Living in a rental comes with plenty of perks—like no commitment and zero responsibility for major home repairs—but it can be hard to scratch the renovation itch when you don’t have free reign.
Fret not. There are plenty of ways you can achieve an impressive transformation without risking your security deposit when moving out.
Ahead you’ll find some impressively simple ways to update your space that don’t involve major renovations.
1. Fix Bad Lighting ASAP
Light can make or break a mood, and you want all good moods in the sanctuary of your personal space. And if you plan on being in your rental for a while, you should make it a space you love.
“Lighting is one of the simplest, most inexpensive ways to upgrade your home and create an aesthetically pleasing ambience,” says Anna Franklin, interior designer and founder of Stone House Collective. “Most people don’t realize or know how easily lighting can be swapped, and that they have the ability to simply store the original light fixtures until they decide to move!”
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For example, if you want to brighten up your bedroom, use sconces as bedside lighting instead of a traditional table lamp. In addition to saving space, this is a unique design element that will also provide ample lighting when needed. For spaces such as a living room, add a floor or table lamp in addition to overhead lighting to help disperse light in a room and brighten it up. This can even make small spaces feel bigger.
To start, find affordable lighting from stores such as Wayfair, Target, or Ikea. If you are looking for higher-quality, long-lasting pieces—which you can take with you to your next space—consider higher-end brands such as Circa Lighting or Restoration Hardware.
2. Try Wall Decals
Decals are a great way to add design to a wall or door without committing to a messy paint job that you’ll have to undo when you move out. Plus, they come in all shapes and sizes, allowing you to create faux headboards or accent wall murals, notes Michelle Harrison-McAllister, an interior designer and owner of Michelle Harrison Design. Best of all, they peel right off when you’re ready to remove them.
3. Invest in Gorgeous Furniture
Forget busting down walls or swapping out the flooring. The right furniture can make just as big of an impact, says Farah Merhi, interior designer and founder of Inspire Me! Home Décor. “For those who love big, bold colors, consider using a hero furniture piece to add that much-needed pop,” she suggests.
4. Swap Out Your Cabinet Pulls
One of the quickest ways to update your bathroom or kitchen is to swap out old, dated pulls for something fresh.
“This simple switch is like adding a new piece of jewelry or adding a contrast to something like white cabinets with simple black knobs,” says Harrison-McAllister. “All of a sudden the look has completely transformed. Not to mention you can take them with you when you leave, and zero damage is created.”
(Psst. Just be sure to put the original knobs in a safe place to swap out before you move!)
- Probrico (15 Pack)Flat Black Kitchen Cabinet Knobs
- RZDEAL Solid Brass Knobs Beautiful Brushed Gold Kitchen Cabinet Knob
5. Try Peel & Stick Flooring
Peel and stick tiles and floorings are another easy way to transform your space. Not only are they easy to install, but they’re easy to remove when the time comes to move—or when you get the itch to swap them out for something new.
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Harrison-McAllister says, “All you need is an X-ACTO knife, and you are ready for a transformation. Hate your backsplash or it has a chip? Look at this simple and clean white subway tile look. Nothing like a crisp and clean design to add some life to the kitchen.”
- Achim Home Furnishings Mosaic Nexus 12×12 Peel and Stick Vinyl Floor Tile
- Wall Pops White Subway Tile
6. Cover Old Blinds
Old, dingy blinds can instantly age a room, and unfortunately, they are installed in many rentals. To remedy this issue, Franklin says to simply hang modern drapery in front of the blinds.
“When selecting the height, opt for drapes that can be placed 4 to 6 inches above the frame of the window, and go down to an inch above the floor. The higher you place the curtains, the taller the room will appear,” she says. “Consider the style of the fabric, as it should mesh well with your overall aesthetic. One of my favorite fabrics for drapery is linen, as it is casual yet sophisticated.”
If you are looking to increase your privacy or require a dark bedroom for sleeping, opt for blackout liners as they block light entirely, reduce electricity use, and prevent noise pollution.
7. Jazz Up Your Dining Space
“Whether the eating area in your rental is a sunny breakfast nook, a kitchen counter, or a dedicated dining room, some new dishes and table linens can go a long way,” notes interior designer Liz Barbatelli. “Seek out fun and whimsical pieces, or those that are serene and elegant, and rotate. And when that lease ends, box it all up and take it with you.”
8. Buy Multi-Functional Pieces
If your rental space is small, it’s important to maximize what you have with multi-functional pieces. For example, Merhi says, “Instead of stacking unattractive plastic storage bins around your space or bringing in a contractor to build some built-ins (a no-no in rentals!), opt instead for furniture that doubles as both.”
Other ideas include using a desk as a nightstand or an entryway piece that offers a place for hanging coats and storing shoes.
9. Install Temporary Wallpaper
If you have a landlord with a “no paint policy,” removable wallpaper is a great way to add some personality and interest to your space without losing your security deposit.
“One of the easiest ways to incorporate temporary wallpaper into your home is by creating an accent wall. Instead of using paint to draw your eye to a certain area of the room, you can utilize a fun pattern that incorporates your design aesthetic’s color scheme,” says Franklin.
She adds that if you’re unsure what pattern or print to choose, most temporary wallpaper companies have samples that you can purchase. Some also have online ‘visualizers’ so you can get an idea of how the print might look in your space.”