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Living in a rental is convenient; you have an on-call maintenance staff, landscaping is handled, amenities are included and, if you’re lucky, water isn’t an additional expense. I currently rent a downtown loft and since it’s in a historic building, my restrictions are a bit different. It’s difficult to make a “house” a home when you’re limited in what you can change. What if you despise the paint color but can’t paint? There are plenty of ways to make a temporary space, whether it’s an apartment or dorm room, feel settled.

Up-and-coming interior designers Allison Hennessy and Nick Olsen share their top tips for making a rental feel more homey, while still getting back your deposit in the end.

Add Bold Built-Ins

Easy Decorating Tips for Renters at HGTV's Design Blog

While some apartments come equipped with beautiful built-ins, others can be more lifeless. Olsen says: “To add intrigue and make the space feel like it was built just for you, add your own built-ins without damaging walls.” One way to do this, he advises, is by adding two tall bookshelves that reach to nearly the top of the ceiling on either side of a doorway. To make them pop, try painting them in a bold color, such as high-gloss black, burnt orange or Pantone’s 2013 Color of the Year, Emerald green.

Make Over Your Walls

Easy Decorating Tips for Renters at HGTV's Design Blog

Photo courtesy of WallPops by Brewster Home Fashions

“The simplest and least expensive way to enhance your rental’s architecture (or lack of) is by revamping the walls,” says Hennesey. One way to make over rental walls is with peel-and-stick wall art.

“As the wall decor isn’t permanent, it provides an opportunity to go bold. I particularly like stripes, especially for a foyer or hallway.  For a fun metallic accent to add to a space, I like WallPops by Jonathan Adler in a fresh grey, white and gold design.”

Update Light Fixtures

Easy Decorating Tips for Renters at HGTV's Design Blog

“Most rentals have dreadful, cheap ceiling lights and fans,” says Hennesey. She suggests updating these eyesores with inexpensive landlord-friendly fixes. “Swap out current fixtures with new pendants or lampshades that complement your decor. When it’s time to move you can easily put back the old fixture and take the new one with you.” Additionally, try hanging plug-in wall sconces in hallways or above sofas.

Choose Transitional Items

Easy Decorating Tips for Renters at HGTV's Design Blog

As apartments often provide little space to fill with all of your favorite items, make sure to be particular with the furnishings and accessories you do have in each room.  Hennessey says: “Chic Europeans live with less things but they are all very fine. I’ve adopted this approach in my own life. I live in a small apartment in my favorite neighborhood that doesn’t require a lot of furniture, but all the items I have, I love.”

To get this look, first get rid of any items that have lost their purpose or are no longer in style. Then, invest in pieces that can easily transition to the next apartment, such as neutral upholstery, chairs, end tables, beautiful bed linens, lamps and art. Olsen agrees: “Even if you’re not locked into your current apartment, invest in great items that finish off a room and make it feel cozy, such as area rugs and curtains. When you move you can always cut the rug down if it doesn’t fit in the next space. For the curtains, if your next rental’s ceilings are shorter you can let in the hem or if ceilings are higher, you can simply let it out. Don’t shy away from these details that make a place feel settled into and a real home.”

Double the Square Footage

Easy Decorating Tips for Renters at HGTV's Design Blog

To create architectural interest and to seemingly double the size of the room and welcome more light, add a large leaning mirror to one wall. Find a mirror that’s nearly half the size of the wall or place a few medium-sized mirrors side-by-side to visually enlarge the space. Try positioning it or them across from a window that receives natural light so it can be reflected back into the room. If, like some apartments, you don’t have a window in a room, Olsen advises to, “add a large-scale oil painting, even in a small space. The painting will bring light and vibrancy into the room.”

Easy Decorating Tips for Renters at HGTV's Design Blog

By incorporating these tips, you’ll find that you don’t need a mortgage to feel like you really have a home.

Looking for more temporary fixes and small-space inspiration?

11 Responses

  1. RSS says:

    Love the large mirror leaning against the wall.

  2. Sarah Fletcher says:

    Great story!

  3. Like the WallPops by Jonathan Adler!

  4. greg says:

    what is the name of that color on the wall

  5. lisa5611 says:

    I love the painting in the last picture, but the wall color really pops out at me, love it!! Just had my entry, long hall, and den all redone, and it was all done to match a couple new pictures I had purchased. Hired a local painting company and it turned out great! Think they may have taken pictures not sure. H & H Painting (www.hnhpainting.net) are the guys we used.

  6. momhomeguide says:

    I like the rolling bookcases — those would be a great way to create room dividers in an unfinished basement, too.

  7. I love that table with two chairs! I want to drink my coffee right there!

  8. […] you don’t actually own it and have the freedom to make the space your own. But according to an article from HGTV, there are plenty of ways to make temporary changes to your rental, making it feel more […]

  9. Mena says:

    Short, sweet, to the point, FRatEexEc-ly as information should be!

  10. Pillowcase project sends sweet dreams to National Guard members

Kayla KittsKayla is a special projects editor at HGTV.com and a co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. Kayla is an overbearing cat mom with a love for vintage-modern furniture, artisan cocktails, organizing all...


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