It’s yours, but it isn’t. A rented apartment or house can be a wonderful place to live and a challenging place 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, and doors and cabinetry with little personality.
How can you inject some of your personality into the space?
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).
Home decorating blogger Wanda Hoffs gives the same advice 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 hers.
Here are ideas that can help you embrace your rented space:
“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.
Change the walls
“With companies like Tempaper, you can put up temporary wallpaper that peels on and peels back off when you’re ready to move,” Schuneman says.
Hoffs suggests using wall decals, which come in a range of styles and sizes.
If you want to do just a bit of painting that could be easily repainted before you move out, Hoffs and Schuneman suggest painting a stenciled design on one wall. Or paint a band of bold color along the top of your walls.
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.”
Hoffs says, “Fabric can be a great, inexpensive way to add color, pattern and texture to a room. It can be framed or stapled to a large art canvas to be hung on the walls.” You can also attach fabric temporarily to a wall using spray starch.
Lush plants are another option, Hoffs says.