No lost security deposits here.
Have you ever thought that the only things standing between you and a delightfully decorated apartment was the lack of a huge budget and the threat of losing your security deposit? It’s true that you might send your landlord into a tizzy with one too many nail holes in the wall. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for living in a drab apartment with even drabber walls just because you’re not permitted to paint them.
“Getting creative [with] decorating a rental home or apartment can be tricky,” says Sarah Cooper, an interior designer and studio manager for Atlanta-based Ashton Woods Homes, an award-winning luxury home builder. “After all, every element needs to be removable and cannot stand in the way of you receiving a full security deposit back.”
Luckily, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to put your own stamp on the place with accents and decor that can be easily removed when it’s time to move out. We checked in with Cooper and several other interior design experts to get their insight on ways to upgrade your apartment rental. The best part? Everything here is $40 or under—plus none of them should upset your landlord.
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“A great option to add style to your apartment is by utilizing rugs to add a layer of depth to your room,” says Forrest McCall, co-owner of the home improvement blog, Mama Needs a Project. “If you have hardwood floors, adding a rug can help to limit the ‘hardness’ of your space and also reduce noise.”
Aside from the comfortable feel of the rug underfoot, McCall says you can choose colors and patterns to make your space “unique and special. Here are a few that seem high end but won’t break the bank.
Top Review: “These are very soft and simply beautiful. Quite a surprise since the cost was not bad at all and they are washable which is great since we gave pets. Definitely recommend.”
Top Review: “Softest blanket ever.”
“With holes already drilled in your cabinets, [you can make] a statement with fun colorful handles or simple sleek pulls,” says Cooper. It’s a DIY project you can complete in a day, she says — just make sure to keep the original hardware so you can swap it back before you move out.
Top Review: “I really loved how these drawer pulls looked once installed bc [because] they had a nice clean look to them that is fancy but not gaudy.”
“Using plants as space fillers is another great way to make the space feel more fresh without utilizing large objects,” says Rachel Robarge, Head of Design at June Homes, an apartment rental company.
No worries if you don’t have a green thumb. Here are some faux versions that will add “life” to your space.
Top Review: “Basically pulled this plant out of the box and dropped it right in the basket,” said one 5-star reviewer on Amazon. “I separated some of the stems to get the look I wanted and that was all. Great looking faux plant!”
Some landlords will let you paint walls, but if you do so you’re likely on the hook for reverting them back to their neutral color when you move out. Make it easier on yourself and the walls themselves with peel and stick wallpaper. When it’s time to remove, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines closely so you don’t damage the walls — a little heat from a hairdryer might do the trick in loosening up the adhesive.
Top Review: “I get so many compliments about how pretty this looks! People can’t believe it is wallpaper!”
“An instant way to make your space look more luxurious without making structural changes is by raising your curtains,” says Jessica Harris, Manager of Production Design at Living Spaces. “It’s a common misconception that curtains need to hang right at the window frame. Hang your curtains about a foot above the window frame to create the illusion of a tall, elevated ceiling.” Harris advises hemming longer curtains if necessary so they don’t flood beneath the window.
You can also try this trick in the bathroom with your shower curtain, says Harris. Just hang the tension rod a bit higher and your bathroom will instantly look like it has a higher ceiling.
Top Review: “I like the simple design and it was easy to install. Able to hold up curtains that were a little heavier than I expected.”
In the bathroom, hang the tension rod where you want it and slide on a hook-free shower curtain to get the length you want more easily.
A well-placed mirror not only makes it easy to check your reflection, but it also reflects back on your space to make it bigger.
Robarge recommends leaning any full-length mirrors up against a wall so you don’t have to worry about damaging the wall. If you do want something on the wall, here are some lightweight mirrors that double as decor.
Top Review: “They were cheap enough that if they didn’t work out I wouldn’t be mad about the money spent. They ended up looking great though! They really helped pull together some of the wall space I had no clue what to do with.”
Installed lighting fixtures might be minimal in your rental, and it could be a hassle to add more even if you get the OK from the landlord.
“Instead of hanging light fixtures in your space, which can be heavy and difficult to remove, try utilizing different sources of light to create an intimate feeling,” says Robarge.
Here are some lamps that are easy to place or install, without taking up too much space.
Top Review: “Simple set-up, looks nice. Worth the price.”
You might think that you’re relegated to bulky bookcases to hold books, decor, and more in an apartment. But with easy-to-hang floating shelves, you can free up floor space and your conscience since you’re not damaging the walls.
Top Review: “Love it!!!! Works like a charm!”
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