While rentals have their virtues (you don’t have to worry about maintenance, and you can move out with a lot less hassle), a sparsely decorated temporary living space can often feel a bit … soulless. You might have to make do with average appliances, budget finishes, and “Boring Beige” walls. It’s understandable that a rental is someone else’s investment (and as such it needs to be kept as inoffensive as possible to prospective tenants), it can also be a bit depressing coming home to a boring apartment. However, adding a little decor tune-up won’t hurt your security deposit, as long as you follow some simple rules. Add your own charm and decorate your rental with these easy decorating ideas — ranked by how risky they can be for your security deposit.
Lowest-of-the-low risk: Add a rug, window panels or chair covers
The floor is one of the biggest surfaces in a home. Bringing in a colorful rug has huge impact, maybe even more so than painting a wall. A rug also helps protect the floors from damage, which is a plus as far as your security deposit goes. Choose a large carpet that has bold color, texture, or pattern. Also, don’t overlook window panels, curtains or drapes, as they can offer much-needed privacy and style without ruining your budget. To add even more color and interest to a room, consider coordinating the rug or curtains with matching chair covers or pads.
Low risk: Create a gallery wall
A photo wall is a relatively simple way to bring a lot of personality to a room without causing much damage. While there may be nail holes, they can easily be filled in before you end your lease. Another option is to use stick-on picture hooks, 3M command products or push-pins; all of which promise damage-free hanging. (Note that these work best with lightweight pieces).
Low risk: Adjust the light
Most overhead fixtures cast harsh light, creating weird shadows that make everything look odd. If your only source of illumination is a fluorescent overhead light fixture, try adding some lighting at eye level or higher. By using table lamps, plug-in sconces, and floor lamps, you can create a more intimate, home-like feel to your rental.
Low risk: Add a mirror
Mirrors can do wonders for a rental. Try covering wall space with trendy, yet affordable styles, like the sunbeam patterns that are all the rage. They can make a rental look a little more contemporary and less dated.
Medium risk: Replacing hardware
Swapping out the handles and knobs of cabinets for more stylish options can be a simple task. It’s usually just a matter of loosening a few screws and tightening a few others. However, it’s probably wise to get permission from the owner before changing out the hardware.The only downside is that you risk damaging the cabinet’s finish while installing the new knobs. You can keep track of the original hardware by storing it in a labelled Ziploc bag in case the owner wants to re-attach them after you move out.
Medium risk: Decals
On the surface, adding temporary decals to a wall seems as though it should be a low-risk endeavor, right? They even have the word “temporary” in the product name! But with so many options on the market, it’s hard to be certain you’re not going to end up with a decal that acts more like duct tape and peels off a layer of paint when it’s time to remove that inspiring silhouette of a tree. A hint? Test a small decal in an inconspicuous spot first. That way, you’ll know what you’re dealing with when it’s move-out time.
High risk: Paint
Paint is temporary but generally frowned upon by landlords. All it takes is one tenant with a penchant for highlighter-lime-green paint that bleeds through several coats of primer to make a landlord flat-out refuse paint for future tenants. However, the no-paint rule might not be as non-negotiable as you think. First, take another look at your lease. It might be that you can paint, assuming you clear the color with your landlord first. Or you can paint, but it can’t be a strong color. (Just make sure your paint project has been approved by the landlord before you start.)
When you do approach your landlord about the paint issue, it’s best to wait until you’ve established a history as a good tenant. Also, have paint samples ready just in case you get a quick “no.” Show your landlord exactly what color you plan to use and where you’ll use it. You might have to compromise on your vision — few landlords would be OK with you painting a room bright red, for example. Offering up a pale gray, light blue, or soft yellow is a little less intimidating. (You can also promise to repaint the space back to its original color, right? Right.)