We have almost all had to rent at some time or another in our lives. Many of us rent during our college and early post graduation years until we can afford to buy a home. For many, renting is a long-term reality. It is no secret that times are changing and it is becoming harder to make that American dream come true. One of the unfortunate things about renting is that you can’t make changes to your space like you can with a home you own. If you hate your kitchen cabinets, you are stuck with them. If you have carpet and prefer hardwoods, that’s not really a realistic option to change either. So what do you do when you don’t want to come home to a space that feels like a college dormitory? There are still many creative options you can do to make your space feel grown-up and personal without doing permanent damage.
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For starters, you can add color. There are many different ways to do this and I like to start with textiles. Rugs are a great option to not only add color, but to also add a little extra sound proofing to the space. If you live above people, your neighbors will most likely appreciate this as well. A great thing about rugs is that they not only come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, but you can buy them with almost any budget. I have seen prices range from $15 to the thousands. It’s all about what you want to spend. Places I love to go for rugs are Target, Ikea, and Amazon.com.
The next thing I like to move on to is window treatments. I feel like this really starts to make a home feel cozy. Most apartments already have blinds and often times management does not want you to touch these, but you can always hang a rod and curtains. There are so many options out there for your windows. I could write a book about it. However, this is a great way to add a pop of color and personalization to the space and make it feel like yours. You will need a power drill, a laser level, a pencil and an extra set of hands. This will make your space feel so much more like home once you are done and unlike the blinds, you can do whatever you want!
For the walls, there are a few different things you can do. Some properties will allow you to paint with the stipulation that you paint your space back to the original color when the time comes for you to move out. It is going to be an investment because paint does cost a little bit. Depending on the size of your space and quality of paint you buy, this could cost into the hundreds. Make sure you have an appropriate budget. There are many factors you need to consider before making the plunge. If you do decide that painting is something you are willing to pay for and live with, definitely start with buying samples and try them out in your space.
Paint will always look completely different in the store compared to the lighting in your home. There are so many factors that play into a color and what it looks like. How much natural light compared to the color of the light of your bulbs is going to have a huge effect on what that color looks like in your home. Don’t try to imagine it. Trust me you can’t. I have been dealing with paint for over 10 years. I still can’t get it right in my imagination from the store to the space I am working with. Spend the money and buy samples. Look over them three times a day. Check them in the morning, mid day, and a night. Once you choose a color, go crazy!
Let me offer this tip, if you have a color you really love but it is on the dark side, most paint stores will lighten the color for you when they mix it. Many times there are options for 25%, 50%, and sometimes 75% lighter. Keep this in mind when choosing a color and don’t forget to choose a finish. I prefer eggshell finish. It gives the walls a sheen without making them shiny. Your paint consultant can help you with this. Just ask. Paint brands I love and have had great luck with are Behr and Benjamin Moore. They are both amazing, they have amazing colors, and will also improve the texture of your walls. Quality paint with a good finish will make it easier to wipe off accidental marks on your wall and that art work your toddler is so proud of… I love them!
If painting is out of the question then you could consider peel & stick wall paper. I have used this in my kitchen to create a backsplash. You can find that project here at: The $35 Kitchen Backsplash. Target has some great ones by Devine Color. You can also find more here at Amazon.com. With this option, you can create an interesting accent wall and add dimension to your room without damaging the walls. When you are ready to move, it peels right off. It’s really amazing! If you are going to do something dark, I recommend you try to put it on the wall that has windows so that the color does not absorb all the natural light. Another tip is to use the 60-30-10 Rule. 60% dominant color – 30% secondary color – 10% accent color. Stick with this and your place will look beautiful and well-balanced, like a designer planned it.
I absolutely love to bring the outside into my home and feel that a space without florals or plants looks stale. Real plants are great for a few reasons. One, they tend to be cheaper. Two, I think it is more healthy to have real plants in your home. They clean the air and just add life to your home. However, I tend to buy fake plants and here’s why. I don’t know what it is about indoor plants, but I kill them every time. This is not something I am proud of but I am human. I’m great with my outdoor patio garden but there is something about indoor plants I just can’t get right. Also, due to allergies in my family and our cat, who finds plants appetizing, real plants are not a good option for us. If they are in your home, then this could be part of your 10% accent color to tie color into the room. I just feel that plants always make a home feel more cozy and organic!
Pillows and throws are another viable option for color and personalization in a space. Once again, there are so many options and budget ranges. I will be honest with you. I always have a hard time finding the right pillow for my budget because it always feels like the good ones are expensive. Pillows can easily be $100 a pop. That can break the bank after you buy 4 or 5 if you are on a budget. Click here if you are looking for throws or pillows: Amazon.com has some great ones for all different budgets and styles.
A rule I would like to try is the Power of the Odd Number. I think a lot of people try to balance out their sofa with an even number of pillows, but try an odd number. Don’t make everything perfectly symmetrical. It is actually more interesting and pleasing to the eye! Another option you could do is to off set the piece by putting all the pillows on one side. Also once you are done, add a colorful throw. You don’t have to spend a lot but this can add a pop of that accent color you love so much and really warm up the space.
A favorite of mine is adding art to my space. I try to talk about art as much as possible because I feel that it adds so much to our lives. I know you hear the word and think cha-ching! Before you freak out about the budget, there is a lot of art you can find for reasonable prices. There are more than likely many local artists in your area who need to be supported. Look for starving artists shows. There are always opportunities for deals there. If you are ok with finding something that has been repeated many times, then you can always go to a big box store.I personally prefer local art because you can get something that no one else has.
Many art shows are charity events or give to charity causes. This way you can have something that is a one of a kind in your space and you can help out someone in need at the same time. If you are in the DC area, you can make plans to check out At The Spot Studios Art show on April 29th. They will have a lot of local art for sale and you can meet the artists in person and learn all about what the piece meant to them. (It’s always cool to know the original story behind the art. It makes for a great talking point with company). For more information click here: At The Spot Studios or you can check out my past post at: At The Spot Studios with Luke Newman and learn more.
A huge opportunity for personalization is in pictures! I think photographs are so important. This gives you a chance to bring your family and personal history into the space. This is a way to create a one of a kind experience that belongs to you and you alone. I love old family photos. I think the older they are, the more interesting and impressive they are. It’s so amazing to see how your family has progressed over the years and to see where you came from. Kids love it too.
Picture frames can be expensive, but there are many opportunities to find cheap ones. For example, the Dollar Tree has lots of frames and they are only $1. If you are on a budget, this could be a good place to start. Michael’s tends to have frames on a sale for 50% to 75% off a few times out of the year. Target always has a clearance area in the home department and it seems like I always see at least one picture frame there. My point is, frames can be tricky, but you can find great deals. You just have to look for them.
Last but not least, lighting is always a very important part of creating a personalized space. Make sure that you choose the right lighting for the space and of course choose something you love. While there are many rules you can get caught up with when it comes to lighting, I will keep it simple. Try to use brighter light bulbs. The brighter your space is, the bigger and more cheery it will feel. Dark spaces appear smaller and tend to be more depressing to people. I like the natural light bulbs because the light is brighter and it tends to be more of a white color. It is amazing how a 60 watt bulb puts out the same amount of light but the color of the light can actually look brighter.
Make sure you have the right size lamp. If you are going to use table lamps for the main light in your space, make sure they are the right height. Approximately 30” tall from the base of the lamp to the top of the shade is a good rule of thumb. This will ensure that your eyes are protected from blaring light and it will also illuminate the space appropriately. When your space is lit up properly everything looks better! Lamps can get expensive, even when they are cheap because you often times have to buy the shade and the lamps separately. Try to put a decent portion of your budget aside for this and keep that in mind. If you manage to find cheap lamps on sale or something at a garage sale, then great! You can put that money away or use it for other pretty things.
Renting can sometimes be a little bit of a bummer. You are paying for someone else’s space and this seems to limit you on what you can do for decorations and personalization. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make it your own. You just have to be a little more crafty with how you approach it. Here I gave you many ideas to break down that wall and get your creative juices flowing! I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring. As always, I want to hear about your experiences or see pictures of your spaces. What did you do to make it your own? I always love to hear from my readers! Have a very artistic day!