I’m currently working with three clients who are transitioning from home ownership to renting. Each of their situations is different, however they have in common the challenge of turning a rented space into their home, within the boundaries of being a tenant. Whether a rental is short term or long, whether the landlord is easy-going or strict, there are plenty of ways to warm up and personalize a rented unit to create a home. The trick is to think ahead in order to avoid any expensive or difficult fixes before moving, and to lean towards improvements which will go with you when you eventually move out. Many of these tips will work for students, too, settling into dorm rooms for the school year.
Use décor to add your personality through patterns and colour. Apartments are often kept neutral by landlords because they are easier to rent that way. Paint the walls, or even one wall, if your lease allows it. Maybe the landlord will even pay for the paint. Be sure to keep leftover paint for easy touch ups. Not allowed to paint the walls? That’s okay because there are limitless ways to add interest. Paint a bookcase or bureau for a splash of colour. Décor elements are an easy way to bring in personality: cushions, throws, linens, and such which will transfer to your new home when you vacate.
Artwork is a must and can be chosen so as not to risk the damage deposit upon moving out. Lighter art means smaller holes in the wall. One large piece rather than a gallery wall means fewer holes. Framed pieces set on table top easels don’t leave any holes. Large mirrors or art canvases can be leaned against a wall.
Removable wall coverings are a great way to personalize space yet be easily removed when you move out. Wallpapers, murals, coloured shapes and inspirational sayings are among the choices available.
Storage can be a challenge in rented spaces, especially if you are coming from a bigger space and having trouble parting with things you probably don’t need anymore. As a renter, free-standing organizing and storage solutions win out over custom cabinetry. Look for versatile pieces which may work in different situations as these pieces will go with you when you move.
Line the cupboards and drawers with removable liners. This will save you cleaning and painting if your landlord expects pristine condition in these areas before vacating. Not to mention the freshness and cleanliness you will enjoy from clean, new surfaces to store your food, dishes, and linens on.
Include a touch of nature. Transitioning from a huge backyard to a small enclosed patio? You can still make it a welcoming space with deck furniture and potted plants. No patio? There are indoor plants which will thrive in just about any lighting conditions.
Treat yourself to a luxurious showerhead. Multi-functioning and beautiful showerheads are readily available, inexpensive, and easy to install. Keep the old showerhead to put back on before moving out.
Consider a rug to hide ugly flooring, to protect the existing flooring if you think there’s any risk you will damage it, and to add room definition, texture and colour. A rug can significantly improve the feel of a room, even laid over carpeting. Rugs offer a bonus feature too; they add soundproofing, often an asset for apartment living.
Replace the kitchen and bathroom hardware. If your rental comes with plain, ugly or dated handles, or if you have a style you’d love to add in, this is such an easy change with big results. Keep the existing hardware for the next tenant. Even door knobs can be changed; a bigger expense, however if the lease is long term it may be worth it.
Use lighting creatively to create ambiance and add style. Table lamps, floor lamps, even new overhead fixtures (keeping the original on hand), can be placed to soften stark corners or draw attention to focal areas, as well as provide task light. Lighting will move with you when you go.
Window coverings can be tricky in rentals, often quite expensive to buy and suited only to the window they are bought for. Privacy, protection from the sun and the décor benefits of window coverings are important considerations. Many rental buildings are now installing blinds or shades so that all units have the same coverings. Sometimes a previous tenant will have installed something which passes on to the next tenant. Drapes may be an easy way to cover an ugly blind or shade which you are not permitted to remove. Depending on how long you intend to live in a unit, it may be worth it to have your own preference installed, even knowing that it will stay with the unit when you leave.
Whatever your style, you can turn a rented space into your home. It just takes a little imagination, and sometime a little help. I’m always here to help.