How to Decorate Your Rental Without Annoying Your Landlord

We’ve never seen a rental contract that forbids feng shui.

There are a lot of great reasons to want to decorate your rental. Your home isn’t just the place you live — it’s an expression of your inner self. The colors you surround yourself with, the lighting, the window treatments and floor covers all reflect your values, your spirit, and your individuality. And it works both ways — it’s hard to be a free spirit if you’re forced into sterile, clinical, cookie-cutter environment.

Good decorating is about more than just lavishing money on a space. Good decorating starts with a motif — an intention of what a space should be — and then doing the best you can with what you have or can afford. Renters, however, are often more limited than owners because the structure they live in doesn’t belong to them. You can’t remodel your space, and in general any upgrades you do make won’t come with you, so there’s a pretty strong disincentive from investing in your space. That said, there are plenty of options at your disposal:

Paint
Most new rentals are going to be painted in strictly neutral colors — off-white, beige, and sometimes even taupe or ecru. Fortunately, most landlords aren’t adverse to your painting the walls a different color — as long as you’re willing to change the paint back to their neutral color of choice before you leave. Check your rental contract; sometimes it’s spelled out (don’t paint the walls); if it’s not, ask your landlord (and be willing to repaint before you go.)

Floors
It might seem like there’s not a lot you can do about your floors. You’re not going to be ripping up any wall-to-wall during your stay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own spin on over the floors. Throw rugs can add style and texture and color to your floors — even on top of the wall-to-wall! Because you can take them with you easily when you move, throw rugs make a great floor dressing.

Walls
Walls are usually the easy part — the challenge when dealing with decorating your walls is knowing when to stop. A couple of well-framed pieces of art will beautify a space much more completely than a dozen posters. Alternately, if you’re concerned about space in your new rental, strongly consider hanging decorative mirrors — they can give the illusion of significantly more space.

Window Dressing
Few rental contracts forbid you from changing the window dressing, but most will ding you for not restoring the originals before you leave. So carefully take down whatever is there and set it aside in a safe place, and feel free to install any non-permanent window solution you please. If your space is particularly small, hanging the window dressing outside the actual edge of the window can make them appear larger.

Furniture
Naturally, this is where you want to focus the majority of your attention. Not only will well-designed furniture express your nature, but you can squeeze in some practical concerns here as well. By choosing furniture that is multi-functional — say, a bookshelf with a desktop workspace on top, or a sofa with a trundle bed underneath — you can maximize space and utility at the same time.

Renters may not be able to remodel their homes, but that hardly keeps them from redesigning the spaces they rent. It just takes a little bit of cleverness to design a space that demonstrates who you are and is still a wonderful place to live.

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  1. […] of our more popular posts from a while back was all about decorating your apartment without annoying your landlord. Well, it’s been a while since that post, and in that time, we’ve had a few clever […]

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