Design Absolution: Eight Totally Forgivable Sins When Remodeling a Rental

Design Absolution: Eight Totally Forgivable Sins When Remodeling a Rental

Dabney Frake
Jan 20, 2016

As tenants, we aren't always perfect angels, but our hearts are mostly in the right place. We just want our place to look good while we're living there, without doing long-term irreparable harm. We often push the envelope, making changes we technically shouldn't — especially when living somewhere for more than a year. It's pretty rare when steam comes out of the landlord's ears. Some of those improvements actually add value to the space, and save time and money. Here are the ones that probably won't get you in trouble with your management company.

Before you get out your sledgehammer and start demo in the kitchen, hold on a second. We're talking small changes, not large-scale improvements. But as a landlord, I can tell you that these things are easy to overlook when mulling over whether or not to return your security deposit.

Repainting Walls: As long as your don't opt for pea green or fuschia, a new wall color will brighten up your apartment and save your landlord from having to hire someone else to do the work. You might even ask them to chip in for the cost of paint and supplies.

Install a Ceiling Fan: Swap out the boob light for something that circulates air and keeps heat from escaping up to the ceilings. Fans are pretty inexpensive, and add value to the space, and might just save your landlord on utilities. And if you must, you can always change it back to the boob light at the end of your lease.

Add Wall Sconces: As long as you don't go making major electrical changes, you can add wall-mounted sconces to the wall. They'll add beauty and function to your bedroom and can easily get taken with you.

Swap out Bathroom Mirror: Replace the builder-grade medicine cabinet with something that feels a little more luxe, and has more personality.

Hang Shelving: Shelves are pretty innocuous as changes go, but pack a punch in terms of storage. If you leave them behind, the next tenant will most certainly use them as well, so it's hard for the landlord to work up an angry lather.

Hanging Curtains: Vinyl blinds just don't cut it, so mounting rods and hanging curtains is totally common. You can leave them behind when you leave, or leave them for the next residents.

Swapping Out Hardware: This is one of the quickest and easiest things you can do to change the look of the room. Unless the current pulls and knobs are made of an expensive material (highly doubtful), it will be a serious visual upgrade when you swap them out. Again, the landlord might even appreciate the initiative and chip in.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Painting Kitchen Cabinets: This is probably the toughest one, so tread carefully here. If the cabinets are already painted one color, you're probably okay giving them a fresh coat. If they are natural wood, you might want to check in first with your management company.

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