It’s no surprise most renters don’t want to spend extra money upgrading rental apartments that they will eventually move from. Renters will live with so-so kitchen and bath fixtures, tiles and cabinetry and it’s rare you’ll hear about a tenant re-varnishing or painting their floors (although my friend in NYC went for it!).
Your apartment might not be your dream home, but that doesn’t mean you have to live in mediocre style. Depending on your landlord’s tolerance and the terms of your lease, there are many simple, inexpensive decorative fixes you can make to give your apartment a renovated, personalized and stylized look.
This article focuses on topical fixes that renters can make all in a day’s shopping, and they can take with them if / when they move.
Begin with the bones. Most apartments are repainted or offered to be repainted upon signing a new lease. If you don’t want to paint yourself or think a personalized color will be too much to deal with upon move-out (i.e., too much of a drag to repaint), see if the apartment can be delivered white. This gives you a lot of light and a blank slate to play with, plus it’s easy to patch and fill in holes from picture or wall art hangings.
Next, take stock of the apartment’s best features. Is the living room especially bright, has a great view or feature you want to accentuate? Make the best feature in a room the focal point for laying our your living room.
Take inventory of the living room furniture you have on-hand. Is your home decor 50% or more modern furniture pieces? Have a surplus of IKEA or accent tables that look cheap, not chic? Whatever you have on hand, try to make sure each article of furniture, as an individual, be it a chair, table, buffet or chandelier – “fits” the aesthetic of the space. I.e.
if you are renting a Craftsman, you might want to forget the Wall Street-era inspired red lacquer and glass shelving unit. Maybe you are 100% sure you can make something work, but very importantly, before you move (or even if you aren’t moving, before you re-design) take time to measure your sofa, coffee table, accent tables, bed frame, benches, dining room table, armoir, entertainment center, bookshelves, desk and anything else oversized you might have buried in your current living space.
It is easy to over-accumulate furnishings you actually don’t need over the years. Subscribe to the less is more vibe, at least in the beginning stages of redecorating. You will be surprised how liberating less clutter can be. If you have a busy family apartment or simply can’t live without stacks of magazines, another great tip for eliminating clutter: storage units. If you don’t have large closets or surplus dresser space, consider investing in some low-pro storage units. Many of these can double as entertainment centers, buffets and benches…all the while hiding away clutter.
A great idea when you are getting started decorating is to draw a simple sketch of your space with the dimensions and block out little areas where you’d like to fit pieces of furniture. Reconfigure on paper – then start getting rid of furniture items and making a list of what you’ll want to purchase. Depending on your style, budget and overall approach to creating a stylized living space – will determine how and where you shop for furniture and accessory pieces.
I like to use up the lion’s share of my decorating budget on pieces I know I will love and then fill in with less-expensive home accents from second-hand furniture stores, antique finds, garage sales, Ikea and other box retailers. No matter what size the living space, I will not sacrifice style or quality on large furniture pieces; such as the bed, the sofa or the living area rug.
These pieces hold even the tiniest of apartments together. Since sofas are typically the apple of the living room’s eye, in both size and focus, make sure your sofa is functional and workable with the other accent piece you select.
Once you have the basics in place, add finishing touches. Which is where all the personality comes in. Quick and unique fixes include:
-Adding a pair of oversized plants (and they can be faux plants). They can be placed in inexpensive fibreglass planters to flank the sofa, the fireplace, windows or attach themselves to the corners of the room. If you are in a city-setting, you’ll be surprised at how down to earth your room can get by dropping in a few plants.
-If possible, switch the light switch to a dimmer. This is so much more romantic, even if you live alone. Take mood lighting a step further and change out a pendant light fixture in the bathroom or dining room. Put it on a dimmer. The mood is made!
-Get an outrageously lovely rug. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just something with a pattern or material texture you admire. A good looking rug is like a form-fitting coat, you can spend a lot of time in it or with it and you’ll still love it. Area rugs tie spaces together and help accent mute pallets. Plus a well-constructed rug will last a lifetime.
-Add photos, candles and curios and a pair of nice drinking glasses. Sure getting rid of the Budweiser draft glass you’ve had since you were 18 might seem like nostalgia not so easy to part with. But close your eyes and move on. Adding a pair of matching whiskey tumblers or champagne glasses will make your space all the more grown up. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy serving yourself and friends beverages in matching glasses. A little accent decor goes a long way. You can find curious for sale online, ranging from paperweights, decorative trays, coffee table books, picture frames and decorative tableware.