Americans are renting now more than anytime in the last 50 years, according to an article by Market Watch. When most people think of a rental, they think “temporary” — and that’s true! However, just because your space is temporary doesn’t mean it has to lack personalization. Before you dismiss design changes that have significant impact for your rental, read these tips ⁠— your space doesn’t have to be permanent to be personal!

Paint the Walls (yes, you can!)

I know what you’re thinking — paint is such a hassle! Yes, you’re absolutely right. However, it’s the quickest and most effective way to transform your space. No matter how many cool furniture and decor pieces you put in your room, if the paint is off, it just won’t look right. With that in mind, I always recommend to my client that he or she paint before or immediately after their move. You’ll never be more motivated to take on a large painting project than right when you move in.

I always recommend going with Clare Paint, at least as a jumping off point. They’ve got a How-To Pick the Right White guide which is super helpful
⁠— not to mention that they send you large sticker paint swatches instead of the traditional canned paint that you have to apply yourself. My advice? Stick them on the wall and live with them for a few days. See how it looks and feels to you throughout all kinds of light. Once you’re ready to paint, just order thepainting supplies kit along with your color. I used it recently with a client and it was everything they needed to get their space painted and looking fresh. 

Experiment with Removable Wallpaper

The 2010s have brought us many cool things, one of them including removable wallpaper. Companies like Flavor Paper, Graham and Brown and Chasing Paper offer a wide range of designs that you can actually install yourself! And if you’d like to get even more customizable, try some decals from Urban Walls that you can arrange however you’d like. When it’s time to move, just peel or steam them off depending on which brand you go with.

Change the Lighting

The lighting your rental comes with doesn’t have to be the lighting you live with. Check with your leasing office or landlord before getting out the toolbox, but most companies are okay with you removing the standard lighting as long as you securely pack and store it. I’m a huge fan of changing out hanging lighting, especially in high-traffic areas like kitchen, dining, and living rooms. When it comes to the bedroom or somewhere you’d want a little more control for reading, there are so many great wall sconces that can simply plug in wherever you have an outlet! Depending on where your power source is located, you can use a cord cover or hide it behind the bed with zip ties (one of my favorite tricks). 

Hang Artwork on the Walls

Now that you can see your gorgeous walls with your new lighting, let’s think about art. Art can get expensive rather quickly, so I always encourage clients to start with what they have. I’m currently framing some family photos and old recipes for the hallway. As Emily Henderson says “if it’s two-dimensional, it’s art and you can hang it.” Have a kiddo or two running around? Choose a few of their pieces of artwork with a color scheme you love and then put them in some chic frames! What’s hanging on your walls should reflect your personality and history ⁠— not to mention that it’s easy to change out and move around when you’re wanting something new! No pressure, just have fun with it.

Grab the ScrewdriverWe’re Changing the Knobs

This one is pretty easy — change the knobs out in your house. Kitchen looking a little clinical and bland? Pop in some of these guys to bring the personality. Same thing with door knobs and towel racks. My rule of thumb when changing things out is that if it screws in, it can be unscrewed. 

So, what do you think? Will you be trying any of these ideas in your rental? It’s the little changes that make a big difference, so I hope you can use some of these tips!


Sarah Cousins is the founder and lead designer of Sarah Cousins Interior Design. A North Carolina native, she now lives and works in NYC. Her firm partners with primarily female-owned business vendors to service their wide array of commercial and residential clients. Her specialty is helping to bring style and functionality to the millennial-renter generation, who are so often left out of the interior design conversation.

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