The 10 Commandments of Decorating Your Rental

published Jun 29, 2015
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Decorating a rental home can often seem like a minefield of decisions, forcing you to weigh the financial risk and aesthetic payoff at every turn. How much time and money to invest in a temporary home? Which areas to focus on and which to learn to live with? Read on for 10 Commandments to decorating your rental home.

1. Thou Shalt Decorate
First things first- you should actually decorate your rental, even if it’s in small, temporary ways. Sure, you may not be here for long, but ignoring the things you dislike about your home and avoiding putting your mark on it is a sure-fire way to feel miserable when you walk in the door. No excuses- even rentals deserve love.

2. Thou Shalt Invest in Versatile Pieces
The thing about renting is that you might be doing it for a while, and you often don’t know where you’ll be living next. Choosing versatile furniture pieces, rather than items which fit perfectly in your current space but might give you trouble down the line, is smart. Modular sofas that can be left- or right-handed, folding chairs, gateleg tables, and side or coffee tables that double as storage are all great ideas.

3. Thou Shalt Upgrade Lighting (Where Possible)
Why is the lighting always the worst feature in any rental? Luckily, swapping out a shade or two isn’t hard, and it can make a big change to your space. If you can’t upgrade fixtures due to budget or technical issues (some may require an electrician, an expense not all renters are willing to make), try to avoid using the overhead lights where possible. Focus on growing your collection of stylish floor and table lamps instead.

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

4. Thou Shalt Upgrade Hardware, Too
Upgrading cabinet pulls in the kitchen or bathroom is a super-easy way of getting away from “builder basic” and adding your own personal style. Simply stash the old ones somewhere safe and switch out when you move on.

5. Thou Shalt Improve Window Coverings
This is another area where rentals always seem to be sorely lacking. Whether it’s dirty old curtains or depressing vertical blinds, lackluster window treatments just scream “temporary home”. Sort it out by upgrading to fresh curtains (even cheap no-hem IKEA ones can look great) or simple roller blinds.

6. Thou Shalt Embrace Paint
Paint is easily the simplest way to make your own mark on a space and upgrade from renter’s beige while you’re at it. Bonus: if your space looks great and the color(s) you choose are relatively neutral, you might not even have to repaint when you leave- some landlords will thank you for adding life to the space and will want to keep it as-is!

7. Thou Shalt Consider Temporary Measures
If you want to avoid the expense and work of painting, consider other forms of wall decoration. From decals to temporary stick-on wallpaper, the options are endless these days. Even a small accent wall can make a big difference to how bespoke your home looks and feels.

(Image credit: Franka’s Beautiful Amsterdam Abode)

8. Thou Shalt Buy Rugs
Whether it’s cold laminate flooring or seen-better-days carpet you’re trying to cover up, a good area rug will cover a multitude of sins. Rugs bring color and texture into a space and they’re yours forever, so find some you really like.

9. Thou Shalt Display Art
Whether you’ll be able to actually hang art depends on your lease (though most will allow it, provided you spackle-and-paint on your way out), but even a super-strict lease is no excuse for bare walls. Art makes the home, and there are a million ways to bring it into yours, from affordable prints hung gallery-style to original works leaning on furniture.

10. Thou Shalt Focus on the Positive
Decorating a rental often gets a bad rep, as though it’s somehow less than decorating a home you own. But look at the opportunity that not owning affords you: you can focus your decorating energy on the “fun stuff”. Your home-owning pals- between the mortgage and the emergency fund and saving for their new kitchen- might not be able to afford a new sofa right now, making do with grandma’s hand-me-down for the foreseeable future. But you can save up and get that sofa you’ve always wanted, safe in the knowledge that if your dishwasher breaks down- hey, not your problem.

Are you renting? How do/did you approach decorating a rental? Chime in below!