9 New (and Very Doable) Solutions for the Most Annoying Rental Apartment Features

published Feb 17, 2021
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Credit: Minette Hand

I’ve seen some incredible rental transformations through the years — some packed with color and personality, some filled with plants, some decorated on a budget, and some that are just so undeniably unique to their renter, it’s inspiring.

At this point, it’s no secret that painting your rental walls can have a dramatic effect on the overall vibe of the space, as can changing out the light fixtures or DIYing some custom shelving. That’s all great when you have a rental that presents you with good starting points (i.e. beautiful windows that look out onto nice scenery, walls that lend themselves to being easily painted, updated appliances, etc).

But what about those of us that have windows that look directly into our neighbor’s windows or appliances that haven’t been updated since 1991? What about those of us who aren’t committed to being in a place for years so painting a wall just to repaint it when we move out doesn’t feel like the best option?

Here are nine new and totally doable (no painting! No heavy drilling! Easy to reverse upon move-out!) solutions for the most annoying rental apartment features.

Credit: Ninth Park

The Problem: Outdated (or Just Not Cute) Kitchen Cabinets

The solution: DIY your way to custom-looking open shelving. Rental kitchen cabinets can be problematic in two ways: They are either outdated, or they just don’t fit your style. And as long as they are functioning, there’s nothing you can do about it because your landlord is not required to give you cabinets that fit your personal aesthetic. 

Yes, you can switch out the hardware, yes you could paint them but then are you really going to strip the paint upon move-out?  Brie (@ninthpark) offers a better solution. She removed the cabinet doors from two of the cabinets in her rental and added removable wallpaper inside.  This helps create the look of custom shelving and it draws your eyes to the styled open cabinets upon entering the kitchen. 

Just remember to keep the cabinet doors in a safe place because you might need them eventually for re-installment.

The Problem: Boob Lights

The solution: replace or embrace. Ah, the boob light. Yes, you could switch out the lighting fixture by hiring an electrician or certified handyman, but you could also get creative like Andrea from Harlow & Thistle and embrace it by giving it a crafty upgrade.

In this tutorial, she creates a beaded shade to upgrade her laundry room’s boob light without having to mess with any of the electrical components of her space.  It’s a creative, affordable way to remedy a common rental problem.


Who would have guessed that replacing the bulb from dollar tree would make such a difference ##fyp ##foryoupage ##stainedglasslightbulb ##target

♬ original sound – Katia

The Problem: Boring walls, but You Can’t Paint

The solution: Try new lighting. Lighting can make such a difference in a space.  I’m not talking about light fixtures — I mean actual light bulbs. Even switching a regular LED light bulb from soft white to daylight or vice versa can affect the vibe of your space. 

Feeling up for a risk? Try something like the new stained glass light bulb that’s taking over social media. This TikTok shows how a single lightbulb can shine colors all over your previously boring wall.

The Problem: Uneven Walls

The solution: Add some texture. Do you have walls with imperfections that a bold paint job might highlight instead of disguise? Try adding texture to your walls instead like Lisa (@knots.and.pots.home). 

She said she found this curtain panel from T.J. Maxx, and while she didn’t need it as a curtain, the price was right and she loves macrame. So instead of hanging it on the windows, she chose to use it as a wall hanging in her office. The texture adds interest to her space while staying in the same calm color palette as the rest of the room.

Credit: Anna Jacobs

The Problem: Windows with Zero Privacy

The solution: Window film. Live on the ground floor and don’t love the idea of passersby peeking in? Or do your windows peer directly into your neighbors? You could spend a good amount on nice curtains or shades, but if you want to keep a nice stream of light coming in, that’s not a great solution.

Anna Jacobs of Anna Jacobs Art solved this problem by putting up a beautiful stained glass window film from Surface View that not only allows for privacy, but also adds a dose of personality to her space.  And that’s not the only rental trick Anna has up her sleeve — just take a look at the next smart rental hack.

Credit: Anna Jacobs

The Problem: Amenities that Don’t Match Your Style

The solution: Cover them with washi tape. Can you believe this is washi tape covering the frame of this home’s stand-up shower? Jacobs completely revamped her bathroom by painting a pattern on the wall and adding items that give the space some life, but she didn’t stop there.  To keep her shower in the same color palette, she covered the frame in gold washi tape. When she’s tired of it, she can peel it right off.

Credit: Anna Jacobs

The Problem: Boring or Scuffed-Up Stairs

The solution: removable wallpaper. Removable wallpaper isn’t just for walls. It’s for any place you might like to add a bit of color, like Anna Jacob’s stairs in her rental, which, thanks to some clever craftiness, have new spring in their steps.

Upon first glance, the stairway looks painted — but nope, it’s removable wallpaper! If your landlord doesn’t allow you to paint or if painting and re-painting sounds like a pain, this is the way to go.

The Problem: Outdated Flooring

The solution: removable wallpaper. Does your rental have outdated flooring or is it just lacking personality (looking at you, beige tiles)? While painting tiles is for those who are happy to throw their security deposit away, there’s another option for those of us who’d like to see that money again.

Medina of Grillo Designs added removable wallpaper to her floors and then documented how it help up after two years in this post

Problem: Radiators that are Eyesores
Solution: DIY a radiator shelf

Oh, radiators.  A necessary evil for many renters in older homes.  Sure, you could paint them or get radiator covers (spoiler alert: Radiator covers are expensive), but Laura (@lifewithlaura_) found a more affordable solution: a handmade radiator shelf.

By DIYing a radiator shelf, your eye is not only drawn away from the radiator, but you’re also creating space to place other items that you actually enjoy looking at. A double win if I’ve ever seen one!