How to Decorate Your Rental to Make It Feel Like Home

All of us have been in our homes staring at our walls for several weeks now. Many of us have taken to home improvement projects around our homes (I'm pretty sure I've seen some of you at Home Depot) since we're all living life predominantly in our homes these days, we might as well make them more livable.

With that being said, there's a subset of the social distancing population that has some challenges when it comes to home improvement and decorating. That subset is renters.

I was a part of this population up until 2 1/2 years ago when I bought my first home. I've lived in 7 different rental properties and also lived 4 years of that sweet, sweet dormitory life in college. Suffice to say, I'm well-versed in the limitations that arise when you don't own your home.

First things first. Just because you do not own your home, that doesn't mean you can't inject your own personality into it and have it be a reflection of you. It doesn't hurt to ask your landlord about what you can/cannot do within your rental. Of course they're not going to let you knock down walls or do anything drastic, but they may be flexible in allowing you to paint or tackle some small cosmetic updates.

We were incredibly fortunate that we had a very flexible landlord at the last house we rented before we bought our current house. We were able to re-grout the tile in the bathroom, paint any/all walls, and we added an open built-in closet in my son's bedroom since his room didn't have an actual closet. Like I said, it doesn't hurt to ask!

With that being said, if you have a less than flexible landlord, my recommendations below are things you can easily remove once you move.

1) Wallpaper

If it's a no-go on being able to paint, peel-and-stick wallpaper can save the day! When you're getting ready to move, it comes down.

You can use it to decorate your walls and even use wallpaper that looks like subway tile as a faux backsplash in your kitchen.

The important thing is to make sure when you're buying it that somewhere in the description, it says it's TEMPORARY. Target sells some great options that are cost-effective and work well. I've used it in refinishing furniture and it looks beautiful!

Also, you don't need to limit your wallpaper usage to just your walls. You can also use it to line the back of kitchen cabinets for visual interest.

2) Kitchen Hardware

If the cabinet and drawer pulls/knobs in your rental are less than desirable, you can always swap them out. As long as you keep the old pulls/knobs in a safe place and the new pulls/knobs use the same screw holes, you're good to go!

You can get some really beautiful knobs at TJ Maxx/Marshall's/HomeGoods. I actually scored the knobs for the cabinet I refinished above at HomeGoods.

Another great resource for beautiful, unique knobs is World Market.

I actually bought these knobs there a while ago for some end tables I'm refinishing.

3) Remove cabinet doors

If the cabinet doors aren't looking too pretty, you can always remove them and have open shelving. This would be a great opportunity to display some wallpaper as a beautiful backdrop!

Once again, make sure you keep the doors, hinges, and screws in a safe place so you can reinstall them when you're getting ready to move.

4) Area Rugs

Area rugs can hide a whole host of stains, chipped flooring, and other nastiness. If the majority of the floor/carpet is awful, you can always put a large neutral colored carpet remnant/rug on top, and then place a more boldly colored/patterned area rug on top of it.

For safety's sake, just make sure you also use an anti-skid rug pad underneath, and use rug tape between the area rug and the neutral rug/carpet remnant.

5) Replace Your Bathroom Mirror

This is another easy way to make a quick update to your home. Although I'm not in a rental home, I updated my bathroom mirror and it made such a huge difference!

Make sure that the new mirror is a comparable size to your old mirror and of course make sure to keep your old mirror in a safe place so you can put it back up when you move out.

6) Add additional lighting with plug-in pendants/chandeliers

The nice thing about this type of lighting is that there's no electrician required! You can also use 3M Command Hooks to help with hanging the actual light fixture so you're not pulling any nail/screw holes into the wall/ceiling. Heck, I still use anything and everything 3M Command to hang things!

And if you're worried about the wire coming down the wall and feel like it's an eyesore, that's where the peel and stick wallpaper comes in ;).

7) Use Contact Paper to Cover Countertops

You can use contact paper to cover any unsightly countertops. Another interior designer that I've been following for a while, Anita Yokota, did a video in her Instagram stories a few months ago of her resurfacing her bathroom vanity with contact paper and I was honestly blown away.

Not only did she master contact paper for her vanity, but she did her kitchen countertops for $40 a few years ago and they're still intact!

I can vouch for contact paper easily coming off once you need to remove it as I recently removed it from my bathroom shelves. The previous owners put it on the wood shelves and I thought it was nasty. It all came off cleanly without too much effort.

8) Add greenery.

For any home, whether you're renting or you own, adding plants and/or flowers is the quickest way to really make your house a home. You're essentially bringing nature indoors and that automatically makes things seem much cozier, especially if you're living in the concrete jungle.

There are plenty of low-maintenance plants and succulents out there for those of us who weren't blessed with green thumbs (guilty). And if you're REALLY scared to bring an actual plant into your home, there are lots of fake plants out there that look just like the real thing. Like this:

Or, if you're not a Home Shopping aficionado, I've seen some great options at Target. Snag yourself a new plant while you're picking up toothpaste.

There you have it - my top tips for making your rental a HOME. If you currently live in a rental, please let me know if these tips are helpful and share what you've done to your place!

On another note, reminiscing about rental life made me hypothesize why some people are scared of color on their walls. Think about it. What is the color of the walls in 99.99% of the rentals you've ever lived in? White. If you've lived in a rental for any extended period of time, you're used to those white walls. When you're finally given the reins to paint your home whatever color (or colors) you want, it's paint analysis paralysis. But, that's a topic for a whole other blog post!

Until next time...

Happy Designing! - Angela :)

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