I’ve moved a total of nine times since I graduated college. Nine times! We’ve lived in spaces ranging from 550 sq. ft. to 2,400 sq. ft. and have decorated around styles that ranged from single bedroom, beige box apartments to our current Victorian with endless charm. We’ve worked around space issues such as more children than available bedrooms and how to fit a home office inside a wardrobe. No matter how far from my dream home each rental has been, I’ve found ways to really enjoy the space and make it feel like ours. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about making the most from a rental, so I thought I’d share my top 10 tips with you.
For this post we are teaming up with our friends at Rent.com, a great source for finding rentals in your area.
1. Switch out standard or unsightly light fixtures. Our last rental had granny-style glass covers over all of the antique light fixtures in the house. Thanks to the advice of a good friend, I realized it was possible to remove them and replace them with Edison bulbs for a much more industrial vibe. Even if you have to put in a little more energy than that, changing dated or dull light fixtures (and storing them until you move out) is an easy way to update your space and make it feel a little more like yours.
(Here’s what the Room Planner tool looks like from this listing in Nashville. We’re not moving with Elsie but I just wanted to show you what it looks like.)
2. Plan the layout of your rooms before you move in. It can be frustrating to move into a space only to discover that some of your furniture (that you already love) doesn’t quite fit how you had planned. To avoid this, plan the layout of your rooms before you ever start moving furniture. An easy tool to help you do this is the Room Planner feature on Rent.com. You can see a floor plan of the space and even digitally add your furniture sizes to the space to see how well they will fit. This can help take away a lot of stress on moving day.
3. Don’t be afraid of putting holes in the walls. Plan out your gallery wall, double check those measurements, and start drilling! It’s one of the layers of decorating that makes a house feel finished and will add so much more charm to a boring rental. You can always fill those holes like a pro the week before you move out.
4. Transform your walls with temporary fixes. The built-ins in my kids’ room were great for displaying special toys, but the dark wood made the room feel small and sad. I enlarged a design onto blueprint copies and trimmed them to fit inside the shelving with double-sided tape. It instantly made the room feel brighter, modern, and so much more fun. You can also opt to use temporary wallpaper or vinyl stickers to add more style to your current color.
5. Cover ugly flooring with a great rug. Our floors weren’t terrible, but there were some unsightly water stain spots in the dining room. I covered it with a rug I made and not only got to enjoy a finished project but no longer had to look at the dark spot on our light wooden floors. Layer a bold rug over beige carpets to help pull together any room and add more interest to your space.
6. Work with what you have. Our last rental included chain link fencing around the entire backyard. It offered little privacy in the winter when the bushes were in hibernation and made it feel like we were living in an empty car lot. I rigged up some fence panels that gave the illusion of a warmer and more modern fenced yard and was able to attach them to the chain link in a way that would make them easy to transport when we moved. Sometimes there is very little you can do to improve upon a specific element at your rental property but other times you just need to think outside the box.
7. Use furniture that does double duty. Decorating your rental(s) with furniture that can work in more than one room or that is multi-functional within a room will make rearranging in the next rental so much easier. Getting the same pieces to work together in more than one layout is hard enough, so using items that can solve a problem in both the living room and kids’ room or kitchen and dining room is incredibly helpful.
8. Hit the refresh button with new accessories. Inexpensive accessories and thrift store finds can refresh your space when your furniture feels tired after another move. Purchasing a few new throw pillows or fun accessories for your mantel can help bring new life into a room even when it doesn’t all fit together seamlessly.
9. Plants cover a multitude of dullness. They seem to have their own personalities and add so much color and texture to a space. Hang a few from the ceiling and place them at varying levels throughout a single room or your whole home to create an extra layer of interest. Tolerant plants or succulents are great options in case you forget to water them while you are getting settled into your new space!
10. Entertain alternative storage ideas. Solve storage problems and create interest in a plain room by repurposing a simple bookshelf into a wardrobe. I added contact paper to the back wall of this IKEA bookshelf, and then installed a simple curtain rod to display and organize my son’s wardrobe. Since older homes often lack much closet space, this allowed me to utilize what little space we did have to keep the larger, louder toys out of sight. I’ve also made a standing wardrobe from both metal pipes and PVC pipes and have used a larger wardrobe with doors to organize and store our office supplies.
What about you? Have you discovered any great tips for rentals over the years? –Rachel
Credits//Author and Photography: Rachel Denbow
Thank you so much, Rachel! This looks like exactly the solution we need. I can’t wait to try this out, thanks again for your help (and inspiration!).
I’m moving into a rented house soon and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find ways to decorate it in my own way, but this has given me the confidence and ideas to add my own touch to the house, thanks!
Great ideas. Where did you get the rugs shown in this post? I love the smaller black and white one. Also love that vintage-looking map 🙂
The last tip, alternative storage is something that I’ve been looking for with decorating my apartment. I’ve been looking for different ways to store mine and my husband’s clothes, more great tips for organizing and decorating my apartment! 🙂
These are fantastic ideas. Lots of hard work but definitely worth it. Thanks for the constant inspiration xx
You can switch out the light fixtures in an apartment? That’s good to know. I’ve been thinking that it would be nice to personalize our rental, but I didn’t know what I could play around with. I agree that plants can brighten up a place. It will be fun to try to make our new apartment more of a home.
fab article but its really hard living in 290q ft apartment, where EVERYTHING is ugly and you can’t change a thing, our landlord won’t let us repaint (the bright yellow and blue walls) OR upgrade the huge chunky pine furniture. we’ve done the best we can but you can only go so far! 😮
These are awesome suggestions! My husband and I are moving to Los Angeles in January and I was starting to wonder how we’d make our apartment feel as cozy as the home we own in Virginia. I’ll definitely be saving this post for when the move comes! 🙂
Love the IKEA bookshelf hack. It’s the perfect solution for getting all of our daughters clothes at her level so she can dress herself. Currently her dresses are hanging out of reach.
That was our same problem at that rental. Foot traffic through the alley at all hours of the day and night and loud cars on our busy street. I did post the tutorial on my blog two years ago if you want to have a look over there. Best of luck!
I love this! I’m currently renting a need some tips for decorating! Thanks for sharing.
These are such great tips for those who rent! I was always pretty bad at making our rentals feel like home, no matter how hard I tried. But I could easily live in this space you show in the pictures. I hope you’ll link up this post over at Motivational Monday this week. http://makingitinthemitten.blogspot.com/2015/06/motivational-monday-june-14th.html
How do you “fill those holes like a pro”?? Please explain how!!
Great photographs & tips for a better design that will definitely make us feel better in the area.
Mafer, Concientizando x
Love this and I’m totally worth you on the hideous light shades. What’s with that?? I’d add curtains to that too. A couple of places I’ve rented have had dusty netting in the windows. Yikes!
Where is that lovely blue/grey chair in #7 from?
Hi Rachel! Would you please consider doing a tutorial for the fence panels you did? We just moved into a new house which we love, but are facing the same issue with unsightly chain-link fencing. On top of that, we’re by a road that gets a little more traffic than we anticipated, so there’s a bit of an ambient noise issue, too. We’ve been thinking about what we can do to combat both the ugly and the noise, so any help you can give on that is appreciated!
Thanks for all these ideas–it’s always tricky trying to make a rental space your own.
SUCH an inspiration! I definitely feel the rental slums after trying to decorate the house sometimes! But I love thrifting and finding little odds and ends that really bring out the place!! Great tips!
I’ll definitely be getting rugs, plants, and double duty furniture for my dorm room next year 🙂 -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s
any tips for packing books for long term storage?