It’s yours, but it isn’t. A rented apartment or house can be a wonderful place to live, and a challenge to decorate.
The restrictions are many: Landlords often want their white walls to stay white. Many won’t let you do even the most minor construction. Some even ask renters not to nail anything to the walls.
Complicating things further, many rental properties have small rooms and no-frills, builder-grade light fixtures, doors and cabinetry with little personality.
How can you inject some of your personality into a rented space without enraging your landlord?
The first step is to go all in.
“So often people think of their rental as not theirs, and therefore go through life not creating a beautiful home or nest,” says designer Kyle Schuneman, author of The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces (Potter Style, 2012). “Life is too short to not create a sanctuary that represents your unique vision.”
Home decorating blogger Wanda Hoffs gives the same advice to her readers at recreateanddecorate.com. As an Army wife, Hoffs has lived in many rental properties around the country and has learned to decorate each one as if it were truly hers.
Here are five ideas from Hoffs and Schuneman that can help you embrace your rented space.
• Plan carefully. “Usually rentals are small, and I am a firm believer in function before form,” Schuneman says. “Sometimes it’s a puzzle piece to get those ‘must haves’ into your space — the desk, the bed, the couch.”
He suggests using old items in new ways: Does the desk become a footboard? Should a small bookcase from your old living room be tucked into the corner of your new kitchen?
If your current furniture doesn’t fit well into a rental, Hoffs suggests spending wisely on new items. Rather than buying an expensive new piece that fits your rental perfectly, “use thrift store furniture and paint it yourself,” she says.
Used furniture can be “so inexpensive that you can sell it at a yard sale if need be” when you decide to move out of the rental. “It’s not about where you buy it,” Hoffs likes to tell her blog audience. “It’s how you use it.”
• Change walls with little or no paint. “Wallpaper used to be only for the homeowner crowd,” Schuneman says, “but now with companies like Tempaper, you can put up temporary wallpaper that peels on and peels back off when you’re ready to move.”
Hoffs suggests using wall decals, which come in a huge range of styles and sizes, or even duct tape.
“It comes in many great colors and patterns,” she says, “and can be used on a wall in many different patterns, such as the trending chevron pattern, stripes, or even to create a border around a wall grouping.”
If you want to do just a bit of painting that could be easily repainted before you move out, Hoffs and Schuneman both suggest painting a stenciled design on one wall. Or paint a band of bold color along the top of your walls.
To make the eventual repainting easier, Hoffs says, “always know the original color and brand of paint.”
• Infuse with color. “If you’re afraid to touch your walls or have a really difficult landlord,” Schuneman says, “bring in the color through fabrics and textures around the room. If you leave your walls white, hang a bold curtain on the windows and a coordinating couch that really pops.”