Whether you’re renting a tiny studio in the big city or a three-bedroom home in a small town, decorating a rental is a challenge that brings with it plenty of room for creativity — and lots of opportunities to wonder, why on earth did my landlord install that?
Of course, you can make a big impact in a rental with furniture, artwork, rugs, and decor, but sometimes, there are bigger issues in a rental that aren’t as easy to decorate away. Maybe you can’t stop looking at the straight-from-the-’80s light fixture over your kitchen table, or perhaps your waterfront view is obscured by crooked vertical blinds. But, before you resign yourself to living in a home full of design don’ts, consider these five items that you may not have realized you can change in a rental.
1. Light Fixtures
First, let me say this: installing light fixtures isn’t difficult to DIY, as long as you turn off all the breakers and grab an extra set of hands. Now, let’s talk about switching out lights. While you can’t go around changing wiring without your landlord’s permission (and a qualified electrician’s help), you absolutely can take down the dreaded nipple light (you know the one) and put up that funky vintage fixture you found at the uptown flea market. Swap out sconces, chandeliers, over-the-mirror lights — it’s all fair game.
2. Cabinet and Door Hardware
When I moved into my current place, I was greeted with kitchen cabinet hardware that resembled mini disco balls. It was a vibe — just not my vibe. So, I took a trip to CB2, found modern, geometric black hardware and spent an hour screwing and unscrewing knobs. A little bit of effort made a huge impact and you can do this trick anywhere there’s hardware: kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc.
And, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can swap out door hardware or light plates.
3. Wall Color, Wallpaper, and Wall Treatments
Painting the walls in a rental is the obvious way to spruce things up (it’s a good idea to ask first), but your options for adding a luxe look to your walls don’t stop there. Removable wallpaper has come leaps and bounds in recent years (just take a look at Target’s collections!) and you can even find removable wall coverings that mimic exposed brick in both look and texture.
Want to kick things up even further? Look at installing picture frame moldings, gallery ledges, and more. As long as you’re willing to pull out the putty and paint before you move out, your options are endless.
4. Blinds and Window Coverings
We all know those floor-to-ceiling white, plastic blinds — the ones than hang straight down (in theory), but never seem to quite align. Or, maybe you’ve fallen victim to the flimsy mini-blinds that inevitably meet their demise with tangled cords and broken shades.
Well, you don’t have to spend your lease staring at ugly windows! Take those babies down and put up simple, chic window treatments with an easy to install and even easier to remove tension rod. You won’t have to worry about putting holes in the window frame, but you’ll end up with a lovely view.
Or, invest just a bit more and go for bohemian bamboo shades to add a bit of warmth to your space.
5. Bathroom and Kitchen Fixtures
In my last rental, the water pressure was nothing if not dismal. Every conditioner became a leave-in conditioner as I stood under a trickle of water. I probably would have just accepted my pitiful showers had my husband not been insistent that we could swap out the shower head for one with better water pressure.
One Amazon purchase and a few minutes of tinkering later, and we had a spa-like shower. Same goes for a less-than-ideal kitchen sink (anyone else ever moved into a rental where the sink seems more like a bar sink than something you can fill a pot with?!).
Lastly, one word to the wise: if you take something down or swap something out, hang onto it. Your landlord may want you to put it back when you move out — and you probably want your full security deposit back. Plus, who wouldn’t want to take their stylish home upgrades with them?