30 Ways To Upgrade Your Rental Apartment

Leah Bourne

So, you want to be living in the home of your dreams, but instead you find yourself living in a boring rental apartment? The walls are off-white, the bathrooms and kitchen are in need of a serious overhaul, and there’s very little character to the place. The solution? Some very clever apartment decorating hacks.

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Obviously, remodeling an apartment you don’t own isn’t an option (and neither is making an absolute mess of the walls and floors since you’ll probably want that security deposit back from your landlord) so you’re going to need to think about low-touch cosmetic fixes that’ll make a big impact.

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With that in mind, here are 30 ways to upgrade your rental apartment to make it feel like home. Just because you aren’t planning on living somewhere for life, doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to living somewhere bland.

1. Change up the paint job in a big way.

Dramatic paint will make a huge difference in an apartment. Get permission from your landlord for a complete overhaul (most will say yes) or just redo a small bathroom, or entryway, which will be easy to repaint when you are ready to move out.

2. Hang curtains to spruce up walls.

Can’t paint a wall, create a curtain wall to enhance the space with some color.

3. Have fun with chalkboard paint.

Use chalkboard paint on a wall or door to add some fun to your rental. This works particularly well in kitchens or kids rooms.

4. All about mirrors.

Mirrors are a great way to enhance a space, and they also trick the eye into thinking a space is bigger than it really is, which can be critical in a small apartment.

5. Change up the handles and door knobs.

Don’t invest in new doors or cabinets for your rental, just change up the handles. New handles can change everything, and you can even do the installation yourself.

6. Upgrade the light fixtures that are already there.

Cringe every time you look at the light fixtures in your home? Don’t buy new light fixtures, just re-paint what is already there, to add a freshness to your space.

7. Create DIY art.

Can’t paint your apartment? Buy a large canvas and paint it whatever accent color you want. It’s an inexpensive way to add a big dose of color to your space.

8. Can’t add wallpaper? Frame it.

Can’t wallpaper, but want to? Instead of adding wallpaper to an entire room, consider just framing wallpaper. You can even create a series of three or six to fill up a wall, while creating a big impact.

9. Utilize accent paint.

Instead of painting an entire room, just paint an accent wall to make a huge statement. Think major colors like burgundy or Tiffany blue.

10. Opt for storage that is also pretty to look at. 

Seek out storage pieces that are pleasing to look at like handmade baskets for storing magazines and books, or trunks, which you can stuff with everything from off-season clothes to a quilt.

11. Double up with drapes over ugly blinds.

If your rental came complete with plastic or metal blinds, install floor length drapes in front of the windows to disguise what is there.

12. Radiator covers are your friend.

Old radiators can be a huge eyesore. Instead of repainting them (it’s not as easy as you might think) install a radiator cover turning the unit into a shelf for books and framed photos.

13. Add your own wall shelving.

Hang wall shelves in your rental to combat the aged old problem of being short on storage. Not only are wall shelves a great place to store books and knickknacks, you can make them visually interesting to boot.

14. Redefine your space with room dividers.

Use room dividers to divvy up your space, particularly in a studio apartment or a large loft, or even to hide storage behind.

15. Make use of temporary wallpaper.

Believe it or not great temporary wallpapers abound (and are reasonably priced and easy to install). Utilize this decor treasure placing it everywhere from an accent wall, to a bathroom, to even inside kitchen drawers.

16. Decals and prints are another option.

Another upgrade to consider is instead of hanging art, think decals, and three-dimensional appliqués. The bonus here is that it won’t involve punching holes in your walls.

17. Bring in your own floor lighting. 

Have terrible lighting in your rental? Opt for floor lighting and lamps that you can introduce into the space yourself, so you never have to turn on the horrible overhead lighting again.

18. Invest in pieces that you love (and will want forever).

The one place to invest when you are in a rental is on furniture that you know you will love forever. You’ll have those great pieces no matter where you live.

19. Update the fixtures in your bathroom.

Suffering from looking permanently horrible because of bad lighting in your bathroom? If you replace one lighting fixture in your rental, have it be this one.

20. Decorate with texture top of mind.

Textured rugs, lots of accent pillows, and throw blankets galore, will add a lot to a space, and make it feel much homier.

21. If you can’t paint the walls, paint some furniture!

Not being able to paint is one of the biggest pet peeves renters complain about. Breath new life into your space by painting your furniture instead, everything from a chair to an armoire. The update will go a long way in cheering up your space.

22. Add crown moldings.

Imbue your rental space with just the right amount of charm by adding crown moldings—a surprisingly inexpensive update. They are easy to remove, too, when you are ready to move out.

23. Change up the faucets instead of doing a total bathroom or kitchen overhaul. 

Instead of investing in a total renovation of a kitchen or bathroom, just update the faucets to give it the refresh it needs.

24. Add greenery where you can.

Flowers, window plants, an orchid here or there—greenery will make a huge difference in a tired rental space.

25. Look for furniture with a pop of color.

Add a pop of color to your room adding in furniture pieces that are bright and have a big personality—like a fuchsia chair or a lacquer red table.

26. Family photos will make all the difference.

Give your rental the feeling of home by having lots of family photos on hand. Hang them in vignettes, or consider creating a gallery wall that incorporates them mixed among other pieces.

27. Add dimmers to create better lighting instantly.

An easy upgrade that’ll make a huge difference is switching up light-switches for dimmers. Everything, even bland rental apartments, will look better in mood lighting.

28. Throw rugs over dingy floors.

Stuck with wood floors that are in serious need of a redo, or even worse, horrible wall-to-wall carpeting? Don’t be afraid to add rugs over what’s already there.

29. Prop framed photos against walls.

Worried about hanging framed photos on the wall? Prop them on walls placing them on an end table or nightstand, or even prop an oversized work on the floor in your living room.

30. Store what isn’t working. 

Instead of trying to squeeze all of the furniture that you own into your rental, consider splurging on storage for the pieces that just aren’t fitting in the space.