One of the most frustrating things about living in a rental is the inability to make “real” changes to the size, structures and layout of the space. Rental living is very much a “what you see is what you get” experience, which can leave those of us who crave personalization and functionality in our homes a bit frustrated. While you typically can’t tear down walls or replace unsightly finishes, there are things you can do in a rental to tailor it to your preferences. All of these suggestions are either temporary or un-doable, so don’t hesitate to give them a try!
Change the Walls
The color on the walls can go a long way toward establishing the style and feel of a space. Toning down strong colors can create a more peaceful environment, while adding stronger hues can waken up a boring room. If the colors on your wall leave you uninspired, changing them is usually a matter of a few hours and a few gallons of paint. Most property managers or rental agencies are fine with changing the wall colors, but always check first and be prepared to paint them back to the original color before moving out. If painting isn’t your thing, consider adding peel-and-stick wallpaper, vinyl decals or oversized art to cover up unsightly walls.
Take Down Doors
Often times, rental units (and even homes!) are designed to fit as much as possible into a small space, regardless of form or function. Tight spaces, awkward layouts and inaccessible features are not only unsightly but can significantly impact your day-to-day living. If there are doors that close off spaces, are an eyesore or hit/block other features, don’t hesitate to take them down! Good examples are doors to laundry rooms, closets, bathroom or kitchen cabinets, and hallways. As long as you have the space to safely store the doors and hardware until you move out, removing them can often open up and improve flow in less-than-ideal layouts.
Can’t take the door down? Here are some clever ways to use the door for better storage!
Remove Pre-Installed Shelves
Similarly, closets (and sometimes rooms) can have shelves or other built-in units pre-installed for your convenience. This is great when they provide the functionality you need, but sometimes their presence can hinder full usage of a space or ideal furniture placement. For example, removing a pre-installed wire shelf in a closet may allow you to move a desk, bookshelf or dresser into the closet, freeing up precious floor space. Just like any doors you may take down, make sure you have the space to safely store any shelves you uninstall in a damage-free way. Also note how the shelves are installed so you can put them back exactly as they were prior to moving out.
Blinds are often a contentious subject among renters. When they aren’t there, you can feel exposed and unsafe. But when they are there, they can be a nuisance to look at and maintain, and they can even sometimes conflict with the style you are trying to establish in your rental. Thankfully, blinds are quite easy to take down and store for the duration of your tenancy; just be sure they are laid flat and straight, and you keep all the hardware attached or set aside in a safe place for reinstallation.
When you first walk through a potential rental space, it is often staged with temporary furnishings to help you visualize how to use the various rooms. However, once you see the unit set up in a specific way, it can be difficult to envision it laid out differently. Before placing your furniture in the exact same spots as the show unit, take a step back and think about how best you (and all of your things!) will work and live in the unit. Maybe swapping the living room and dining room would accommodate your furniture better. Perhaps using a loft space as an office instead of a spare bedroom will help keep school or work put away during off hours. Don’t hesitate to re-imagine spaces to better suit your style and life!
Need more kitchen storage but can’t change the layout? Try out these smart strategies!
Living in a rental certainly poses some design and functional challenges, but you don’t always have to settle for exactly what you get. If items are held up with basic screws, you can take them down and safely store them until you move out. If the wall color or room layout doesn’t work for you, these are both easily changed in completely removable ways. No, you can’t tile the backsplash or knock down a wall, but removing unsightly or annoying items can go a long way toward making a rental feel more like your home!