Making a Rental Feel Like Home

by Rachel Laurendeau on July 3, 2012

If you are like most renters, you want to find ways to make your place really feel like your home, despite the home improvement limitations that may be set by your landlord or your budget. In most rental situations, you will want to invest the bare minimum into sprucing up the place and save your money for your future abode or retirement. However, many people live in rental homes for long periods of time and if that’s the case for you, you will probably be willing to invest a bit more to make it work for you.

• In most rental situations, a landlord will hire a painter before a new tenant takes possession. If you talk to them ahead of time, they may let you choose the color, as long as it is fairly neutral. Otherwise, you would likely have to get permission prior to painting and then return it to its original color before you move out.

• If painting is not an option and you have walls or unappealing tiles to cover, vinyl wall decals or temporary wallpaper can cover a multitude of sins and are easy to remove without damaging the walls.

• You obviously aren’t going to start replacing flooring in a rental unit, but area rugs or carpet tiles are great options for hiding worn patches, unattractive linoleum or for creating a new focal point and taking your eye away from what was there before.

• Often rentals have existing window treatments but if yours leave a bit to be desired, you could easily cover them up with fabric curtains or draperies. These can be inexpensive and come in any multitude of colors and patterns. If you don’t want to drill holes into the walls for a curtain rod, you can get a tension bar and mount it wall to wall (in a small room) or on the inside of the window frame.

• Short on storage space? A couple of big wicker or wood baskets placed on top of the fridge, under a bed or on a shelf are great for keeping larger items. Just make sure nothing is sticking above the top as it will create more visual clutter.

• Don’t underestimate the power of fresh flowers, live plants or bowls of fruit when it comes to brightening and livening up a place on a budget.

Kitchen and bathroom fixes can be expensive. Make sure you think these through before going ahead with them and know that you will be living there for quite a while.

• If the kitchen cabinets are in a terrible state, talk to the landlord about having them refaced before moving in. No go? Get permission to paint them but be prepared for a lot of work.

• Countertops, sinks and tubs can be resurfaced, but again, this is still at considerable expense so get the landlord to cover it or don’t do it at all.

• Kitchen cabinet hardware can be replaced quite easily.

• Need more countertop and workspace? A small island on castors is ideal. You can roll it out of the way if you have a small kitchen.

• Consider taking off some of the doors of the upper cabinets for a more open and airy feel. If the insides don’t look great you could give them a coat of paint or use contact paper or wallpaper.

• If you’re really here for the long haul, light fixtures in dining room, living room or bedroom can be replaced and have a large impact on modernizing your home. Keep the old fixtures though, and put them back up when you move out, take the ones you bought with you.

The key to successfully remodeling your rental home is to stick to your pre-determined budget, make changes that you can remove and take with you when you move out and most of all work with what you’ve got. Don’t try to make it into something that it is not. Accept that this is a rental and embrace its quirkiness while adding just a few touches of yourself.

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