Do’s and Don’ts of Decorating a Rental
Never one to follow the crowd, you beat to your own drum. You are full of life. Whether you’ve had a million adventures or your story is just starting, your home should be an expression of brilliant, glorious you. Only one thing stands in the way of expressing your style: a rental agreement that lays down physical limitations for a four-wall white box without character.
But look at this way: It’s a blank canvas that awaits your unique touch.
First, let’s cover some ground rules:
Rule #1: Do get written permission
It’s you versus the landlord. With your agreements spelled out in ink, chances fare better that the lord of your manor will remember your pact, and you’ll move on to your next castle with peace of mind and, hopefully, a deposit fully returned.
Rule #2: Don’t bill the landlord
You might not love the bathroom faucet fixtures circa 1983, but if you have plans to change them out, it’s best to do it on your own dime.
In the days since the recession, both landlords and tenants look for ways to save money, and The Rental Girl has seen her fair share of negotiations gone awry. Steer clear of this communication mishap by negotiating any reimbursements at the time of signing the lease.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, read on for a few creative tips to insert your personality into a rental.
Do be thrifty:
Your home is neither a youth hostel nor a five-star hotel. If you’re on a budget, or temporarily placed, domesticate your rental by mixing quality with frugality. Combine newer, lavish items with secondhand furniture. Show off your creative flair with unique pre-owned accessories. Scour estate sales, garage sales and flea markets for one-of-a-kind finds to adorn your IKEA bookshelves and countertops.
Don’t let the bed bugs bite:
Beware of purchasing used upholstered items. That antique ottoman or used mattress could come with an infestation of a million little friends hatched just below its surface. To avoid inviting unwelcome visitors, give fabric items an airing-out period and a thorough cleaning before bringing indoors. Take extra precautionary measures with a professional cleaning. I promise you’ll sleep better.
Accents like lighting, curtains, rugs, plants and shiny new hardware can spruce up even the most nondescript room and fill it with your personality. It’s easy to trade out a mass-produced lamp from a big-box department store for one that twinkles a bit more brightly or to remove or cover up metal blinds with tantalizing textiles. Best of all, these are things that can be removed and taken with you when you go.
Tip: Keep the original rental fixtures in a labeled box so you can easily swap them back before you leave.
Don’t use wallpaper:
Sigh. I know. I know. The trend is hot right now, but wallpaper can be a maddening mess to remove — something neither you nor your landlord will want to handle. However, there are alternatives that make a bold, imaginative statement. Look for decals, paint stencils or new peel-away wallpaper that waxes on and off just like a sticker.
Don’t paint natural wood:
This should be a no-brainer. Crown moldings and baseboards normally require a glossy finish, and repainting them back to white — or worse, to wood — is no easy task either. In your own home, it’s OK to paint your woodworks in varying colors — but in a rental? Unless you have a very lenient landlord, leave them be. Instead, embrace the white or natural wood with complementary colors.
Do consult the color wheel:
Whether you go for one accent wall or the entire shebang, nothing will say you more than being surrounded by your favorite hue. Get crazy with paint, and not just on the walls. Transform the patina of picture frames, furniture and salvaged finds to add pops of color.
Do accentuate the positive:
Create storage and maximize space with a wall shelf. Line shoes, books, hats and fashion accessories across DIY shelves to get those hard-to-reach and pretty necessities out of tangled piles and into view. Look for unused corners of your home normally reserved for dust bunnies, and give them new life. Create a liquor cart or corner table to showcase those coveted items that you snagged at discount. Decorate your home like you decorate yourself: Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
A final word: Once you’ve enjoyed your space to the fullest and you’re ready for a fresh start, make sure you return your rental to the way you found it, unless you agreed in writing to do otherwise.