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AmazonMany renters struggle with personalization. Rather than risking their deposit or breaking their lease, they unconsciously settle to live around the things that vex or inconvenience them.
But even though a lease is by its nature temporary, you’re still living in the space, and it’s not nearly as satisfying to just inhabit a room that is half yours and half already somebody else’s.
When you think about it, the afternoon you’ll spend swapping light bulbs or painting is absolutely worth it for the sense of ownership and belonging you’ll get over the span of the next 12 months. Short term, what a pain. Long term, does it really make sense to be less happy for 12 months than you could be, because four hours is too much to ask?
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to personalize rented homes without breaking the rules. And most of them require less effort than changing the cabinet drawers in the kitchen and keeping the others stored somewhere (not all of us have the space to make that DIY task appealing).
Things as simple as changing the lighting, upgrading the shower head, and bringing in your own curtains can make a big difference in how the space feels without requiring much effort or money from you. And you might want to take advantage of the time before you get a mortgage to invest flexible income into the furniture pieces that bring you joy (and that you can afford) now and you can also hold onto for the future.
Instead of focusing on knocking out walls to create an open floor plan, you can harness all that design energy and hurl it at easy-to-remove decorations, versatile and mobile storage spaces, inexpensive but impactful upgrades, and statement pieces.
Nobody likes to exist in a state of limbo or to feel like a temporary squatter in the home they’re likely paying quite a bit of their income to inhabit. If you want to set down some roots in a temporary space or a way to stop the renting cycle from feeling nomadic, check out the 14 tips below:
Use removable wallpaper.
Coating the walls in a wallpaper that will take lots of elbow grease and unpleasant hours of deconstruction is not every renter’s dream, and most modern home stores know that and cater to those concerns. Installation takes a couple hours, and you might want some extra sheets so you don’t have to pull out your hair when you don’t align one section perfectly, but it’s an easy way to personalize a place without permanent change. If doing the whole place seems out of the question, a statement wall could be a nice use for removable wallpaper.
Sepulveda Shiplap Mural Removable Wallpaper, Taupe, available at West Elm, $360
Try command hooks, strips, and tapes to avoid putting holes in the walls.
If you’re afraid of drilling holes into rented walls, you may want to invest in packs of hanging strips. Displaying art and memorabilia is one of the easiest and best ways to make the space yours, and by opting for something less permanent than nails and a hammer, you can have all the customization without any of the concern.
Command Picture & Frame Hanging Strips Value Pack, Large, White, 12-Pairs, available at Amazon, $5.21
Paint the walls neutral colors you like.
Yes, even though it sounds like it wouldn’t be, painting is normally okay to do in a rented apartment as long as the color isn’t too polarizing. Your landlord might even be happy you’re doing it, since it ups the value of the place without any effort on his/her part.
You’ll want to ask to be sure (unless you plan on painting now, repainting covertly later), but it’s an easy way to officially designate a spot as your own.
Ultra Pure White Semi-Gloss Zero VOC Interior Paint, 1 gallon, available at Home Depot, $28.98
Upgrade the lighting.
Since you won’t be expressing yourself and your individuality through extensive renovations, you have a) the disposable funds and b) the incentive to invest into really cool pieces you’ll want to bring from rented home to rented home. One of the best ways to infuse some personality into a space is through lighting; a statement fixture can change the mood of the room while allowing your heavier and more expensive furniture pieces to remain neutral and easy to mix.
Madison Park Signature Bringham Gold Floor Lamp, available at Overstock, $134.09
Upgrade the lighting (cont’d).
As much as the fixture matters, the bulbs matter more. Lighting is a crucial part of creating the kind of atmosphere you want to live in, and it’s one of the very easiest things to change. Changing the bulbs packs high impact for little cost and almost no effort. Plus, LED bulbs are up to 80% more energy efficient than traditional kinds, so your electrical bill might even be lower.
You can choose between warm and cool tones, soft and daylight, and whether or not you want to look into hooking everything up to a smart home grid.
Philips LED A19 Non-Dimmable Light Bulb, 16-Pack, available at Amazon, $28
Get your own curtains.
It’s one of the easiest fixes for an apartment: curtains. Ditch the vertical slats that come already installed in your new place and take advantage of the light (and therefore easy focal point) of the rooms. They’re also easy to take with you and a pretty inexpensive thing to replace if you outgrow the style.
Cotton Luster Velvet Curtain, Dusty Blush, available at West Elm, $99.99 – $119
Showcase the things you love in open storage that doesn’t require mounting (cont’d).
Open storage spaces that don’t attach to the wall are a renter’s best friend. They can go where you go, require less commitment and preparation, and also give you more wiggle room for personalization and a mix of styles and materials. The open nature also means you won’t open up a cabinet one day and realize you never knew this and that were jammed in there all this time.
Project 62 Loring 4 Cube Bookcase in Vintage Oak, 34″, available at Target, $79.99 (originally $99.99)
Invest in nice furniture that can roll around for versatility and easy moving.
You likely aren’t going to buy each and every thing on this list, and you might opt to spend your money more sparingly in a rented apartment but on higher ticket items. You might have more flexibility with income if most of it isn’t going towards a mortgage, so you can invest now into pieces you’d like to have in the next few years and then some.
A rolling kitchen cabinet is something you can easily move from space to space and doesn’t require extensive installation or deconstruction. It also looks pretty great.
August Grove Gardner China Cabinet, available at Wayfair, $623.98
Note: Currently out of stock
Get the perks of organizational helpers without the installation.
If you want more organized cabinets or just really hate the clattering, jarring sound of pots rubbing against each other while you pull one out, this is a great organizational tool that doesn’t require any installation.
Extreme Matters Heavy Duty Pan Organizer, available at Amazon, $29.97
Note: Currently only available through third-party sellers
If you don’t have a closet and can’t install something heavy-duty, get a stylish rolling rack.
If you can’t install a heavy-duty closet system into the walls with a power drill, but you don’t have a closet in your rented place, you’re in luck: Garment racks are now much more stylish than you likely to remember them being. They don’t need to be an eyesore, and they couldn’t be easier to set up.
Antique Gray Modular Clothes Rack, available at Pottery Barn, $199 (originally $249)
Use unusual furniture to take on the heavy-lifting of personalizing the space.
Since your means of customization are somewhat limited by your lease, you might focus your energy (and money) more heavily into either furniture or home improvements.
Furniture has its advantages as being something you can bring with you from place to place, as you might not intend to rent this spot out for the future. Getting statement pieces like the wood stumps above lets you make the space undeniably your own without much effort and zero deconstruction or repainting later.
Natural Tree-Stump Side Table, available at West Elm, $249
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