While it may not be your home forever, your rental property should feel like it is, in fact, your home. And with many of us spending more time in our homes than ever before, now is the time to stamp your personality on your space—without upsetting your landlord.
If you’re a renter on a mission to reimagine your home, keep reading for some decorating hacks that won’t cost you your security deposit. (Plus, scroll down to the bottom for some decorating “don’ts” to avoid!)
Optimize natural light
One of the simplest and most effective ways to lend a fresh sense to your rental is by maximizing your natural light. Natural light will not only make your apartment look and feel roomier, but it will make your other decor look better and brighter. If you don’t have many windows, make sure that you are making the most of the windows you do have by using sheer window treatments or none at all. You should also reduce anything that might obstruct your windows, such as bulky furnishings. Light colours and reflective objects can be used to add to the brightness of your space.
Dress up your windows
If your unit comes outfitted with vertical blinds, consider swapping them out for decorative window treatments, such as rich drapery. Long, flowing drapery treatments that pool slightly on the floor will give your ceilings the illusion of height. Another way to feign high ceilings is by hanging window treatments from the ceilings.
Get creative with lighting fixtures
The right lighting fixtures can instantly update your space. If you don’t have many windows, consider using a mixture of ambient, task, and accent lighting to illuminate any dark corners and add a sense of atmosphere to any room. If you’re working with a small space, wall-mounted sconces will add light, without taking up any floor space. Meanwhile, an arc floor lamp can be placed in an unused corner, while lending light to the whole room.
Bring in a statement mirror
Mirrors can be used to make any room feel more spacious and luxurious. If you’re not permitted to mount mirrors, or if your walls simply won’t withstand the weight, shop around for a freestanding mirror that is designed to be leaned up against a wall.
Try removable wall treatments
Traditional wallpaper is difficult to apply and remove. As such, many landlords veto it from the outset. If you love the look of wallpaper and are willing to splurge a bit, self-adhesive wallpaper will give the same effect, but you can skip the messy paste. Use self-adhesive wallpaper to create a statement wall, create wainscotting, or refurbish an old piece of furniture, such as a desk or a bookcase. (Find some DIY-able ideas and instructions here.) Alternatively, wall tapestries can be used to dress up plain walls, and they can be adhered using putty to preserve the walls underneath.
Fake a kitchen island
If you love the look and practicality of a kitchen island, one way to hack the functionality of an island is by repurposing a freestanding table of some sort. Think a kitchen cart, a butcher’s table, or even a reimagined filing cabinet. You’ll just need to make sure your table of choice is sturdy enough to withstand regular kitchen prep. As an added perk, a freestanding table is something you can take with you when you move.
- Ignore the terms of your lease. If your landlord or property manager has strict rules for decorating and renovating, there’s a good chance their terms will be outlined in the lease agreement. Consult your lease agreement before you plan or purchase anything.
- Break the bank. We get it, this is your home for the foreseeable future and you want it to reflect your unique design style. With that said, it’s important to be realistic about how much you’re going to spend on an apartment that isn’t yours. If you’re going to invest in decor, stick to things that you can take with you once it’s time to move.
- Paint natural wood, such as crown mouldings and baseboards. Because crown moldings and baseboards normally have a glossy finish, repainting them back to their former state is no easy task. And in the case that there is damage done to the boards, the cost to replace them won’t be an easy pill to swallow either. As a rule of thumb, leave crown moldings, baseboards, and other natural wood features as they are.
- Bring second-hand soft furnishings and upholstered items into your unit. While it can be really tempting to take home a couch you’ve seen on the side of the road (we’ve all been there!) anything with a fabric element is prone to bedbugs and mites. If you are inheriting furnishings that are second-hand, make sure you thoroughly clean them and allow them some time to air out in a location that’s not your apartment.
- Tackle any semi-permanent jobs with the go-ahead from your landlord. While you might be wary that your landlord won’t agree to a semi-permanent renovation, there’s also the chance that they will like your idea and offer to help out with the modification. If your landlord is agreeable, be sure to get everything in writing in case a dispute arises down the line.
- Rush your design/redesign plans for your rental. Before embarking on a design journey, first take the time to live in your unit to see how you are using it and where you spend the most time. You’ll save yourself money and hassle by taking your time to think through what you want to do and how you want to execute it.