Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and...
Welcome to Decorating Diva, where every week we share fresh, fun ways to update your home and spice up your living space! It’s not easy to get motivated to do much in the way of decorating a rental space. Spending money on a place you don’t own can seem frivolous but there are some simple – and affordable – ways to add personality to a rental. We’ve come up with some creative and stylish options for customizing your home even if you don’t own it.
Scrub and scour
First things first: Get in there and clean like you've never cleaned before. Many landlords will send in a cleaning crew (or take on the task themselves) prior to new tenants moving in, but it's still a good idea to literally start with a clean slate. Wash the walls, the floor and the appliances before you start unpacking. That way you know that everything is sparkling and fresh (and as close to new as possible) and ready for you and your belongings.
Work with what you have
If you end up with a place you love everything about except the color (e.g., the landlord has a love affair with lime green), don't despair. If you aren't able to repaint (or the garish hue is in the tiles, cabinets and backsplash, too) work with the color scheme, no matter how quirky it is. A turquoise-tiled kitchen might scare you at first glance, but add some tea towels, kitchen stools and serving bowls in a matching or complementary hue, and suddenly the space looks stylish and pulled together. Seriously, if our space was turquoise we'd be adding to the eye-popping look with a couple of these lacquered blue chairs from CB2 ($90).
Embrace area rugs
Wall-to-wall carpeting is less than ideal, but you can break up the broadloom boredom with brightly patterned or colorful area rugs in rich, bold hues. Even a tiled or hardwood floor that has seen better days can be easily perked up with area rugs in various shapes and sizes. Not only will they hide flaws and outdated carpeting, they'll add interest and depth to the room. IKEA has dozens of rugs at low prices, some starting as low as $15. Urban Outfitters also carries a ;arge selection of playfully patterned rugs, starting at $19.
The simplest way to customize a rental is to add artwork. Naked walls can leave your space looking almost clinical or cold so we suggest warming things up with whatever makes you happy to look at. Blow up some favorite travel photos and hang them mosaic-style for a gallery effect, pick up some playful posters and pop them into frames or purchase some affordable prints. 20x200 offers a myriad of interesting prints starting as low as $20 (unframed), in a wide range of styles and colors. Each print is delivered with a numbered certificate of authenticity, signed by the artist.
Paint if you can
Don't be afraid to ask your landlord if you can repaint the space. He or she might want final approval on color but as long as you aren't opting for something too over-the-top (fluorescent pink, for instance) you should be able to give your rental a fresh coat of a color you love. If you don't feel like painting the entire place and it's already in a neutral hue, think about adding an accent wall in the living room or entry way to brighten things up and inject some personality into your new place.
Divide and conquer
Many rental units seem to lack structure, and if yours is more open-concept than you'd like, creating a more standard living arrangement is easier than you think. Divide up your space based on functionality. A large potted plant, substantial piece of artwork, a bookcase or a cabinet can be used to divide the space into halves. Curves can also take the edges off a boxy room, so think about adding round tables, chairs and other furnishings that give the space more movement. A dividing screen is another a great way to break up a space that needs structure. We love this shutter screen from Pier 1 Imports ($300).
Opt for accessories
One of our favorite ways to add flair to any space – rental or otherwise – is with accessories in interesting colors, patterns and textures. From pillows to throws to candle holders, adding personality to your home is easy with accessories. We're currently coveting this dip dye throw in subtly graduating hues (West Elm, $39). And this color block pillow (Crate & Barrel, $27) featuring an asymmetrical grid of squares and rectangles of gold, olive, red, purple and cream has our name written all over it. Happy decorating!