Decorating Dilemma: Decorating a Rental

I’ve lived in my fair share of rentals, in fact, I think from the time I left home for college at 18 until I was about 27, I lived in 8 different rental homes/apartments. Needless to say I was ready to get my hands on this house when I was officially a homeowner and immediately gutted it…because it needed it and because I finally could! But I’m a firm believer that your home needs to reflect who you are and make you feel comfortable, whether you own it or you’re leasing it. My friends always laughed at me when I moved somewhere new because the place looked like I had been living there for months before I went to sleep the first night. I refused to live in an expensive storage unit, it had to look like home.

Rental restrictions can pose a few problems when decorating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it yours and stylish. Here are a few tips:

1. Dress your walls.

You may not be able to paint the walls (or you may, some landlords allow it if it’s a neutral color) but walls carry a huge impact. For some reason, so many people are afraid to actually hang things on the walls when they won’t be there for years. It takes just a few minutes to hammer a nail in the wall so don’t be afraid, just do it. I’m a huge fan of gallery walls and they’re low commitment and flexible. You can easily rearrange for a new space when you move.


Gallery Wall Kelley Lively

Wall paper is back in style in a big way, but may not be an option for rentals. Try decals! Check out some of these removable designs from Walls Need Love, they look just like wall paper and can have a huge impact in a powder room, a feature wall, or an entire room.



2. Area rugs.

Most rentals (if you’re lucky) have neutral flooring. That combined with neutral walls can make things a little boring. I love neutral decor, but the key is to layer. Consider area rugs for texture, pattern, and color. I even like putting them over carpet to define areas and add interest. Get standard sized rugs that will get used in future homes as well.



soft colors apartment (5)


3. Window treatments.

This is another area where we tend to get lazy in a rental because window treatments are sometimes custom. It’s amazing how much finished a room looks when you dress the windows. Just wait until I show you the before and after of the lakehouse I’m working on now. Curtain panels are inexpensive and can be taken from home to home. The hardware can be a little pricey, but I’m currently using the same drapery rods that I purchased 5 houses ago, just get something basic. I always recommend hanging drapes as close to the ceiling as possible (assuming it’s a one story room) so go for longer panels. They can always be temporarily hemmed if you need to down the road.



I know it’s hard to justify spending money on decor in a home that won’t be a forever home, but why wait to love your home? I love the Nester’s story. She didn’t wait to decorate until she owned a home and pictures of her rental home are plastered all over magazines. She has some amazing budget decorating tips on her blog.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s weird I stumbled upon your blog and was like wow we have a lot in common. Then I saw even our layouts were similar… Thennnnn I saw you had twins. Me to!!!! Lol I must follow you now. 😉

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