The upside of renting is that you’re not responsible if anything goes wrong. Dishwasher breaks? Call the landlord. AC not working? Call the landlord. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?
The downside, however, is that you’re pretty limited when it comes to making aesthetic improvements that make the place feel like it embodies your design style. You don’t own it, so you can’t change it.
But that doesn’t mean your hands are tied. There are several easy and affordable ways to upgrade a bland apartment without breaking the terms of your lease or risking your security deposit.
1. Faux Molding
One of the best things about older buildings is that they come ready-made with all kinds of character – built-in hutches, beautiful mantle pieces and old wooden floors. Newer construction, while less temperamental, usually lacks these unique touches.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take too much time or money to add beautiful architectural details like a chair rail, crown molding or even wainscoting. You can now buy ready-made versions of all of these, which can be installed with just a hammer and nails. These small details will add instant character and interest to any lackluster room.
2. Accent Painting
If you’re allowed to paint anything in your apartment at all, chances are you also have to agree to paint it back to the original egg shell or dove grey color when you move out. Let’s face it, the idea of painting a room once can be daunting, let alone twice. But how about just one wall? Or a door?
Sometimes accent painting like this can have an even greater impact than painting the entire room because it really stands out against the more neutral walls. Plus, when you’re ready to move on, it won’t be quite as big of a chore to return the area to its former color.
3. Decal Wall Paper
If your landlord won’t let you paint, well then you certainly won’t be able to put up wallpaper either. Enter the miracle of modern decal wall paper. You can buy sheets of the stuff to hang on walls, and then just peel it off when you move out.
All you have to do is measure the wall or walls you want covered and order the right-sized panels for your needs – no glue, no damage to the walls, just instant style for your walls. There are several online stores and Etsy shops that offer a huge range of patterns, styles and colors, so you’re sure to find one that’s a good fit for your place.
4. Framed Art
Let’s assume that you know you need décor up on your walls – this is a given, right? What might not be a given is that any artwork or photos you put up needs to be properly framed. Posters that are taped to the wall scream “college dorm room” no matter how lovely the posters are. But custom-frames immediately elevate the look of whatever they surround. It’s best to spend a small amount on an art print and then invest a bit more in good quality matting and framing.
5. Eclectic Furniture
There’s nothing quite as boring as a blah apartment filled with cookie cutter IKEA furniture in neutral colors. If the unit itself doesn’t have any character to speak of, well then you had better make up for it in the furnishings.
Instead of buying everything in one place, look at the furnishing process as a treasure hunt. If you buy pieces in different styles from several different stores, you’ll end up with a much more natural and beautiful overall look.
6. Window Treatments
I don’t know about you, but I find cheap aluminum blinds to be pretty sad and very boring. Add a little luxury and flair by outfitting your windows with window treatments that match your style. Custom window treatments can easily get expensive, but you can also go the much more affordable route and just pick up drapes in a unique pattern or vibrant color. If you don’t want to mess with the existing blinds, just add a curtain rod and put the drapes up over them for a much softer and inviting appearance.
7. Pulls, Knobs & Light Switch Covers
You’re obviously not going to put custom cabinetry into a rental apartment. But you can quickly transform the look of built-in cabinets, drawers, doors and light switches by changing out the hardware. There’s a huge variety of unique and affordable drawer and cabinet pulls available from any hardware store.
Or if you prefer a vintage vibe, check out the selection at local antique stores – for a funky and artistic look, get a few different styles to combine together. Once you pick your favorite, all you need is a screwdriver to easily and quickly personalize the look of your kitchen and bathroom.
Doing all of these small projects at once may seem overwhelming, but just pick one or two to start with and you can gradually personalize your place to make it reflect your tastes.