7 Small Details to Transform Your Rental (Without Losing Your Deposit)

Updated 03/03/17

After weeks of searching, you finally found your dream rental apartment in a neighborhood you love. Better yet, it's at your price point—score! You've signed the dotted line, and you already have your furniture plan all laid out—there are just a few minor issues: Your bathroom hasn't been renovated in 40 years, and it has no storage. Your kitchen is the size of a closet, and, frankly, it has seen better days. But your apartment has a brick wall, a marble fireplace, and it looks out onto a tree-lined street, so it's all worth it, right?

The issue with rental apartments is that no matter how charming they are, they usually come as is—and you have to keep yourself from swinging a hammer into your ugly kitchen cabinets and gut-renovating the place. Luckily, there are a few landlord-approved enhancements that you can make with little effort and an even smaller budget. Ready to take your rental apartment from charming to elevated? These small cosmetic upgrades will make all the difference.

Transform With Paint

rental apartment decorating ideas
APC/Trunk Archive

Paint can fix a lot of issues without costing a ton. If your kitchen cabinets are an ugly shade of wood, your closet is dark and gloomy, or your bathroom has seen better days, try updating it with a fresh coat of paint. If you want to make an impact without painting a whole room, try painting only doors and trims, or painting the lower half of a wall for a modern look.

Benjamin Moore Pacific Ocean Blue $37
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Swap Out Hardware

rental apartment decorating ideas
Claire Esparros for Homepolish

Most landlords will let you make small upgrades like swapping out hardware. Add character to your home by upgrading the kitchen cabinet pulls or door knobs. When in doubt, use hardware with similar dimensions so you don't have to drill any extra holes, and keep the old hardware to swap back when you move out—no one will ever know. 

Rejuvenation Massey Bin Pull $11 $9
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Hang Plug-In Light Fixtures

rental apartment decorating ideas
Sean Litchfield for Homepolish

You may not want to get an electrician in to install brand-new lighting, but a lot of light fixtures don't actually require electrical work. Just look for plug-in options that usually only need to be mounted with a couple of screws. When shopping for lighting, look for options that have built-in dimmers so you can easily control lighting levels throughout your house.

IKEA Ranarp Wall Spotlight $25
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Hang Art Without Nails

rental apartment decorating ideas
Sean Litchfield for Homepolish

While most landlords don't mind a few holes in the wall, but some are strict with the no-nails policy. Don't let that stop you from enjoying art on your walls. HangSmart is a new technology that allows you to hang art without putting any holes in the wall. Better yet, it automatically levels your frames so you never have to look at crooked paintings.

Chairish Portrait of a Young Woman $500 $266
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Hang Open Shelving

rental apartment decorating ideas
APC/Trunk Archive

Most rental kitchens are notoriously short on storage space. If you need extra space for your pots and pans, try adding inexpensive open shelves—and style them with your prettiest accessories. Keep the less eye-pleasing stuff in your bottom cabinets.

IKEA Wall Shelf $15
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Try Removable Wallpaper

rental apartment decorating ideas
Julia Robbs

If you love the look of wallpaper but hate the idea of completely losing your deposit, try removable wallpaper to add color or pattern to your space. Try it in small areas that lack personality like entrance halls, closets, or even bathrooms. Just make sure to choose water-resistant wallpaper in wet areas.

Chasing Paper Wild Removable Wallpaper $40
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Use Hooks for Storage

rental apartment decorating ideas
APC/Trunk Archive

If your rental is short on storage or lacks an entryway closet, create storage with hooks to hang coats, bags, and hats. This space-saving hack is also great for bathrobes and towels in the bathroom or other frequently used clothing in the bedroom. You can even hang hooks in the kitchen for frequently used utensils, pots, and pants. Hooks are a renter's best friend.

Schoolhouse Electric Black Walnut Coat Rack $75
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Next up: $100 is all you need to elevate your bathroom.

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