How to Make Your Rental Feel Like Home

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on April 12, 2020

Today, millennials are leaning into the rental or sharing economy—owning less of everything and renting everything from music to cars, clothing to furniture, and of course, housing. Renting all across the country has a lower barrier of entry and less financial commitment, allowing people to invest in other areas or passions in life (take that trip to Thailand, pursue your dream start-up job, or save more for your future). Not to mention, it saves you the big-ticket expenses of a water boiler that goes out, roof that leaks, or surprise house repair. Let your landlord get it!

While we’re not suggesting renters renovate the kitchen or bathroom on their own dime, there’s also a growing desire among apartment-dwellers to make their space feel personalized and special. Whether you own or rent, investing in the space you live in so it reflects your unique style and story will always be on trend, so that you can really call your place “home.” 

People have more access than ever to inspiring homes and creative interiors across television and social media, which has led to a desire to improve and optimize our own spaces. At Havenly, we’ve also seen customers tapping into wellness and home organization trends, with millenials uniquely understanding the relationship between a well-designed space and a well-lived life. These trends, along with services like ours, have helped democratize interior design, making it both more desirable and more affordable for a renter to consider reshaping their space. 

Luckily, there are more ways than ever to customize and decorate a rental apartment without breaking the bank—or losing your security deposit.

It sounds complicated, but we promise, it’s very doable and goes a long way to completely transform and tailor a space to your tastes (check out our guide here). Whatever your style, from whimsical florals to moody drama, there are a wide range of options available that for a quality, high definition look at a budget-friendly price. It’s a fairly easy install for the more adventurous DIYers, and it’s still cost-effective to hire a local professional to get such a statement-making, non-permanent update.

Lighting is a dramatic way to immediately add ambiance to a space. Table lamps, floor lamps, and task lighting are great, non-invasive decor elements that evoke style and visual interest. Plug-in sconces are another option to add both warmth and an artful touch to a wall area, whether flanking a bed or accenting a living room scene. If your landlord permits it, changing out a ceiling light is another simple way to up-level and customize a space—just be sure to save the original fixture for when you’re moving out!

Floor-to-ceiling curtains add texture and drama to a space. They make a space feel finished, and can sometimes have the effect of making a room appear larger, acting as an extension of the window. Pro tip: hang curtains at least 4-6 inches above the top of the window for added visual height.

Nothing makes a space feel more you than artwork. It’s a highly personal item in the first place: it cues to your style, your interests, your unique sensibilities, and all you have to do is add a few nails, making it a palatable option for landlords. If you have a nail ban on your place, you can use smaller, lighter pieces with durable Command strips—just be prepared to use a lot, and we wouldn’t recommend any precious frames. Whether you opt for a large statement canvas, a gallery wall or even an eclectic collection of pieces picked up on travels and over time, artwork is completely customizable to your unique tastes.

In addition to accent walls, lighting, curtains and artwork, accessories are always a welcome, accessible way to customize a rental apartment. Our Havenly rule of thumb is, leave no surface unstyled. Think framed photos, candles, sculptural items, boxes, baskets, and more. Style little vignettes on your media console or a coffee table to create a layered, character-filled look that speaks to who you are and what you’re into.

Burnished Brass Vase from Restoration Hardware

Books are accessories, yes, but they’re also a worthy decor element in their own right! Coffee table books, for example, play a dual role in the home: They reflect an individual’s personality and interests, while also creating height and a visually appealing moment. You can also use books to create height on consoles, bedside tables and countertops — not to mention, of course, in a stylish bookshelf.

blues interior design

Pillows, rugs and throws add texture, pattern and color, even if they’re neutral in tone. Textiles are the best way to tailor a space toward your individual style. Not to mention, nothing says “I’m home” more than a space cued-up for coziness.

Plants and florals are another great way to add life and personality to a rented space. Olive trees or branches evoke a sophisticated, traditional look with their Mediterranean origin, while snake plants and palms cue a more bohemian-inspired aesthetic. And you don’t have to be a florist to have a home filled with freshly cut stems—simply grab a bunch of something pretty that catches your eye at the market, whether hydrangeas for a farmhouse look or tulips for a sense of relaxed whimsy, and arrange in a favorite vase.

Bloomscape plants

Ready to make your rental feel more like home? Get started with our interior design style quiz

Words by Levi Austin