10 Genius Decorating Tips to Make Your Rental Apartment Suck Less

Beth Stebner
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While you may wish for a home that rivals Versailles, odds are you’ve had to settle somewhere along the line. The dream apartment you thought you’d have after college is, in fact, little more than a crawl space with maybe an hour of sunlight a day and stunning views of… a brick wall.

But even if you’re dealing with typical renter’s woes—your landlord won’t let you paint, your kitchen’s older than dirt (or the color of it)—there are ways to make your apartment look and feel luxurious.

kitchen inspiration renter's hacks
Photo: The Design Files

Any space is fair game for bold color palettes and personality.
Even if your kitchen has crappy cabinets and zero interesting elements, add your own with colorful artwork, pictures, plants, and hell, go crazy with a tea towel or two. The key is finding pieces that feel cohesive.

renter hacks
Photo: Lucy Feagins /The Design Files

Layer as if there’s no tomorrow.
It’s a dead giveaway that you’re renting if your apartment is stark and bare and it looks like you just moved in, even if you’ve been calling your place home for years. Adding depth to a room through a picture on a wall, extra throws around the sofa, or even items stacked high on a cabinet. When staged the right way, it comes across as lived-in and charming, not cluttered and chaotic.

closet design inspirationPhoto: Avenue

DIY your closet space.
Is your tiny closet laughably small? No closet whatsoever? Not a problem. After you de-clutter, you can create a boutique-like space for your wardrobe in a corner of your bedroom, living room, or any other available nook. All you need is a simple garment rack, some pretty hangers (we’re a big fan of these inexpensive narrow ones), and a little creativity. And if you have high ceilings, use that upward mobility for extra shelving.

rental hacksPhoto: Jessie Webster

Don’t be afraid of color and texture (even if your landlord is).
If your landlord is hell-bent against no painting, or really maniacal about no nails in the walls (the nerve!) you still have options. A colorful accent chair or a bold bedframe add the right kind of drama to any room. And a chic cowhide rug hides a multitude of flooring sins.

rental inspirationPhoto: Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day

Use your home’s “bones” to your advantage.
If decorating still isn’t your thing, try finding an apartment that has already done most of the legwork for you. Older homes in cities can sometimes come with charming (if not quirky) details like a (non-working) fireplace, high ceilings, or even stained glass. Now that the heavy lifting’s done, add a vase of fresh flowers and go concentrate on the incredible dinner parties you’re going to throw in your space.

renter hacks
Photo: Betty

Create the illusion of space.
Even if you live in the world’s smallest shoebox of a studio, you can still use the smoke-and-mirrors trick of, well, mirrors. An oversized one reflects light and space and tricks you into thinking your 200-square-foot apartment is Versailles.

renter hacks
Photo: Create CPH

Add extra storage with wall-mounted shelves.
Floating shelves are the answer to your prayers. They’re easy to install, fit into a number of places (good for future moves!) and can hold anything from books to toiletries. In the living room, use them for knickknacks from your travels, candles, or framed art.

renters hacks wallpaperPhoto: Blood and Champagne

Use removable wallpaper.
In case you haven’t noticed, wallpaper has emerged as a huge trend over the last few months, and isn’t dying down anytime soon. Get in on the interior design zeitgeist with sheets of your own. And don’t think you have to use enough to cover an entire room. Even framing a focal point works wonders.

geometric shower curtain renter hackPhoto: Urban Outfitters

Buy items that can come with you to your next place.
Sure, it’s tempting to buy a piece of furniture that fits exactly in your living room or bathroom, but the truth of the matter is, that piece might not work out in your new pad. Instead, invest in less expensive items like a great duvet or a truly inspiring shower curtain that can brighten even the dankest of rooms.

Homepage photo: Jessie Webster

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