Decorating a rental, whether it’s an apartment or a house, often comes with unique design challenges. The most obvious being you can’t make any extensive or permanent changes to your rental space.
For instance, you might not be allowed to change out light fixtures or even hang big art pieces that might be too heavy for the walls. You might also be dealing with an older apartment or home that has carpeting you can’t replace. Or maybe you have to work with funky interior architecture, like narrow hallways and mirrored closet doors you can’t swap out. Additionally, renting also often means you might want to hold off on investing in quality furniture because you plan on moving again in the near future. The list goes on.
To provide you with some inspiration and guidance, we’ve rounded up temporary decorating ideas for renters that are easy to pull off, no matter your space. Read on for our list of stylish and functional rental decor tips—which guarantee you’ll get your deposit back when you leave.
Just moved into a rental and starting from scratch? Check out our where to skimp vs splurge in a new home to kick things off. Then scroll through our apartment furniture checklist for the right pieces, and make it all work with these studio apartment layout ideas!
1. Paint an Accent Wall to Add Depth
If your landlord lets you paint, consider painting an accent wall. It tops our list for favorite rental decorating ideas that are low lift with major impact. A little wall color can add a lot of personalities, and painting just one wall is easier to reverse when you have to re-paint your space back to the original color before moving out.
If you live in a large space, a dark wall color becomes an immediate focal point that also warms up the room. If you live in a small rental apartment that’s pressed for space, going with a softer wall color will help infuse a lighter and more airy look and feel. Also, check out our small apartment design tips for more easy ways to style up a tiny rental.
2. Try Removable Wallpaper for a Bold (but Reversible) Statement
If painting is not an option, consider peel-and-stick wallpaper for an accent wall that brings an instant splash of color and texture to your rental. While removable wallpaper can seem daunting, there are plenty of new and improved options that are perfect for decorating a rental.
Try covering a wall with removable geometric wallpaper for a bold look. If you’re not sure wallpaper is for you, hang a large wall tapestry instead for an even more temporary solution that’s equally captivating.
3. Layer Your Lighting for a Cozier Feel
With most rentals, there’s typically just overhead lighting or sometimes none at all. Bringing in an array of different lighting is a great way to brighten as well as warm-up a rental space.
Think floor lamps, table lamps, candles, and plug-in sconces, which all make for stylish lighting that will illuminate rooms at different heights. A layered lighting mix also provides various focal points that invite the eye to explore a room. Try opting for lighting in twos, such as matching table lamps or one placed next to a floor lamp, to bring an amplified glow to bedrooms, living space corners, and seating areas.
4. Opt for Versatile Pieces That You Can Take with You
Look for versatile pieces that can fit into different spaces and travel with you for the long haul, such as lightweight benches, ottomans, and stools. If you’re keen on having a sectional sofa, choose a modular design that can be configured as needed for your space—which will give you more flexibility than a fixed L-shaped seat.
The key is to steer away from furniture that only works in your current rental because chances are you’re going to have to upgrade or downsize when you move out—whereas you can always find a place for more compact, versatile pieces.
5. Swap Out Hardware and Fixtures for a Small-But-Mighty Transformation
Not every rental will let you switch out the generic hardware and fixtures in your kitchen and bathroom like cabinet pulls, drawer knobs, and towel bars. But if they do, don’t hesitate.
Replacing small hardware makes for a super stylish upgrade that can add major personality to your rental apartment or home. It’s an inexpensive way to give your rental kitchen or bath a custom look that’s chic and elevated. And if you’re extra ambitious, try bringing in new light fixtures to replace the existing ones in your rental—though we recommend calling in a professional to help if there’s wiring involved!
6. Dress Windows with Drapery for Privacy and Style
Window treatments, such as blinds and drapery, are low-lift accents that are perfect for rentals and always deliver a custom look.
Make it a point to replace those flimsy plastic blinds in your rental with roller shades or roman blinds. Hang curtains over it for a layered look that also helps to control the amount of light streaming into your space. If you have low ceilings, hanging curtains high above your windows will help make your ceilings feel taller also—a neat trick our Modsy designers love.
7. Pull in Area Rugs (Even Over Carpet)
The best way to cozy up any rental apartment or home is from the ground up with area rugs, particularly in frequented spaces like the living room and bedroom.
Not only are rugs a great way to cover up unsightly floors or old buildings with carpeting, they can also add a bit of padding that dampens noise. We love layering rugs in a living area (like a natural fiber rug piled with a colorful kilim) and piling more textured and fluffy rugs in the bedroom (think a cowhide topped with a sheepskin). Just remember to add rug pads to protect your floors from scuffs and keep you from tripping over your rugs!
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8. Hang (or Prop) Some Art
Just because you live in a rental doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on art. Give your walls a boost with a large colorful art piece or a gallery wall of photographs.
If you’re worried about nailing holes into your walls, use command hooks instead. Or you can skip the hanging altogether and lean your art on a bookcase or console for an equally eye-catching display that doesn’t involve any hammering and nailing.
9. Add Life with Greenery
Whether it’s a lush and leafy indoor tree or just a collection of succulents, greenery is always the best way to bring your rental spaces to life.
They not only add color and texture, they also offer an organic touch that ushers in a happy and relaxed atmosphere in a rental. Moreover, plants and greenery can purify the air and instantly lift the mood in even the most sterile or cookie-cutter rental apartment or house.
10. Look for Modular Furniture
Maximum flexibility is the M.O. if you live in a rental apartment or home. That means any furniture that’s designed to be easily disassembled and reconfigured is always a good idea because they make moving easier as well as let you change up your room layout as needed.
Consider a sectional or sofa that comes in separable modular pieces. This guarantees they’re easy to move and will likely fit into your rental spaces. Still, be sure to measure any narrow hallways and staircases to make sure the furniture you’re buying can fit through the doorway. Many retailers won’t accept refunds nor will they help you figure out how to get rid of the piece if it doesn’t fit into your space!
11. Sneak in Smart Storage
So much of decorating a rental is about making it feel like a permanent home. Streamlining your visual clutter can help bring an organized look that plays up a neat, homey vibe.
Try adding a bench with hidden storage in your apartment entry or tuck away baskets and bins in bookshelves and under your bed. By keeping your rental organized and orderly, you’ll instantly set an inviting and lived-in tone in your space that feels like a forever home.
12. Fake Some Built-Ins
One of our more ambitious rental decorating ideas is to anchor a wall with a series of low-profile bookcases that mimic built-in shelving from afar.
By lining a wall with identical bookcases, you can create room for tons of storage for books, decor, art, and display objects that show off your personality. It’s a great makeshift way to play up the look of stylish built-in shelving in a rental without actually making a dent in your space.
13. Zone Out Your Space for Maximum Usability
Rental apartments can often feel like uninspiring empty rooms. The trick is to transform an open room into various smaller areas for different purposes, like a living space that doubles as a dining space or is zoned to incorporate a small apartment office.
Use rugs and furniture to act as room dividers between different zones and spaces. A low bookshelf is a great way to separate a living area and a workspace, while a floating sofa can double as a marker that delineates your seating area from your dining space.
Use Modsy to show your landlord the changes you want to make. Seeing it in 3D will help them visualize the impact of the changes and perhaps make them more agreeable to larger changes!