. Assuming you already understand laundry and throwing away old food (Febreze can cover a decent amount as well), the next step is actually making it smell GOOD. There are many options--if you consider candles too girly, and incense too hippy, then you probably want to go with either high-quality (Slatkin and Co is always good) wall-plug scents or concentrated sprays. You might even have to go into....Bath and Body Works (*gasp!*). If you want more masculine scents go for things with words like "-wood", "sea-", "sage" etc. "Clean" scents are also good, and not necessarily feminine.
Note for decorating other rooms: In the bedroom, it is easiest to base color/decor off the comforter, which is your largest piece. If you feel like decorating a non-bedroom room, then the easiest way to do it is to buy a piece of wall art (of a decent size) that you really like, and base color/scheme around that.