Decorating a rental can be tricky. It’s not necessarily a long-term home, and often landlords put limitations on what residents can or can’t do. But just because you can’t paint or rip out the stained kitchen linoleum, doesn’t meant there aren’t ways to make a rental feel like your own.
Designer Vanessa DeLeon works with many renters in New York City and New Jersey. Here are her tips for adding personality to a rental:
1. Use decals or removable wallpaper
A lot of the time in rental communities, landlords either don’t want you to paint, or if you do, they want you to paint the walls back to the original color when you move out. If painting isn’t an option, or seems like too much effort, DeLeon suggests decals or removable wallpaper.
“It’s a great way to spruce up a space and give it to personality,” she said. “Decals won’t ruin the wall when you remove them [and] they’re super easy to install.”
Try adding stripes to make a statement wall, install a small graphic print or even a solid color.
2. Collect or make art
Blank walls are boring and small nail holes are easy to fill. Create a gallery wall of collected pieces or create your own art by painting a large canvas — no artistic ability needed.
“Let’s just say you have a theme color,” said DeLeon. “Buy a large canvas at any arts and crafts store, or you can make a canvas, and paint the entire canvas one solid color. It brings a pop of color without painting the entire wall.”
3. Ignore the flooring
You may be stuck with carpet or tile you hate, but DeLeon says focusing on the walls and furniture will help make the flooring disappear.
“Accentuate the furniture, make it bolder. Add artwork to the wall, make it so the eyes aren’t drawn to the floor.”
4. Use rugs
Rugs work well over tile, laminate and hardwood floors. And in some cases, but only if it’s done right, cautions DeLeon, a free-form rug can work over a basic, low-pile carpet.
“It’s not my preferred style, but stacked area rugs — almost a Moroccan theme — can be a way to cover [the floor].”
5. Add plenty of lighting
Apartments are notoriously lacking in lighting. Add lamps — large, statement floor lamps, or plenty of table lamps — to brighten a room.
Many light fixtures can be changed into a plug-in piece, explains DeLeon.
“Have an electrician change a chandelier into a plug. In the center of the room put a hook, and swag the chandelier from a hook.” Pendant lights would also work well in this way.
Wall sconces can also be rewired so they can be plugged in rather than hard-wired.
6. Dress those windows
Most rentals come complete with boring, basic blinds. Drapes in a rich color or appealing texture can jazz up your windows. Just make sure you buy drapes that are the right length, advises DeLeon. Curtains that are too short are almost worse than no curtains at all. Ready-made panels come in a variety of lengths. In most cases, you want the fabric to make contact with the floor. If you’re between lengths, buy longer and use hemming tape or hire someone to help you shorten the panels.
7. Invest in a statement piece
There may be the temptation to not buy the furniture you really want while in a rental, but DeLeon says sometimes that dream chair or sofa will be the piece that ties together a room.
“Have one item that’s a show piece that you can always have in a home,” she said. “Then work around those pieces.”
8. You don’t have to break the bank
If you can only afford cheap furniture, you can still achieve a well-designed space.
“Even if you buy furniture all ready-made, believe it or not, with pillows and window treatments, you can bring in a lot of personality,” DeLeon said. “You can create a high-end look with linens and colors.”
See more of DeLeon’s designs on Zillow Digs.
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