7 Secrets You Should Learn From the Most Resourceful Renters

updated Jul 16, 2020
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Living in a home where you can’t make any permanent changes can be frustrating, but clever apartment dwellers know that just means it’s time to get creative. Here are some of their go-to moves for turning even the most cramped, outdated, characterless spaces into a cozy, personality-filled home. Hint: It doesn’t involve buying all new furniture.

(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

They make the most of what they have

Your furniture may be limited to hand-me-downs from your parents and IKEA’s flimsier basics, but that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel when it comes to design. If your furniture is heavy and old-school, counterbalance it with white walls, modern art, and accessories with clean lines. If what you own is already on the minimal side, give it visual heft by layering on lots of pillows and textiles.

(Image credit: Sylvie Li)

They aren’t afraid of a little DIY

If there’s one thing resourceful renters seem to have in common, it’s the willingness to put some sweat equity into their apartments. That could involve anything from simple projects like installing curtain rods and replacing cabinet hardware to more involved tasks such as swapping out light fixtures, hanging shelves, and even re-tiling a dingy bathroom floor (with permission from the landlord, of course).

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

They embrace temporary materials

We live in the golden age of removable decor, so make it your friend. Put up some temporary wallpaper as an accent wall, hang your favorite hats from suction-cup hooks, display art using damage-free Command strips, or resurface shelves or a beat-up end table with contact paper. The possibilities are practically endless, and since all can be easily taken down, they won’t eat into your security deposit.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

They limit clutter—and what they do have, they hide well

Part of creating an attractive space is knowing how and when to edit yourself. Design-minded renters are often ruthless when it comes to their belongings and will Kondo the hell out of their place so it doesn’t become overwhelmed with stuff. Those that find it too difficult to part with their things usually employ lots of smart storage like stylish baskets and bins—or they stash things in unexpected places, i.e. keeping out-of-season accessories in a hard-to-reach, underutilized kitchen cabinet.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

They create focal points

We don’t all have the budget or space to fill our home with eye-catching decor at every turn. But most of us do have one or two special items (a mirror, a piece of art, a cool vintage chair) that we want to highlight. Crafty renters play up these personal items by making them a focal point and arranging vignettes around them. For a mirror, that might mean hanging it right by the front door so it’s the first thing you see; for a piece of art, it might mean hanging it directly above your sofa with smaller, less attention-grabbing items surrounding it.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

They accessorize

You don’t need tons of money to give a space a one-of-a-kind touch—you just need to be choosy about accessories. Love mid-century modern design but can’t afford that tweed sofa? Buy a walnut-finish sunburst clock for your wall. Love color but most of your furniture is brown and bland? Pick up brightly-hued vases, lamp shades, or pillow cases. Picture frames, trays, objets, and coffee-table books are all other ways to infuse a place with your personality.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

They paint

and not just their walls. Smart renters recognize just how transformative a coat of color can be, even if it’s just on chair legs or a knick knack. They embrace color—and that includes white, which can modernize nearly anything.

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