Maggie is a writer — she covers interior design, antiques, shopping and travel. She's also a mom of two kiddos and a DIYer with serious skills when it comes to decorating rentals. She's had plenty of experience; her husband is active duty in the army, and they've moved a lot — 10 times in the last 15 years. Her ability to decorate colorfully without spending a lot of money inspired me to ask her about her favorite ideas for adding color to rentals.
You can see her color capabilities on full display in her recent house tour. Her house in Sumter, South Carolina is full of bold hues, despite the walls featuring a neutral paint palette. I asked her to share some of her best tips for decorating a rental colorfully:
"...not all landlords will let you paint the walls — so think about painting smaller things like furniture, doors or even the mantel."
Of course my go-to product for color is paint, but not all landlords will let you paint the walls — so think about painting smaller things like furniture, doors or even the mantel. Most of my rental walls are white or very close to it but one bold color is enough to make a big impact. Textiles are also a great way to add color. Whether it's rugs, bedding, curtains or even fabric attached to the wall like wallpaper — not only do you get color but you can add pattern, too.
Maggie's favorite items to use for temporary color in a rental:
Art, Art, Art. Whether you choose one big piece or a gallery wall of smaller pieces, art is easy and it doesn't have to be expensive. Searching thrift stores and yard sales, you can find pretty amazing art that is already framed for a steal.
Contact paper. In my very first apartment I had terrible wood-grained laminate cabinets; I covered them with contact paper for an easy update, but I was limited to just a few patterns. These days, with all the removable wallpaper available the options are endless. Remember you don't need to wallpaper the whole room to get big impact. Think about doing just one wall or even a small cubbie like the back wall of a bookcase.
"I don't consider work I do to someone else's home a loss of money but rather an investment in my own comfort while I live there."
Common bold-on-a-budget decorating pitfalls:
I would say not being willing to spend any money. I know budgets can be tight but something as simple as a can of paint can go a long way to making a place more lovable and livable. I don't consider work I do to someone else's home a loss of money but rather an investment in my own comfort while I live there. Obviously, I weigh the length of time I'll be living there against the cost of the improvement but I have to love where I live.
Maggie's most "bang for your buck" decor tricks for renters:
Anything you can take with you when you go is obviously going to get you more bang for your buck. But things that look permanent are going to give you a more expensive look. One trick I have used is to add moldings to bookcases to make them look built in. Oh look! These would be a great spot for a pop of color or wallpaper.
What do you think is the biggest thing(s) renters get wrong when trying to create a colorful and daring space in a home that's only temporarily theirs?
Sometimes people feel like every room has to have bright color on every wall for their home to be colorful. A white wall can be a great backdrop for colorful furniture, art and fabrics, no paint required.
What was your best adding color to a rental win?
In my current rental I decided to paint the mantel a bold aqua blue with gold (foil tape) accents. I was nervous at first but I figured if it turned out bad I would just paint it back. The result made a huge impact in an all-white room, and it is now one of my favorite rental updates. I'll enjoy it while I'm here and all I have to do is paint it back to white before I go.
What was your worst adding color to a rental fail?
The first apartment my husband and I rented was run by a total slumlord. We could have done anything to that place and I doubt anyone would have cared. So I decided to hang wallpaper. Not being familiar with wallpaper I matched the seams perfectly and left it to dry...only you are supposed to overlap the paper because it shrinks as it dries leaving gaps between each strip. Not a good look. And not easy to get down.