How to decorate your rental apartment on a budget

Get Digs
March 26, 2020

Just because you’re renting an apartment doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. There are so many changes you can try - some small, others a bit more extensive - that will make your apartment feel more like home. There might be some hesitation around spending time or money on home decor for a place you’re renting, but the fact is that you live there and might be spending a bit more time in your apartment than ever before. It’s important that you feel comfortable, familiar and relaxed in your space. 

What can you change in a rental apartment

Before you go for an all-out rental apartment makeover, you need to figure out what you can and can’t do. While permissions may differ depending on the landlord or property manager, here are some general guidelines for updating a rental property. 

What you CAN’T do without asking your landlord

  • Put a BBQ on your balcony  
  • Permanently change light fixtures 
  • Change the locks on your door
  • Replace flooring to your preferred type 

What you CAN do without asking your landlord 

  • Add furniture and plants 
  • Change light bulbs 
  • Paint walls (as long as you paint it back to the original colour before you move) 
  • Put holes in walls to hang art (just be sure to cover the holes when you move)
  • Change knobs and handles (store them so you can put them back on when you move out) 
  • Applying contact paper to cupboards, walls, doors, etc. 

Have a quick conversation with your landlord to make sure there aren’t any other no-nos when it comes to decor. Once you’ve got a sense for what’s possible, try a few of these upgrades.  

Simple landlord-friendly apartment decor changes on a budget 

Here are 8 simple, budget-friendly upgrades you can make to your rental without much effort: 

  1. Use furniture to divide rooms — Moving a couch so it better divides your kitchen from your living room is just one way furniture can be placed strategically to function almost like a wall. 
  2. Take the doors off your kitchen cabinets — It’s like an open concept for your plates and glasses. Opening up your cabinets gives your kitchen an entirely different look and vibe. Just make sure you store the doors and any screws safely, so you can put them back on before you move out. 
  3. Change the lighting — You’d be surprised how much updated lighting can improve the ambiance in your home. Bedrooms, in particular, can be a place to experiment with different bulbs and maybe even different colours or temperatures. Our favourite is anything soft white!
  4. Use rugs — Rugs are a great way to add personality to your apartment. They can also be functional in covering up wood floors or tile that you aren’t particularly fond of, or for masking noise that travels between floors 
  5. Take off closet doors — Similar to removing your kitchen cabinet doors, removing your room closet doors can change the entire vibe of that space. 
  6. Bring nature inside — Adding a few plants to your apartment brings a touch of nature indoors. Snake plants or pothos are both great plants that don’t require a lot of natural sunlight or up-keep.
  7. Hang some drapes — Blinds are boring. Introduce some texture and personality to your apartment by hanging drapes over windows in different rooms 
  8. Stainless steel paper — So many of us love stainless steel appliances but don’t want to spend stainless steel money. Plus, your appliances probably work just fine, so why buy new ones? Using some stainless steel paper is the compromise to get that sleek look on an apartment level budget. 

DIY rental upgrades worth the time and effort 

These two apartment upgrades will take up a bit more of your time and probably cost more than simple upgrades, but they’re totally worth it: 

  1. Custom shelving — In smaller apartments, storage is always an issue. Adding shelving can be functional but can also add to your home’s aesthetic. There are shelves that don’t require nails or screws, but if you opt for shelves that do, just be sure to clear it with your landlord first. 
  2. Paint — Few things add more personality to your apartment than colour. Be careful with painting walls, though. It can seem like a simple task, but a bad paint job can make you regret using that red you love so much. We recommend neutral colours to get your feet wet, and to trial a test section before committing to an entire room. You can also hire a professional if it’s beyond your comfort zone to approach as a DIY project. And remember, always trial a test section before committing to an entire room.
  3. Put up some wallpaper — If painting feels like too much of a commitment, try putting up some temporary peel & stick wallpaper. Find a wall you think can use some energy and fill it with a pattern that fits the rest of that room. Look for the wallpaper options that are easy to peel off and don’t damage the walls to avoid any need for repairs before you move out.

These tips and tricks show how easy and affordable it is to make your rental property feel like a home of your own. 

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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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