How to De-Neutralize Your Rental

Greige. Zombie pirates. Greige. Zombie pirates. You decide.

A square of perfect greige.It’s common practice among property managers, landlords, and home sellers to ‘neutralize’ a home’s décor between tenants. That is to say, the common wisdom is that all traces of personality or recognizable style should stripped down as much as possible, from exchanging decorative Disney switch plates for standard-issue generics to painting over any exotic colors with your standard issue off-whites, tans, and the new favorite, “greige” — a blend of beige and grey that is possibly the least offensive conceivable color…and also the least interesting.

So given that most landlords aren’t comfortable with you coming in and slathering the walls with your personal favorite color (PeriwIndigo, thank you), how do you make your rental yours? Here are some ideas.

Portable Color Splashes

One of the easiest ways to get your personal style on is to craft some simple decorations that feature the color palette of your choice. Grab some fabric swatches of your colors from your local fabric store, then grab something light, stiff, and rectangular like a half-inch thick dense foam square or a cheap painter’s canvas.

Carefully wrap the fabric around your rectangle so there are no wrinkles, and affix with some combination of pins, glue, or in a pinch, duct tape. Then hang it on something non-damaging like a Command Hook (and/or Strip), and you’ve got instant personality that will make the bland walls fade into the background.

Faux Accent Wall

One of the classic bits of interior design advice is to create an ‘accent wall.’ Dark floor, light ceiling, three neutral walls, and one wall that ‘pops.’ Well, most rentals follow the first three of those points and leave the fourth one in the dust. But with a larger piece of fantastic fabric — say, a batik, or some of that totally sweet black-and-pink Hello Kitty polyester blend — you can create your own accent wall.

Hang it loose from the ceiling, or create a frame like you did above (but large enough to mostly cover a wall). In the extreme, going to your local home hardware store and getting a piece of pressboard or other cheap sheetboard and wrapping that can give you an ‘accent wall’ that will fit whatever space you need it to.

Easier Accent Pieces

Following that same theme, there are a few obvious items around any house that are relatively inexpensive to obtain and easy to swap out, and thus perfect for temporarily adding distinction to your rental. Curtains, carpets, throw pillows and blankets, and dishtowels are all things you can snag for less than $20 a piece, and they can add a sense of vibrance and personality to a space.

Moreover, because they’re relatively inexpensive, you can buy them piecemeal over time and build up not just a set, but a collection of sets that you can swap out as the seasons (or other events you care about) go by. A set for each season plus a set for your favorite few holiday seasons, and you’re good to go.

The One Standout Piece

Finally, there’s the ultimate in de-neutralization: heading to an import store or a speciality market and dropping $50 or so on a single epic statement piece that fits your personality. Many lapidaries (that’s a rock-seller) sell amazing rock lamps for around $30. Craigslist can be a great source of non-functional but decent-looking daggers or other medieval weapons that you can hang on the wall. And of course stores like Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls often have some extraordinary items like full-sized treasure chests that you can acquire inexpensively that will instantly banish banality from your personal space.

The most important rule to overcoming the mundane-ness of a carefully-neutered rental space is this: don’t be afraid of a strong theme. Reach into the depths of your heart and pull out your favorite eccentricity, and find a way to make it reality. Pick something you think is best in life — one of our tenants themed her entire living room around a joke she heard online — and turn it up to eleven. Who cares what the pizza delivery guy thinks? Until you move out, it’s your space…own it!

A zombie pirate.Oh, what was the joke, you ask?

Zombie pirates — we love booty and brains!

Yeah, that was a pretty epic living room.

Posted in: 2. Tenant Blog Posts, Rental Living

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