20 Decorating Ideas To Make A Rental Feel Like Home
These days, renting is becoming more and more common — particularly for young people and those living in urban centers. After all, a rental lets you test out a new neighborhood, sidestep skyrocketing home prices, and pack up at a moment’s (or 60 days’) notice. But the one thing these properties often lack is the warm, lived-in vibe of more permanent dwellings. Luckily, all it takes is a little clever styling to make any house feel like home. Here are 20 simple tweaks you can use to elevate a rental.
Add layers to industrial spaces. Though senior design editor Joel Bray owned this city condo, he still faced the challenge of personalizing its cold concrete shell. He laid out deep-hued rugs, mounted eclectic artwork and hung elegant drapes to bring warmth and character to the rooms.
Take the focus off unsightly rads. If you’d like to distract from your home’s hot water radiators, but can’t box them in permanently, consider hanging curtains in a pretty print to draw the eye up and away (keep drapes pushed to either side so that heat can still get out). This is also a great way to add pattern to rooms you’re not allowed to wallpaper or paint.
Add smart storage in the kitchen. Mounting more kitchen cupboards isn’t an option in many rentals, but you can still make the most of unused wall space. Retailer, designer and former H&H editor Michael Penney created this clever pegboard to hang and display pots and cooking tools — very Julia Child.
DIY a freestanding pot rack. Design editor Lauren Petroff made this pot rack using easily accessible wooden dowels and fittings from a hardware store. The best part? She can take this piece with her from rental to rental, leaning it wherever she needs more storage.
Learn how to make a DIY: Pot Hanger.
Set up an indoor herb garden. When it comes to rental apartments, outdoor space always comes at a premium. Potting herbs indoors is a simple way to bring greenery into your home, and keeps fresh flavors within arm’s reach. Design editor Kai Ethier used vintage tea tins to house different plants in her own kitchen.
Lear how to make DIY: Tea Tin Herbs.
Hang a statement light fixture. Don’t hesitate to replace anonymous fixtures with lighting you love, since you can easily take these pieces with you if you move. This Moooi chandelier, a modern interpretation of Japanese cherry blossoms, strikes a particularly romantic note in this Toronto condo.
Layer furniture in front of wall-to-wall windows. Many modern apartments and condos feature floor-to-ceiling windows, but don’t let this limit where you place your furniture. Homeowner Alison Pringle set her Ming-style console table in front of one window to create a sunny workspace (while leaving the sliding door accessible to her terrace).
Bring in a lightweight headboard. Plenty of renters go bare bones in their spaces, forgoing things like armoires and headboards, since it can be a hassle to move heavy pieces. This DIY headboard that Joel Bray made out of cotton tape is a great alternative; it creates a nice visual anchor for the bed and is light enough to travel (plus, you can choose to mount it or lean it against the wall).
Fake architectural detail. If your home lacks the definition you’d typically get from moldings and trim — and you’re permitted to change the wall color — try fooling the eye with a little paint. In this kids’ room, two different shades meet where a chair rail would sit, giving the space a more tailored look.
Showcase antiques and collectibles. Designer Tommy Smythe rented this 180-square-foot studio apartment while he was searching for a home to remodel. He eschewed the notion that small spaces should be decorated sparely, and appointed the space with his favorite vintage finds for a very charming effect.
Inject life into all-white bathrooms. Since rental properties are often decorated to suit a variety of tastes, mostly neutral or all-white bathrooms are the norm. To add a dose of personality, pick up a boldly patterned roman blind and shower curtain (and don’t worry about matching up the prints — a little contrast will add even more energy to the space).
… or bring in unexpected furnishings. If lively textiles aren’t your thing, consider adding some handsome rugs, stools or artwork to your bathroom to break up all the white. The effect is handsome, layered and surprisingly rich.
Go bright and low-slung in basement units. To make subterranean spaces feel larger and sunnier, go for low, clean-lined furnishings and a light color palette. Suzanne Dimma’s basement sitting area feels fresh and uncluttered thanks to her streamlined cabinets and shorter seating.
Tour Suzanne Dimma’s basement on H&H TV.
Add some low-commitment pattern. A large-scale diptych by Agnès Ménabréaz brought a jolt of pattern into Richard Ouellette and Maxime Vandal’s rental apartment. And since the wallpaper-like pieces were framed instead of plastered to a wall, they were simple for the couple to take with them when they moved. To get a similar effect, try framing two large pieces of a patterned wallpaper you love.
Tour Richard Ouellette and Maxime Vandal’s apartment here.
… or a sunny pop of color. Mounting large-scale artwork is also an easy way to add color to a rental (especially when painting is off the table). In this dining room, a balanced arrangement of modern prints creates a warm, inviting atmosphere.
DIY a photo board. This art project by designer and former H&H editor Cameron MacNeil will bring personality and color to your space — without damaging any walls. To make it, glue a grid of printed Instagram snaps onto a crisp white backing, then showcase the finished product in an oversize picture frame. Lean it against a wall for a casual look.
Mount art over bookshelves. If your rental doesn’t offer a lot of wall space to hang or lean artwork, take a page out of designer Sarah Hartill and senior design editor Stacey Smithers’ book and hang pieces on top of your shelves. This works best if the items stored behind the art are display pieces, like vases or candlesticks, instead of things you need to access on a daily basis.
Create zones with room dividers. Setting up a folding screen is a quick and inexpensive way to create intimacy in studio or loft-style apartments. To take it to the next level, get inspired by our September 2013 issue and clad one in a boldly patterned wallpaper.
Use windows as a natural spotlight. Hard lofts and heritage buildings often boast the most beautiful, expansive windows. Take advantage of the light that pours in by setting up a display of colorful glassware, like this stunning ombré vignette, on a console table or dresser.
Revamp your terrace. Don’t forget to decorate your outdoor space! It’s easy to create a personal oasis by adding some inexpensive decking or floor tile, hardy plants, comfortable seating and privacy screens.