Personalize Your Rental Apartment / A Charmed Wife

Remember my friend Lily from the Rent The Runway post? Well, today the lovely lady behind A Charmed Wife is here with some rental apartment personalization tips (for a few of my own, click here). Thanks so much, Lily!

– Jordan

9 Ways to Personalize A Rental Apartment (Without Losing Your Security Deposit).

While Jordan is on vacay (drink a rum punch for me, J!) she asked if I’d pop over and supply a post about something “home” related. Given that I am the world’s biggest homebody (true story: I was born at home, home-schooled through eighth grade, and now I work from home), I jumped at the chance to talk about my favorite topic.

My husband and I bought our first apartment a couple summers ago, and I have spent at least part of every day since working on it (with no possible end to the projects in sight). And while I’m proud of how my spackling and drain-unclogging skills have improved in the intervening years, sometimes I look back and long for the simplicity of our old rental apartment where we had a building super to do those things for us. Before this, we spent five years in a rental apartment, which had a lot of quirks we had to learn to live with (we had a galley kitchen with literally no counter space – and I mean that “literally” literally).

But what I discovered during those years was that just because you live in a rental doesn’t mean you can’t personalize and decorate it to your tastes. With a little imagination, and a little elbow grease, any rental can be made to feel like it’s yours (even if it technically is owned by someone else). And while some of these ideas can be little pricey, they are worth the investment because almost all of them can be removed, packed up, and brought with you to your next rental. So get to it, and make yourself at home.

9 Tips…after the jump!

1. Paint: Nothing says “boring rental apartment” like plain white walls. Your rental agreement may forbid you to paint them another color, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change them now and then change them back before you move out. If you are going to be living in your place for a year or less, it’s a lot of work to paint a whole room (although not as much as you may think- it only takes an afternoon), but you might consider painting just one wall a bold color, like red, to make a real statement. Putting a pretty color on the walls is the fastest and easiest way to make an apartment feel decorated and homey. And it can cure all kinds of problems: We painted our living room a soft sunny yellow, and you could hardly tell that it was 36 square feet and had no windows. Well, it helped.

2. Use Rugs: Another dead giveaway of a standard-issue rental is a standard-issue parquet floor. There’s nothing wrong with wood flooring, but in most rentals the floors have taken a sustained beating over the years and have become severely worn and scuffed. Cover those spots with soft, comfortable rugs and you’ll feel like you’re in a cozy cottage as you pad your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

3. Hang Framed Art: If you are over the age of 20, and no longer live in a dorm, I must implore you to stop putting unframed things on your wall. You can find inexpensive standard-sized frames to hold you photos, posters, and other artworks at any homegoods store or Walmart/Kmart/Target. Or look into removable wall decals. Just make sure you put something on the walls, or it will feel like you’re living in an institution.

4. Get Bookshelves: If you want your apartment to have that “a smart person lives here” look, you are going to need to find a place to put your books (other than in piles under the coffee table). For tons of extra storage, you can fake the look of built-in bookshelves with large bookcases that take up a whole wall. Check out the “Expedit” from Ikea, or the inexpensive offerings from Gothic Cabinet Craft.

5. Make Your Bed: Your bedroom should be more than just where you sleep and leave your clothes on the floor. It should be your sanctuary; your den of relaxation and meditation. And that all starts with your bed. For crying out loud, buy yourself a decent mattress and sheets, and make your bed look like something. I recommend buying an inexpensive headboard, or using two big Euro sham pillows propped against the wall to fake the look of one. I also love a good swing-arm lamp beside the bed to make your boudoir a comfortable and functional place to work and read. They mount to the wall with just a couple screws and plug in to a socket (no electrical work required)

6. Lighting: Most rental apartments come with some seriously unpleasant lighting. If it’s not ugly fluorescent ceiling fixtures, than it’s too-bright bathroom lights that emphasize your flaws (like you need that as you head out the door to work in the morning). Believe it or not, changing out the light fixtures and installing dimmer switches in your apartment is a relatively easy process, which has a huge impact on the overall feeling and mood of the place (imagine leaving for work every morning feeling smokin’ hot, instead). You can find great cheap fixtures on eBay. Just remember to carefully save and store the old fixture so you can reinstall it when you move out.

7. Hardware: A lot of rentals have god-awful kitchen cabinetry and closet doors. While changing those parts falls far into the “not worth it” category, you can put lipstick on the proverbial pig by changing out the hardware. You’ll be surprised to see what a huge difference a cute knob or drawer-pull can make. Anthropologie has a great selection.

8. It’s Curtains: Most rental apartments don’t come with drapes (usually they have infuriating, malfunctioning, dusty blinds, if anything). So if you would like to avoid providing a free peep show to the neighborhood, you are going to have to hang something anyway. Luckily, a pretty curtain rod with some simple drapes can do a lot to create ambiance in a room (heavy pleated ones give an air of old-fashioned sophistication, light-colored sheers are soft and beachy). Look on eBay for pretty ones from Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware for cheap prices. Or try your hand at sewing some.

9. Add Some Plants: If you want your apartment to feel like a place where people really live, it helps to have some real living things in it. A few well-selected houseplants can go a long way toward making an apartment feel warm and alive. I love a long-living orchid, a hard-to-kill succulent, or a self-maintaining terrarium.

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