For the remodeling addict, life can be hard when you rent. Sure, you know that Joanna Gaines recommends custom touches like layered lighting and tall cabinets, but a full-fledged reno like that can be difficult to incorporate into an apartment —unless you want to draw the wrath of your landlord. You probably have enough trouble just trying to find ways to cover that weird carpet stain —forget about remodeling your bathroom to suit your taste.
Although you can’t exactly start knocking down walls in your rental, there are some things you can do to make over the space so that it’s virtually transformed from its banal beginnings. With these clever tricks, even the most bland, everyday apartment spaces can become unique and customized to a tee. Here’s how.
Apartment Woe #1: Bland or Ugly Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
Nothing reminds you that you’re totally at the mercy of your landlord’s decorating taste like that ubiquitous beige wall-to-wall carpeting that’s so common in rental units. Or maybe it’s ugly or tacky carpeting that feels like it’s been around since before your parents were born. Either way, you can’t just rip up your floorboards and redo it, so you’ve got to find a way around it.
The Solution: Colorful Area Rugs
Homeowners ask us all the time here at Modernize how they can deal with a horrendous carpeting situation. Our answer is simple: put a rug there that you like. There’s no law that says you can’t place a rug on top of carpeting. In fact, the right little number could bring some serious harmony to your existing decor. Choose a sturdy area rug to avoid bunching. Outdoor rugs are great for this, and they’re often more affordable than fiber rugs as well. Try a subtle pattern that will reinforce your accent colors and be prepared to draw looks of envy from your neighbors.
Apartment Woe #2: Outdated Cabinets
Cabinets tend to get overlooked by landlords. After all, why replace something that’s functionally still working 100 percent? But cabinets go through trends just like any part of your kitchen, so if you’re looking at something that was installed circa 1976, it could definitely use a refresh in order to keep your decor modern and sophisticated.
The Solution: Cover Them Up
Yes, you may have to live with your cabinet’s profile, but not necessarily the color. Flat cabinets —the kind that apartment owners just love— can be easily corrected with patterned contact paper or vinyl adhesive for a fresh take on kitchen decor that’s as reversible as they come. Turn plain wooden cabinets into colored marble, or go whimsical with a pretty floral pattern. Or just pick a color that fits your personality better than beige or white. No matter what, it will definitely be custom-made!
Apartment Woe #3: Your Wall Color is Lacking, and Your Landlord Won’t Let You Repaint
A lot of home decor woes can be tackled with a little paint, but not if your landlord expressly forbids painting. But the color of the walls greatly impacts the mood, sense of space, and —of course— the personality of a room, so it’s no good to stick with a hue that’s less-than-ideal.
The Solution: Removable Wallpaper
Did you know there was such a thing as removable wallpaper? It’s real and it’s going to come in handy as you attempt to customize your new pad. Wallpaper lets you go even more custom than painting, since you can browse through patterns and designs to your heart’s content. Try a graphic geometric or punchy bohemian floral or pretty botanical-inspired look to give your walls standout styling. Taste runs on the more muted side? Try a subtler panel in a soft herringbone or textural brick. Even adding it to a single wall as a design accent can do wonders.
Apartment Woe #4: The Light Fixtures Are Ho-Hum
Sure, they keep your room well-lit, but a lighting fixture should offer more than mere incandescence alone. You may not have much choice over where your overhead lights are placed, but you can change the appearance of the actual fixtures themselves.
The Solution: Swap Out the Fixtures Yourself —Then Change Them Out When You Move
This takes a teensy bit of DIY know-how, since you can hurt yourself if you jump into even minor electrical projects unprepared. However, if you bone up a little first, you can easily turn boring, basic fixtures into delightful (emphasis on the light) affairs. Switch out boring flushmount fluorescent lights with more contemporary designer models, or trade in your workaday pendant light on a chain for something unique, like an industrial chandelier fitted from iron pipes. Even something as small as changing the light covers on the ceiling fan offers the chance to give your space your own individual touch. When it’s time to move out, just change them back for the originals —your landlord will be none the wiser.
Apartment Woe #5: The Windows Could Use a Little Something
If that last suggestion seemed a little too intense for your DIY skills, then chin up. After all, window coverings are a simple swap that will impact the amount and quality of natural light in a room. Plus, they add a chance to punctuate windows with your own sense of personal style. Window coverings even play a role in your apartment’s energy-efficiency, as well, so if you choose yours carefully you may even save on your electricity bill.
The Solution: Install Your Own Window Coverings
Nothing could be simpler than replacing outdated curtains and blinds for a revamped look in your space. For blinds, usually it’s just a matter of purchasing the right size, although many home decor and home improvement stores will cut them to custom measurements, as well. For curtains, you’ll need to consider not just the length of the window, but how far above the glass you intend to hang them. Hanging floor-to-ceiling curtains high above the window makes for a very dramatic statement, for instance, whereas short cafe curtains that start in the middle of the window have a quaint, breezy feel that’s well suited to kitchens and dining spaces. In fact, you can even choose energy efficient thermal curtains to ward off temperature fluctuations due to extreme hot and cold. Most come in a wide range of flattering textures and patterns, so the world is virtually your oyster when you’re selecting a new set. A new look that’s both landlord-approved and energy saving? Now that’s what I’m talking about!