Most leases come with a list of constraints that legally limit your freedom to alter the apartment’s features. Not to worry! We gathered eight apartment decorating tips to keep your home stylish (and your landlord happy).

How to decorate an apartment

Renting a new apartment is great — you don’t have to deal with all those messy maintenance problems, you’re not committed to staying in a certain community and you’re not stuck to a long-term financial commitment. With that apartment lease, though, you’re bound to some creative restriction in terms of apartment decorating.

Most leases come with a list of constraints that legally limit your freedom to alter the apartment’s features. Not to worry! We gathered eight tips to keep your home stylish (and your landlord happy).

When You Can’t Paint Your Walls, Paint Your Furniture.


Most rental agreements don’t allow you to paint your walls (or require that you repaint them white before you move out) — and if you violate this, your landlord can withhold the security deposit. Don’t let those boring white walls cramp your style!

Instead of looking to add color to your apartment walls, add color another way: paint furniture like desks, dressers and tables to keep your desired decorating theme. It doesn’t have to be every piece — but painting a large dresser or desk a bright yellow, soft blue or deep purple can give your room the pop of energy it needs.

“Breathe new life into your space by painting your furniture instead — everything from a chair to an armoire,” Leah Bourne from StyleCaster advises

When You’re Stuck With Outdated Furniture, Reupholster.

upholstered pillows

If your apartment came furnished, you have some serious perks: it’s move-in ready and there’s no need to dip into your savings to purchase all new pieces. But on the downside, your furniture may not be the most stylish. Try some of these options to help decorate your apartment furniture:

  • Couch covers: At first thought, slipcovers may scream “Great Grandma Jean,” but the right one can give your hand-me-down couch the color and style you’re looking for. These can run for as low as $30 at your nearest home store.
  • Covered pillows: Throw pillows can be expensive to replace — especially if you have a ton. Instead of ditching them altogether, purchase new fabric (extremely cheap!) and sew it to recover the pillows yourself.
  • Chair makeover: If you have a bunch of old dining room or folding chairs lying around, give the wooden or metal chair a fresh paint job and cover the seat cushion with new fabric.
  • New knobs: To help bring new life to the rest of your furniture, swap out the current knobs with decorative alternatives — on your cabinets, drawers and jewelry organizers. Just remember to save the old ones so you can put them back when it’s time to move out.

Have extra hardware lying around? Don’t let it take up precious space in your new apartment. Our storage units can help keep your belongings protected and out of your way.

When Your Apartment Lease Says “No Nails,” Hang With An Alternative.

command strips

Your lease may restrict you from using nails for pictures, mirrors and apartment decor —  but don’t let that keep you from adding your own personal touch to your home. Instead, opt for damage-free hanging devices.

  • Command Strips. “It is hard to put up pictures and posters in rented accommodation, as they leave marks,”Chrissy from Organise My House says. “However, the best way I have found to hang pictures is to use the 3M product Command Strips. These secure pictures to the wall and come off leaving no marks.” Purchase these from your nearest office or home store, place them on the back of a frame or mirror and peel the plastic before hanging.
  • Removable Decals. Whether you’re hoping to spruce up your walls, doors or even ceiling fan, removable decals and wall murals are available in different colors, patterns, quotes and pictures to help transition your apartment into your home. The best part? They won’t damage a thing. Just remove them from their adhesive sheet and smoothly place them on a clean, dry surface. Check out some removable wall pattern inspiration.
  • Poster putty.Poster putty has come a long way since your teenage heartthrob poster days. Just pull a small piece off the block, roll it up and place it on lighter items, like photos, frames and canvases before hanging it on the wall. Easy to use and easy to remove!

When You Need More Storage Space, Add Portable Shelves.

standalone shelves

Since nails are out of the picture, you can’t install large book shelves, floating shelves or other wall storage. Luckily, those aren’t your only options.

To get creative, Decluttering expert Cris from Organizing Maniacs says recommends using free-standing storage. Her favorites? The shelving units IKEA and the Container Store. There are different ways to configure them, plus, you can move them around and take them with you when you leave.

If you need extra storage, standalone shelving units are your answer. You can find tall units for around $60 at Home Depot, and with four or more shelves per unit, that’s plenty of space to work with — especially for commonly used items like kitchen appliances.

Always dreamt of having a home bar? Showcase your sophistication without actually installing anything by purchasing a rolling cart. Not only can you fill it to match your dining room’s decor, but you can use it as a buffet table when you have company over.

READ ALSO:  How to Make Your Own DIY Pallet Headboard

When You Hate Your Apartment Floors, Cover Them Up.

area rug

When you’re renting, you may not be the biggest fan of your apartment floors. If your carpet, tile or hardwood floor doesn’t have the je-ne-sais-quoi you’d hoped for, conceal it (with your landlord’s approval):

  • Add rugs: Depending on the layout, choose one large area rug or a variety of smaller ones placed next to one another that match your room. Apartment decorating tip: Adding a large area rug makes your space look larger since you will visually expand the center point (just make sure the rug isn’t too petite — this can actually make your room look smaller!). As a rule of thumb, place either all of your furniture on the rug or all of the furniture off the rug.
  • Temporary tile: If you can’t replace the floors, but also can’t stand looking at them, install temporary tile that gives you a semi-permanent replacement without leaving a trace. Self-adhesive floor underlayment acts as an elastic pad for temporary floors and makes it easy to remove.
  • Faux hardwood: Laminate flooring can be laid on top of your existing floor, giving you the same feel as hardwood floors (just not in high humidity rooms). This surface uses a lock system instead of an adhesive, making it a popular and easy-to-use choice for renters to do themselves. You can purchase a pack of these from IKEA for about $40.

Apartment tip: Sick of your boring kitchen backsplash? Spice it up with tile tattoos.

When Your Space is Small, Make it Look Bigger.

large living room

You can’t actually make a small room bigger — but you can give it an illusion of having more space. Try these tips in each room:

  • Living room: Be sure to take advantage of windows and mirrors. Mirrors make any room appear larger, and open windows offer natural light and give the eye a place to wander outside of the room.
  • Kitchen: Keep your items in storage containers — and be sure to label them! This will free up your countertop and shelves, and also get rid of those bulky boxes and bags.
  • Bathroom: Take advantage of hidden storage. Instead of letting your products clutter your counters, use the space under your sink, behind your door and above your door.

When planning for furniture and layout, go for versatile pieces that are both decorative and functional.

“Think multi-use, Seija Goldstein from My First Apartment says. “Storage ottomans, beds with built-in storage drawers and modular furniture.”

When You Have Ugly Lighting, Swap it Out.

light fixture

You need the right lighting to make your home’s ambiance feel comfortable and welcoming. If you aren’t blessed with a ton of natural light, try these apartment hacks:

  • Switch fixtures: If your apartment came with a tacky or outdated fixture, just switch it out for one that’s more your style. And don’t forget — there are storage resources available to save and protect your landlord’s original so you can replace it when you move out. Keep in mind, certain fixtures work better in specific rooms of your home
  • Change bulbs: Simply switching out your bulbs can make all the difference in the feel of your room. Decide whether you prefer warm or cool lighting, and take note of this when selecting your new bulbs. If you’re looking to save some money and (energy), LED and CFL light bulbs are  great options. The experts at the Department of Energy recommend replacing your five most frequently used light bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR (this can save you $75 a year!).
  • Install a dimmer: By replacing your normal switch with a dimmer, you can control the mood of your room for a different occasion or just times of the day. Just make sure you’re comfortable working with wires.
  • Add lamps: If your room doesn’t have enough overhead light or lighting altogether, simply add in a new lamp. This will add more lighting for the rooms of your home and also add some decor to your apartment.

When Your Apartment Walls Are Boring, Add Temporary Personality.

temporary wallpaper

We’ve already nixed the paint idea — but that doesn’t mean you have to neglect your walls altogether.

“Hanging several sets of drapes along a wall is an apartment-approved way to give your walls personality without the permanence of wallpaper or paint,” The experts at Better Homes and Gardens advise.

Removable wallpaper is another savvy solution for decorating your apartment walls. This full-coverage method works just like traditional wallpaper, but it peels away easily without leaving residue behind. You can find temporary wallpaper at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Cut down on costs by papering accent walls instead of an entire room.

Apartment decorating tip: If you want to dress up your bookcases, line the back of the shelves with removable wallpaper!

Do you choose to rent instead of purchase a home? You’re not alone! The number of rentals has increased by 770,000 annually since 2004 — making the period the strongest 10-year stretch of rental growth since the late 1980s.

About the Author


Grace Gerass

I love to share all sorts of DIY and home decor tips with my readers here at the Life Storage blog.

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