So you want to decorate your rental home or apartment – You can’t paint over the traditional white paint, replace the counter tops or tear down walls. You are a renter. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the space completely your own! This decorating guide for renters will give you some amazing ideas, tips and tricks to make your apartment your home!
(Photo by: Susan Serra)
SHABBY CHIC WHITE IS IN
I used to hate my white walls because I didn’t know what to do with them. They felt empty, bare and alone. That’s just not the case- they are a perfect backdrop for a beautiful vintage decorated pad! Grab some French Victorian furniture off craigslist, drape some fabric from the ceiling to make canopy hide-aways and throw in some rustic wood pieces with a couple goblets and you have yourself a cute little white rustic Victorian country palace all wrapped up inside your now awesome rental.
“NO REALLY, I HATE MY WALLS”
Ok, no problem! I’ve got just what you need to cover up your walls and make the space entirely yours! I’m going to start with the least invasive methods of decorating and move up from there.
- Wall Stickers- Get a giant cherry tree or whatever your heart desires. If you have a big empty wall, then make it the centerpiece of the room with wall stickers. They look awesome and are a quick fix for a dead space.
- Fabric Curtains- not just for windows. Get a ceiling track online (the kind that they use in hospital bedrooms) and clip up your favorite colored fabric to it along the wall(s). This looks awesome, and can make even the dullest apartments look fashionable.
- GIANT Wall Mural- No, not the kind that you glue to your walls. Get a portable wall mural that you can attach to the wall and it pulls down like a shade. A better investment since you can take it with you when you leave! http://www.muralsuperstore.com/portable_murals.htm
- Large Mirrors- They will make the room seem HUGE! Don’t get the ones with frames. Crawl Craigslist for mirrors dance studios are selling. They will leave some bigger holes in the walls, but if your walls are white, that can easily be patched when you leave. I had my entire livingroom wall covered in floor to ceiling mirrors once and it was divine.
- Temporary Wallpaper- http://tempaperdesigns.com
YOUR FURNITURE MAKES THE SPACE
Even a modern space can look like a rustic retreat with the right furniture filling the space. Try to purchase dark wood items and then paint them. When you distress, the dark wood is brilliant and it will make your space pop. Make sure your decor matches in each room- the rustic dining room will clash with a modern furnished livingroom. Find your style and stick with it! The thrift store and craigslist will be your best friend if you don’t mind modifying with some paint. Here are some ideas to decorate a square space and make it feel like a vintage rustic getaway:
Livingroom: Think French Victorian or Country Chic
Dining: Rustic wood table with miss-matched farm chairs
Bedroom: A romantic canopied palace of linens and mood lighting
REMODEL THE KITCHEN
Gasp! But this is a rental! You can completely remodel a kitchen without painting or making permanent changes. Everything you do can be undone when it comes time to move out! Until then, here are some tips to make that kitchen take on a vintage look:
- Take off all the cupboard doors. This is not damaging, easily reversed and opens up the kitchen space, mimicking a country kitchen.
- Find your favorite paper and tape it to the backs of the cupboards. You can use gift wrap, music sheets, wallpaper even. You can use double sided tape or sticky tack to secure. Now your kitchen has a lovely backdrop ready for your items.
- Take all your beans, noodles, sugar, dried fruits, tea bags, even fishy crackers out of their packaging and put them in mason jars. Any food items than can go in mason jars should. Then anything you have a lot of (perhaps flour and cereal) you can pour into larger glass storage containers. I also have a metal scoop which sits on the containers for dishing out the goods. Then place them as you desire in your cupboards. Putting your food on display in glass jars instead of hiding them behind doors will look organized and like an old country pantry. Decorating is all about organization. It will really sell the vintage kitchen look and your guests will be amazed at how lovely everything is.
- Get Short rectangular baskets and put tags on the front to label them for an organized look. There are some things that just need thrown in the cupboard. I understand the need for this, which is why matching baskets works perfectly for misc. items like yeast packets.
- Go the extra mile if you wish! If you want the lower cupboards to have the same country feel as the top, but don’t want your pots and pans and Tupperware mess showing, you can attach a curtain rod to the lower cabinets and put a nice white curtain on it. This is a common practice in farm homes and will really tie the whole look together.
- Display your dishes. Your dishes are going to be out in the open, ready for all to see. So they must look elegant- white or pastel colored dishes are my suggestion and a tea set to match.
- Lighting is an essential decorating ingredient. You can purchase under the cabinet lights for cheap at your local retail store and put them inside your cabinets to light up the contents for a lovely glow. You can even get led strips and hide them to light up just the backdrop, accentuating the pattern behind the dishes.
DON’T IGNORE THE BATHROOM
In a perfect world, your clawfoot tub sits diagonally near the window in a 300sq ft bathroom and your pedestal sink looks at you from across the room with glee. In reality, you probably just have enough room to squeeze in and look at your blah tub with your rectangle blah sink area. Ok, I can work with this…
- A white lace fabric shower curtain will brighten up the space and make it seem larger.
- Get a large vase and place very tall branches, flowers or feathers in it and put it in the corner of the countertop. This will draw the eye up and will be aesthetically pleasing.
- You can cover up the lower portion of the cabinets with a rod and white fabric to make it look more country to match your shower curtain.
- Get a toilet shelf (the kind that go around the toilet) or put up floating shelves and display your lovely light colored towels on them.
- Use glass containers to hold soaps, cotton balls and razors. This will add a vintage flair and you can keep these on the counter or put them on the open shelves.
Lighting is essential for decorating any space. If you are plagued by boob lights (you know, the round ceiling lights that come standard in every apartment) there are things you can do!
- Get plug-in chandeliers and hang them around the rooms. All the focus will be off the bad lighting and on the gorgeous chandelier additions. Also, you can get candle chandeliers if your just using them for looks. (Too broke? Try Star Lanterns)
- If you really hate your lighting, then change it. If you know a lot about electricity/wiring and have access to the main power, then you can put up fixtures you like instead. This is more invasive, but if you plan on being there a long time then why not? You can always change the fixtures back when you move out.
- LED Light Strips- You can light up your shelves, closets and under the furniture for a beautiful glow with LED light strips. Just lovely.
- Candle centerpieces. For a nice country look, taper candles look darling.
- Use oil lanterns instead of flashlights and night lights for a fun vintage experience.
ORGANIZE YOUR RENTAL
It doesn’t matter if you have the loveliest furniture and most beautiful kitchen if your home is a complete mess. Your home should be your zen space, a place of comfort and serenity. You cannot hope to have a lovely decorated apartment or house without complete organization. Pretend you are a bed and breakfast and show some class. Organization is the key to having a perfectly decorated home.
- Get quality floor to ceiling shelving that spans across the walls. A place for everything and everything in its place. You can put baskets on the shelves for misc. things and fill up empty spaces with light colored dishes or antiques. Having floor to ceiling books makes any room a library worth visiting as well- check out this shelf that comes with its own sliding ladder: http://www.californiaclosets.com/node/107756?render=shadowbox
- Organize your laundry. A three compartment laundry organizer for each room will keep dirty clothes off the floors.
- Your closet should not be a hiding place, it should be a functional space! You can decorate the back of the closet with paper like I suggested for your kitchen and make sure to add extra lighting for a bright, happy space. Then get matching shelving to make a beautiful arrangement of organization.
- A garbage can in every room. My mother taught me this! There should be a place for trash in each and every room to keep the floors clear of debris.
Don’t forget to put up curtains! Bare windows make a room sad, while curtains accentuate the windows and make a room seem taller and more elegant.
UGLY RENTERS CARPET
*Sigh* Just say ‘no’ to renting a place with carpet. I will rent a place with hardwood, laminate or tile floors, but never carpet. I have moved into places and been attacked by fleas that were embedded into the carpets from previous pets. You can get fleas, lice and nasty crystallized cat pee (which wrecks havoc on the lungs). Anyone with asthma or allergies should stay far away from carpets as well. Unfortunately, some people do not have the luxury of moving and I can offer a few suggestions if your carpet is not aesthetically pleasing.
1. Attractive Area Rugs
2. Carpet floor squares are expensive and if you can afford them, then you can afford a place with no carpets, but here they are – http://www.flor.com/
3. Put Laminate Wood Flooring Down. Snap-together laminate flooring can easily go over low-pile carpet. If you are desperate for wood floors, you can have them. It’s temporary and gives you the look you desire. However, I would never do this and this is why: 1. Easier just to move rentals 2. Lots of hassle and requires custom cutting for the walls 3. Money down the drain 4. Your going to have to remove it all before you move again. It can be done, however, and people do it.
OFFER YOUR LANDLORD FREE WORK
Maybe the landlord will be thrilled for someone to pay to fix up the rental with new laminate and lovely painted walls. Just ask! You might be surprised.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
When you decorate your apartment or house rental, don’t be discouraged by limitations, rather be inspired by them. If you have a large ugly beam that runs across the living room, attach a wooden swing to it and twist fake vines up each side of the rope for an indoor garden swing. If you live in a basement apartment and have tiny windows, then put up curtains as if you had giant windows and it will make the ceiling seem tall and no one will know you have tiny windows lurking behind them. If your couch is ugly, cover it with white blankets/sheets and put a canopy around it to make it look divine. Only your imagination can limit you when you are decorating a rental, so don’t let it.
Have you tried any of these suggestions for your rental? We would love to see pictures of how you have decorated your home. Send us pictures at ContactHomemadeVintage@gmail.com