I’ve always been a big believer in the fact that making our home our own is good for the soul. We all need a place where we can rest and unwind from the world, whether we have our own home or not. I’ve lived in rentals for a long time. And before that, I lived in dorms or houses with other people. I’ve gotten used to the feeling that my place of residence won’t be permanent, but that hasn’t stopped me from decorating and making it feel like me. Whatever your current living situation is, I want to share some simple, affordable tips on how to decorate a rental and make your space your own, so you can feel settled and have a place to relax and just be.

Rental Tip #1: Fabric is the new paint

decorating a rental

Oftentimes the most intimidating thing about decorating a rental is the white (or maybe an unfortunate shade of beige) walls staring you in the face and a landlord who won’t let you paint. There are some really cool removable wallpapers and peel-and-stick murals out there, but oftentimes they’re pretty pricey.

I’ve used removable wallpaper in smaller ways before, but sometimes you want a statement wall. This is where I’ve found fabric to be affordable and simple. If you like a more bohemian or eclectic vibe then you’re in luck. You can use a tapestry or maybe a sheet or something you already own. You also don’t have to be perfect when hanging it.

If you like a more modern and sleek look this can still work you’ll just want to be sure to measure and have straight lines. I found a great navy patterned fabric at Ikea and used it on just the lower half of my dining room wall to break up a blah space (and the whole thing only cost $12). I hung it using clear pushpins (which isn’t perfect) but does the trick!

If you want an even more polished look you could frame a large piece of fabric or even wrap it around a canvas with a staple gun for a large statement piece. 

Rental Tip #2: Twinkle lights and candles…because lighting is everything

photo via hgtv.com

Maybe you’re thinking this is too simple to be a tip but, I am going to make a bold statement and say I think when it comes to decorating a home, lighting may be the most important thing.

There is nothing worse than fluorescent lighting. No amount of cozy decor will feel cozy with harsh lighting. I’ve rented places with basically no lighting, so lamps were a must. But that left me with lots of dark corners or dark spaces where an outlet wasn’t within reach.

There are really affordable twinkle lights on Amazon with clear cords and battery packs so they can go anywhere! As someone with lots of twinkle lights I suggest investing in a battery charger and rechargeable batteries, you’ll save money and it’s better for the environment!

I’d also like to add that candles are a super inexpensive way to make your home feel cozy. Instead of buying large candles, I have a bunch of small votive holders (I also use glasses or jars). I also like to purchase cheap tea lights and have candles tucked in every corner. This is such a simple way to make your space feel welcoming and inviting.

Rental Tip #3: Curtains over blinds

photo via westelm.com

A lot of apartments and rentals have very generic windows. It can be a hassle to be constantly opening and closing cheap blinds. Curtains can seem like a big commitment and usually will require putting a few holes in the wall.

Most rentals understand you’ll need to hang a few things and won’t mind, as long as the hole isn’t too large. But there are also command hooks that can be used for this purpose. Curtains and curtain rods can be expensive, but there are affordable options out there. My go-to is usually a sheer white or neutral color that still lets in some sunlight in the morning and adds privacy in the evenings. 

Rental Tip #4: Mirrors can make any space bigger and brighter

Mirrors help bounce sunlight around. If you’ve ever rented an apartment in an old house that’s been divided into units, you know the struggle of having only a few windows. Placing a mirror strategically when decorating a rental can really help your space feel bigger and brighter.

I currently rent a town home, and the dining area has no windows because it backs up to another home. When we first moved in, it felt kind of dark and unwelcoming. I hung a mirror not too much higher than the table so it can reflect candles I have there. The mirror also faces a window so it automatically looks brighter.

Mirrors can definitely be expensive so this is a great item to look for at thrift shops. You also don’t always need to use large mirrors, if you have a bookcase you could rest a small mirror on one shelf and put a few candles in front of it for a cozy glow (the dollar store usually has small mirrors the perfect size for something like this). 

Rental Tip #5: Come home to comfort with wall hooks

photos via domino.com

Again, this might seem super simple, but this can be a small thing that makes a big difference. An entryway or landing area is such an important part of a home because it’s nice to have a spot where you can leave the day behind. Most of us walk through the front door and need somewhere to drop our keys, bag, and hang a coat or sweater. Maybe you’re lucky and have a closet but I’m pretty sure 100% of my places have not had one.

You can buy individual wall hooks, which are perfect for small spaces. There are tons of fun and unique styles and this can be a great way to show your personality in your home! If you prefer a sleek look, you can buy matching ones and hang them in a uniform way. These don’t have to be limited to the front door, you can use them in a bathroom for towels, in your bedroom to hang jewelry, and in the kitchen for mugs. Decorating a rental with little touches like this surprisingly make a home feel cozy and lived in (and when its time to move are small and easy to pack and take with you). 

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