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Decorating A Rental Apartment

When you don’t own a space, might move in a year, can’t paint, and have limited tools, etc, apartment living can seem pretty bland. But, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some suggestions that you can use to make your rental feel less like a borrowed space and more like your home.

1. Ask the landlord what you can do.

The landlord may not care if you paint or hang major paintings. And if that’s the case, that’s awesome. I say go for it. And don’t forget that a jar of spackle to fill nail holes is less than $5 and SUPER easy to use before you move out.

2. If you can’t paint your walls, bring in color through your furniture and linens. The walls of most rental spaces are generally white or off-white or cream. Often you aren’t allowed to paint, or you don’t want to paint since you may be moving, but that shouldn’t limit you from bringing in color in other ways.

Blue curtains, blue chairs, blue center pieces combat the boring white wall and cream trim.

Wood finishes are nice, but when you only get to bring in color through furniture, consider painted furniture. Also, you can find ugly beat-up pieces of furniture at thrift stores, then paint them to match your decor. It’s more fun than Ikea, and you often get better quality furniture made of actual wood.

Bright blue table and wall art add interest to the plain white walls. Curtesy of

Don’t forget how much you can do in a room with bright curtains. And curtains can cover walls, in addition to windows, to add more warmth and interest to a boring white rental box.

White walls and yellow curtains make the whole room feel bright. Curtesy of

Bright upholstered furniture is a super fun way to bring in color to a boring white room.

I am loving this yellow couch with the white walls. Curtesy of

If you are afraid to buy a yellow couch, since it’s a big investment, consider buying colorful chairs instead. Chairs are significantly cheaper – Homegoods has great accent chairs. Or, consider buying a neutral couch, but adding bright accent pillows.

I died when I saw these. The pattern makes the color even cooler. Curtesy of simplifiedbee,

Drama! Curtesy of

3. Don’t forget about colorful rugs.

Yes, rugs are expensive so you may be scared about colorful rugs, but there are some alternatives. Places like Target and Overstock have some great deals on rugs, I suggest you check them out. The yellow rug pictured below was probably expensive, but I thought you all should look at it anyway. It’s awesome, especially when paired with that great art.

My new obsession. Freaking brilliant. Curtsey of

Also, right now painted rugs are all the rage. You can buy a cheap seisel rug and paint it with an awesome design. I intend to do this, but haven’t had time yet. Here are some inspiration pieces. The blogs where I found these pictures also give pretty good instructions for how to paint the rugs. Sweet!

From The House of Smiths, I love this pretty little rug. The soft color and bold design of the chevron make a great statement.

Robin's egg blue chevron rug. Adorable. Curtesy of

From Bird House, this painted rug is awesome. Now I know that I am supposed to be only showing painted rugs next to white walls, but I couldn’t help myself. I love this rug so much. And only one of her walls is painted. So there.

Love the diamonds. Curtesy of

4. Art. Art. Art. Or other things on the walls  in frames.

Often, people who are living in rental spaces (and who read my blog) are students, which means they still live in a world where all the art in their apartment is frameless posters. No. Not anymore. Nothing screams “temporary” and “penniless” more than hanging art on a wall without a frame.

Frames are dime-a-dozen at thrift stores, yard sales, side-of-street free piles, etc. Get some. Paint them or don’t paint them. I don’t care (well, ok, I do care, but I would rather you had any frame that is unpainted than no frames).

Here is a wall covering that is just frames, pictured below.

Also, I recently did a quick/cheap project to make wall art that doesn’t have to be framed, also pictured below. For the tutorial, click on the link.

Above the bed "art" is important.

5. Find pieces that do double-duty storage.

Often rental spaces are small (especially New York), so renters’ furniture should have double-duty storage options, and storage should be attractive.

Ikea has pretty storage boxes for pretty cheap. Or you can buy ugly ones and cover them with pretty paper. Here are some fun ideas:

These boxes make good use of the space underneath this side board and also add some color.

Splurge on a bunch of book cases to help organize your life in small rental spaces. Don’t forgot to look at thrift stores and craigslist before you buy, though.

Major shelves, major storage, and major color. Awesome.

Hope you find this helpful, renters.



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