Simple Design Updates to Make a Rental House Feel Like Home
It's the paradox of the rental house or apartment: you have flexibility without a mortgage, however, you lose independence when it comes to decorating. Some landlords are more open to design changes in rental properties than others, but more often than not, the rental is not exactly what you want it to be. For me, this has been the hardest part of being a renter: I want to design and decorate my house!
So, what do you do to make a rental feel like your own home? As frequent movers, we have tried a lot of different things. Here is what has been the most landlord-approved, aesthetically pleasing, and easiest design updates we have made to our rentals.
Change out a prominent light fixture (or two)
Our current rental came with paper lanterns (!) hanging where a chandelier might. Previous houses have had very generic fixtures that made the house feel less personal. We promptly swapped them out for light fixtures that better reflected our style. It's a simple change and makes a world of difference. In our experience, landlords don't mind as long as you replace the original when vacating the house.
Add removable wallpaper
Removable wallpaper is a frequent recommendation for renters, and with so many options out there, I was excited to try it. I will admit, though, I was nervous the "removable" paper wouldn't come off as easily as advertised. In Jack's room, we hung this amazing, eye-popping world map that spanned an entire wall. We spent every night at bedtime looking at the map. Jack nicknamed different peninsulas and continents by the shape they resembled most to him (Spain is a gecko kissing Africa). When we moved out, it took some work to remove all the residue off the walls, but it did come off, and we didn't have to do any painting or repairs.
In the twins' room, I wanted something more subtle. Already, two girls were sharing a small space. A bold design felt like too much. I loved a wallpaper (not removable) that featured a diamond pattern, so I decided to replicate it with gold washi tape. I was so happy with how it turned out. I was a little heartbroken to take it down when we moved, but it came down so quickly and easily that I got over it.
We did try another vinyl removable wallpaper in another bedroom. The pattern was adorable, but the room had fresh paint and textured walls, and the paper started peeling off. It was a bit too removable.
Hanging curtains is another common recommendation, and well worth it. Not only have we hung curtains over windows to warm up rooms, we have also used them as room dividers and as a clever disguise for unfortunate visuals (like the photo above, hiding a washer and dryer in our kitchen). I am contemplating hanging them again in our current rental to cover up mismatched cabinetry.
Clean up the yard
All too often, rentals come with neglected yards. Perhaps it's my OCD, but once we have the house in some sort of order, I love to start to tackle the weeds and overgrown plants in the yard. An afternoon or two of work can yield great results, and it always makes me feel more connected to the property. In one house, we went a bit too far, perhaps, and installed a deck (with the owners' permission, of course) where dead rose bushes were. We were desperate for some charm and seating in a sad yard. It probably wasn't the most financially prudent choice, but we did enjoy it while we were there.
Update small details
We have lived in houses and apartments that were built as far back as the 1850s and as recently as 2008, so we have experienced a wide range of renovations and updates (or lack thereof). Sometimes, it was the small things that made a big difference. In one older Spanish home, we swapped out all of the mismatched faceplates for fresh, white ones. It probably cost us around $30 and it made such a difference in a small house.
We have also swapped out some dated towel rods with clean, simple ones from Ikea, and in our current house, we changed a couple bathroom mirrors with simple Ikea versions to add clean lines to busy, small spaces.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can remove it, and put it back, it's probably OK to change. For us, these little updates made big improvements and helped to make the houses feel more like home.
What have you done in your rentals? Have you tackled any crazy projects like our deck?