Upgrade your rented apartment or house like a pro—without leaving any damage behind.
rental upgrade graphic rug living room
Credit: Regan Wood Photography

Decorating a rental can be tricky. Not only do you have the limitations set forth by your lease and landlord to worry about, but very few people want to pay an expert to help create a cohesive design for a space that they're probably not going to live in forever. "When decorating a rental you don't have nearly as much freedom as you do when you own-so you're forced to get creative," says Sandy Phillips, COO of Texla Housing Partners, a real estate and management company. "You can't rip out the cabinets, change the appliances, re-tile the bathroom, or add closet space if you so-wish, so it's more about adding pieces that make up for what you don't have."

Then there's the simple fact that you probably won't want to invest a ton of time and money into decorating your rental-after all, you don't own the property. Why would you want to pay to make changes on a space that's not actually your own? That's why Phillips says reversible upgrades, including peel-and-stick wallpaper, updated bathroom fixtures, and new kitchen hardware can make awesome alternatives to pricier-and permanent-rental changes. "It comes down to investing in pieces you'll take with you, or making changes that can be easily reversed for when you do move out," Phillips says. Looking for more ideas on how to decorate your rental home like a pro? We asked four different interior designers for their advice on the best ways to upgrade a rental space, and here's what they had to say.

Dress up a boring bathroom.

"Most rental bathrooms are pretty basic, white, and small," says Caroline Grant of Dekar Design. "Adding a peel-and-stick wallpaper and updating the vanity mirror can add character and warmth to the room." Why stop at the walls? "Even covering the ceiling with removable wallpaper could really transform a small room," says Grant. "The mirror is also something that is easy to swap out and there are so many beautiful options.

rental upgrade vanity space wallpaper
Credit: Brittany Ambridge

Make a statement wall.

"Painting an accent wall, instead of an entire space, is an impactful way to upgrade a rental," says interior designer Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo of LBR | HOME. "It's an easy way to give personality to a space and really makes your furniture look more glamorous. And when you're ready to move, it just needs a coat of primer before it gets painted back to white.

Art upgrades everything.

Don't be afraid to invest in a few pieces of art you really love. You'll be able to enjoy them now and take them with you when you move. "Art can immediately elevate the sophistication of a space and bring a blank rental canvas to life," says Rebecca Hawkins, head buyer at Celadon Home. "Art doesn't have to be a major investment-there are incredible giclée and print options available to help you jumpstart your home collection."

rental upgrade graphic rug living room
Credit: Regan Wood Photography

Put a rug on it.

According to our experts, an eye-catching area rug can work wonders in an outdated rental. "A bold, graphic rug can be a game changer in a rental, especially if the floors aren't in good shape," Blumenfeld-Russo says. "They're also a great conversation piece." They're great for tying a space together or camouflaging a floor you're not fond of.

Maximize wall space.

Decorating a small bedroom in a rental is never easy. That's why our experts say it pays to take advantage of wall space. "Use the area above your bed to hang storage shelves or décor," says Kate Towill, principal designer at Basic Projects. "It's an easy way to maximize both wall storage and vertical space."


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