Decorating a Rental: 5 Tips for Making a Temporary Space Your Own

Decorating a Rental

There was nothing more exciting for me than getting my first apartment with my husband until I saw it- dark brown carpet, outdated oak cabinetry, bare white walls. It was a mini blind, scrollwork linoleum, swamp-cooler-blowing hot mess. But did I get discouraged? Come on, your talking to the leader of the interior design revolution! So no matter if this is your first place, or a chic sky rise apartment, follow these five tips, and you’ll be on your way to decorating a rental in no time!

Decorating a Rental Tip #1: Divert Attention

Regardless of whether your rental is high-priced luxury or a starter pad out of college, there are bound to be design elements in your space that don’t quite fit in with your design style or are downright eyesores. The best thing that you can do with them is to divert attention to something that is your style. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Ugly flooring? Get an area rug to compliment your style!

  • 80s vertical blinds? Hang drapes over them!

  • Run down shower? Find a beautiful cloth shower curtain and complimentary towels!

  • Kitchen cabinetry not your thing? Layer the space with canisters, hand towels, and appliances or pots and pans in a color that goes with the rest of the home.


You’ve got the hang of it! Whatever isn’t working with your style- don’t try to fix it. Just add in some design elements that are, and nobody will mention your scrollwork linoleum. And if they do, they are a bad, judgey friend. Take them off of your Christmas card list ASAP!

Decorating a Rental Tip #2: Experiment with Removable Wallpaper

This may not be for every design style, but if you are living in the world of the Glamourist, Eclectic, or Vintage, bare walls just aren’t going to cut it. Enter removable wallpaper! Their quality and variety over the recent years has greatly improved. And if you're not so sure that your want to go all the way, try an accent wall. You can also line the back of any less than beautiful built-ins and change up a dated bathroom. Super economical and super dramatic! My favorite sources are Graham and Brown, Chasing Paper, and Etsy.


Decorating a Rental Tip #3: Hang Stylish Art

You’re living in a rental, not a dorm! Gone are the days of pinning (or dare I say taping) band posters up on the wall and calling it a day. Now I’m not saying that you can’t still hang your beloved Guns ‘N Roses piece in your living room, if that’s you’re thing, but please, please, please, get it framed. When I had my first apartment, I decked out my vintage-style living room with Alfred Hitchcock movie posters, but I made sure that they were treated like art pieces. (Side note- they still have a place in my home, in my garage, and they still bring me great joy!) My favorite place to get art framed these days is Framebridge. They have a gorgeous selection of chic frames (bye-bye plastic). You let them know the size of your piece and the frame and matte style you want, they send you an envelope to mail in your art, and they do all of the work. Such a time saver and super easy!

But, Stephanie! I don’t have any art and I don’t know where to shop and don’t have time to go shopping. Well, I’ve got you covered!  All of my favorite art shops are online. So while your rewatching Stranger Things, hop on your laptop and get lost at Minted, Society 6, Eyes on Walls, and Etsy. Even some of my favorite furniture shops, like Anthropologie, West Elm, High Fashion Home, and CB2, have small art selections that never disappoint. And if you’re going for reproductions of classic art pieces or vintage advertising, is the place to be!

The biggest thing with art is to explore, find what you like, maybe even pin pieces to a Pinterest board and see what’s working together. And if you find a particular artist that you like, see if they have prints at lower price points. Some of my favorites are Shag, Sanna Annukka, Rex Ray, and Jennifer Ahmet, but I only found them after extensive exploring, so get going!


Decorate a Rental Tip #4: Accessorize, Accessorize!

Often rentals also come with furniture that you may not be ready to get rid of or have the budget to replace right now. Just like with the design elements in your place that you are going to detract the eye from, you can do the same with your furniture. Here are my favorite quick accessorizing tips:

  • Layer colorful or textural throw pillows and a blanket on chairs and sofas

  • Use coffee table books with pretty covers and top them with a vase and fresh (or fake) flowers

  • Mix and match bedding so you don’t have “bed-in-a-bag” look

  • Add in greenery, either real if you have enough light, or fake-but-looks-real options

  • Top your dining table with a pretty centerpiece, such as hurricanes, vases, or a succulent arrangement


Decorating a Rental Tip #5: Hide the Clutter

Rentals are notorious for not having enough storage space. This often leads to everything being out in the open: papers, your blu-ray collection, jewelry, clothes- all the things! But let’s face it, having everything out makes our homes feel way cluttered, like it’s screaming, “Here’s all my stuff!” And if your anything like me, regardless of your design style, clutter makes you crazy. I can’t work or even relax when my house is screaming at me!

The trick here is to find storage containers that are chic, and not the translucent plastic tub-of-doom. Here are some easy, Stephanie-tested-and-approved methods for hiding your stuff:

  • Find clean, simple cardboard storage boxes for your blu-rays. When I rented, I had them in black and white, and put my movies in ABC order, ‘cause I’m a bit OCD.

  • If you have a lot of jewelry, display your favorite pieces, and get a jewelry box for the rest.

  • If you don’t have enough closet space for your clothes, buy a roller hanging rack and display your favorite clothes- instant accessorizing for your bedroom! This can be a basic stainless number or you can go glam with a lucite and brass piece from Luxe-Holdups.

  • In the kitchen, take advantage of vertical storage solutions to double up on your space in cabinets. And if storage is a real issue, maybe it’s time to reconsider the amount of dishware or cooking ware that you have. Do you really need all 30 of those mugs or that bread maker that you’ve used once? Sometimes the best storage solution is to eliminate the unnecessary.

  • Get a hold of some beautiful, on-style filing boxes, and only keep the papers that you really need. With the world going cloud-based, there are probably very few papers that we actually need. Unless you really need it, or it’s something you need to attend to, shred it and forget it.


Easy, right? Know that you know all of my insider tips for decorating a rental, start making your temporary space your home sweet home!

Still not sure you can tackle this on your own? Maybe my virtual consultation calls are right for you! Check out what I have to offer and schedule your consultation call with me. I’d love to help you take your rental from bare to banging!