How to Decorate a Rental

Finn and I have been renters for the past 5 years, and we’ve learned a lot about rental living during that time. From Wisconsin, to Missouri, and now back in Chicago, we’ve had to make many temporary places feel like home. We have perfected the art of decorating a rental to feel like home in many different places!

I’m not gonna lie…it can be really hard to run a home decor & DIY blog when you’re not living in your “forever home.” I see all of these amazing projects that Bridget tackles at her house and get a bit jealous. Her marble backsplash, the gorgeous board & batten wall, her blue front door..they’re all such amazing projects that I would love to complete in my own pad, but simply can’t.

5 Tips to Decorate a Rental

I know a lot of you guys are in my shoes too, so I thought it was finally time to talk about the things you CAN do to make your rental feel homier and more personal to you & your style. Here’s how to decorate a rental. Tips to decorate a rental

1. No Excuses

First things first…I don’t care if your lease expires in 6 months or your landlord says you absolutely can’t put a nail hole in your wall…in our playbook, there are no excuses when it comes to “waiting” to decorate. I used to always be in the mindset of “when I have a home, I’ll buy this,” or “when we move into our own place I’ll print those pictures and hang them.” Instead of living in the present and enjoying the space I’m already living in.Your entryway can be spruced up with some plants, like these fresh cut tulips and succulent, and a beautiful mirror.

You may not be able to put up your own board & batten right now, but there are many things you can do to spruce up your rental. You need to celebrate your home, regardless of your living situation. Your home should be a place that makes you feel happy and proud, and living in a space devoid of personality isn’t going to help you feel that way.Our office has amazing shelves and fun, framed artwork.

2. Start with the Walls

Okay, now that you’re officially on board the decorating train the first step is to think about the walls. And at this point you’re probably thinking, “Casey, I want to get my deposit back…there’s no way I’m painting my walls.” I totally hear ya. But I also know that painting is an easy & affordable DIY project that makes a HUGE difference in a space.

Here are some options…

1. Ask your landlord for permission to paint your walls a nice neutral color (& check out this post for some color inspiration). If your landlords are smart, they’ll understand that you only want to improve their property, which makes it a win-win for all parties. That’s what we did in our current pad, and our landlord gave us the green light. Start to decorate your rental with a fresh coat of paint.

2. If your landlord says the walls must be white when you move out, then you can always paint them back at the end of your lease. Which (while being a pain) is still an option. Or you can paint an accent wall in a prominent spot and then you’ll only have 1 wall to paint when you leave.

3. If #1 or #2 don’t work…leave your walls white, and spruce them up in other ways.

3. Invest in Pieces you Love

Just because you live in a rental, doesn’t mean you have to live with furniture from your college days. In fact, furniture is going to go a long way to help transform your look from college-dorm to grown-up glam.

Many people assume that whatever they buy now, simply won’t fit in their future home, so they live with pieces they hate. Maybe you should avoid buying a 10-person dining table or uniquely shaped bookshelves, but I’m guessing it’s a-okay to buy a coffee table, a nightstand, or a dresser that you love. If you adore a piece, you’ll find room for it in your next home.An easy way to transform your space is to find a piece of furniture you love, like this nightstand in our guest bedroom.

Items Renters Can Buy

  • Headboards (Bridget has this one in navy and loves it!)
  • Accent ChairsDecorate a rental with a rug
  • Rugs: In fact, this is a MUST on the rental to-buy list. If you have ugly stained carpet or scratched hardwood floors you can cover those suckers up with a nice area rug of your choice. Rugs are great investment pieces and make any space look that much more complete. Plus, they’re comfy on your feet and absorb some noise. Your neighbors will thank you! Here’s a guide to finding the perfect rugAdd some good lighting to completely update the look of your home. Now it can have that warm, cozy vibe you've been looking for!
  • Good Lighting: Harsh lighting isn’t going to do your home any favors. Instead get some table lamps and standing lamps to light your space. They’ll create a warm moody vibe and they’ll definitely up the coziness factor. If you really want, you can even change out some light fixtures with ones that you love. Hiring an electrician for an hour might be worth it to you, and you can bring it with you to your next pad. And if you really want to set a mood in your home, think about installing a dimmer switch.
  • Coffee tables, nightstands, dressers, etc. (we’re big fans of West Elm & CB2 for these home decor essentials!)Decorating your rental with coffee tables, nightstands, and dressers can make a huge impact on your living space.

4. Tweak the Small Things

Now that we’ve got the basics covered…it’s time to really add your personality to your space (our favorite part!)

Here are some great rental options: 

  • Change Kitchen, Bath, & Closet Hardware: Just be sure to keep the bag of old hardware to trade out when it’s time to move.
  • Ditch the Rental Blinds: Pull vertical blinds to the side and horizontal ones all the way up, and instead go for curtains or drapes. If you aren’t allowed to install them, use this rental curtain trick and check out this post to make your own no-sew blackout curtainsAdd a succulent for a pop of color and a fresh new look!
  • Buy some plants or succulents  (here’s our guide to buy foolproof indoor plants!)
  • Add color with pillows & throws (here’s tips on how to do it the RIGHT way)
  • Style a bookshelf with your favorite reads, photos, and souvenirs from your travels
  • Add a bar cart
  • Invest in quality bedding (we both absolutely love this duvet)
  • Keep your kitchen organized (try this under the kitchen sink)Every rental can be decorated to feel like home!

5. Love your Home

Whether you’re a lifetime renter, or you just put a down payment on your slice of suburbia, we think it’s important to show your home some love. Home is a place to gather and make memories and in the end, that’s the most important tip I can give you. Fill your home with special people, and it will automatically become a special place to be.How to decorate your rental