How to Decorate a Rented Apartment on a Budget

Living in a rented apartment is a necessity for most people, but there are a lot of advantages to this step as well. You can decorate the space as you see fit, and live within your means without the sword of a mortgage hanging over your head. A  hefty down payment is usually not required in such cases either, but there is the matter of updating your space. 

black and white cocnrete building low-angle photography

The interior of your apartment will be easily upgraded with a bit of investment, but what if you’re decorating your apartment on a budget? When the place is rented, you’d also have to stay within your limits if you don’t want to lose your deposit. Some landlords even have rules about hammering in a single nail without permission; in any case, it’s always wiser not to invest in permanent renovations for a rental place. 

Fortunately, there are now several kinds of easy and budget-friendly decorative changes that you can make on a rental space. Before you start looking at living room layouts, here are some tips on decorating your apartments on a budget: 

1. Get Fresh Paint

Whether you have a living room or a bedroom that needs something extra, you can’t go wrong with some fresh paint. It might not be enough to buy bright decoration pieces or wall hangings if the wall itself isn’t very appealing. With a few cans of paint and some hours of labor, you can have a nice foundation to build your home decor around. 

It’s probably best to get the painting project done before you move in. This way, you can also make sure that the lighting will complement the colors. If you do some research and get a bit of professional help, even a tiny studio apartment might look larger with some budget friendly paint. With this canvas, you can then start in on your decorating ideas. 

2. Enhance the Kitchen

Many people would say that the kitchen is the heart of a home. Living in your own place, be it a rental apartment, usually means that you have to get busy in the kitchen at times. In fact, making most of your meals at home is probably the healthiest and most cost-effective option. These are the best reasons to take a look at your kitchen and see whether it’s attractive, practical, and fresh enough to make you happy while working there. You can start by decorating the cabinetry, perhaps painting it a neutral color such as charcoal, gray, white, etc. Hey, maybe you even try to install a fireproof file cabinet, while you’re at it! Many rental apartment kitchens have overlay panel doors, which can be easy to replace. Get some walnut or wood laminate panels in there, and you can instantly feel more cheerful upon entering the kitchen. 

brown wooden seat beside white wooden table

A low-cost butcher’s block is also good for replacing cheap countertops. Pendant lighting, some colorful mugs, and a vase of flowers are just a few decorating ideas that can come next. They’d also come in handy for pulling away an onlooker’s attention from any eyesores that you can’t replace yet. 

3. Hide the Eyesores

Speaking of eyesores, there might be some in every room of a rental apartment. Even the top-notch home decor items can’t hide the fact that there are light switches, radiators, cables, and plugs around your rental space. 

Unfortunately, radiators have to stay out in the open. You can try painting them white or black according to the kind of home decor you want. Getting a radiator enclosure is another option, but it’ll be more stylish in a wood like walnut. 

If and when possible, ensure that all the plugs and light switches are almost the same shade as the wall they’re against. This will help them ‘disappear’ better. 

4. Fix Lighting Issues

At times, just decorating the walls and shelves is not enough. The real issue might lie with the lighting. A rental space will rarely have perfect lighting, especially if you’re renting on a budget. Here are just a few ways to go about improving the lighting in your apartment: 

Changing out some fixtures

If you’re in a rental space, you’re probably not allowed to change any lighting fixtures without permission from the landlord. As such, it’s better to leave them be if you’re only here for the short term. If you’re thinking about decorating the apartment and sterling down for a long time, though, an ugly fixture could ruin the look of a whole room. 

This is where you mention such concerns to the landlord. If they’re cooperative enough, they’ll make the change on their own dime. Even if they’re a bit more rigid, you can usually get permission to make them change by yourself and from your pocket.  

Adding more lighting

Another logical step might be to add some more lighting, thereby brightening up a room without breaking the bank. Since adding more fixtures can become a costly project, it’s probably best to go for more portable options like floor lamps, table lamps, etc. If you feel like it’s worth it, floor or accent lighting can be great for highlighting shelves, cabinets, artwork, etc. 

A hierarchy of lighting

When it’s time to upgrade the lighting in your apartment, think of the fixtures in terms of layers or a hierarchy. Mismatched lighting in the wrong place can easily make the place look tired, outdated, and depressing. 

For instance, overhead lighting is essential and provides a warm glow to the room. However, you want lighting on the walls for brightening up the place. With floor lamps, you can bring some light down to your level. Of course, the best part is that you can take them with you when your lease is up (and you don’t want to renew it).  

5. Look into the Bathroom

The bathroom can be the trickiest space in a rental, especially if the tub or tiles are the main problems. Luckily, there’s still a way to transform this place into a relaxing sanctuary.

Just like the kitchen, a bathroom is also a place where you spend some time every single day. It should be clean, easy to keep clean, and uncluttered. While ripping out and replacing the tiles might not be cost-effective, you can try going for fresh and crisp linens, a green plant, or a flower vase to freshen up the space. 

If renters are on a long-term lease, they might even consider going for a reglazing project. This involves coating old mildew or other signs of wear and tear on floor tiles, wall tiles, and even the tub. The result will be a bathroom that looks absolutely new at a relatively affordable rate. 

A tile color or pattern is harder to change, but you can make a neutral background with a nice shower curtain and even an area rug made from sisal. Any other waterproof option might do for covering up those unsightly tiles as well. 

6. Add Some Artwork 

Most landlords won’t allow you to uninstall any artwork, but there are ways around that rule. For instance, you can lean frames against the wall, on the floor, or on a shelf. You can also use the mantel for this purpose. Even if a canvas doesn’t have a frame, it can still make a nice conversation piece when propped up on any surface. 

7. Think about Replacing the Blinds

Old blinds will instantly make a room look outdated and neglected as well. The style, material, and colors might mess up the aesthetic you’re going for. Fortunately, blinds are a relatively easy fix; all you have to do is hang some drapery on top of them. 

Muslin line is one of the most inexpensive options, though you might have to pay someone to sew the curtains or drapes. You’d be safer going with customized curtains, but store-bought will also do in a pinch. Go online, and you’d hopefully find a place that has reasonable prices. Consider Roman shades and other designs as well. 

8. Divide Up the Larger Spaces

Many studio apartments might be just one, largish open-plan space. This sort of place might be challenging to decorate, especially if you’re on a budget. However, one can define the different spaces with various groupings of furniture and other items. Of course, you can also use cane, fabric, or wooden screens where you want more privacy or a closed-off feel. 

For instance, you can group one set of couches and chairs together to make a cozy sitting area. Another corner might hold a bookshelf and armchair for a lovely reading nook. Set apart your home office space with a sensible area rug, an ergonomic chair, and a desk for your laptop. 

Another idea we like is using bookshelves for room dividers. Even if you’re not a book person, this is a great way to combine storage and function in one piece of furniture. 

9. Change Up Flooring and Windows

Many times, the flooring in a rental space leaves a lot to be desired. You can hardly expect hardwood flooring in an inexpensive rental. So, get ready for chipboard tiles, vinyl flooring, and other cost-effective options. While these might not be too ugly, there could be some damage or broken spots to consider. 

In such a case, get a bunch of throw rugs and use them for camouflaging many problematic areas. Along with this cover-up, you get more texture, colors, and warmth into your home with such a purchase. What’s even better is that this step will protect the existing flooring, and hence, your deposit. 

Both area rugs and throw rugs are also good for defining spaces within a large area. Decorate with some cushions to make everything look even cozier. 

The window treatments are another story altogether; if you’re working within a budget, there are even some no-sew DIY options available. Lookup a fusible bonding web for creating simple fabric panels for hanging on glass doors, windows, and other places. 

10. Consider Your Furniture Options

The debate about renting vs. buying furniture will probably come up when you think about decorating and upgrading your rental space. The final decision will probably depend on a number of factors; your budget, future plans, space, etc. 

Whatever you end up choosing, though, see if you can get furniture that has more than one function. For instance, a loft or Murphy bed will be the best choice if you’re renting a studio apartment. Ottomans, puffy stools, and even some couches can pull double duty by offering storage space inside. 

There are even some coffee tables that have chairs that you can pull out when it’s time to eat. Keep in mind that such furniture options are usually on the more expensive side, too. However, this is a sort of investment that you can take along to your next home, or even your double wide manufactured home

11. Add Portable Accessories

When you want to make a space your own, add splashes of your personality into it. After all, accessories like decor items, wall hangings, and bookends are easily portable. When it’s time to move on to the next stage in life, simply place these items in cardboard boxes and take them along. You won’t lose out on any investment, and your new home will have everything needed to feel truly yours. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you start buying up loads of knickknacks. Buying and decoration without any thought can result in your home looking tacky. Add a unique touch by getting vintage, handmade items to liven up your place. 

As an example, throw pillows will add both color and comfort to your couch and just about any room. Pottery, book covers, and other items will be great to use here. These options won’t be expensive either. But make sure you get something tasteful. In case you want to change up your decor or the new home’s theme just doesn’t match, you won’t feel too bad about donating these items. You can also consider selling them off, repairing them, or just keep them in storage until needed. The same goes for if you’re ever downsizing to an apartment from a house. 

Yet another great option is houseplants, which can liven up any bit of unused space with a bit of nature. This is even better if you’re working from home for several hours a week, as it’ll help freshen the air indoors and be great for a home office. Choosing easy houseplants or succulents will make for easy upkeep. 

12. Add Some Finishing Touches

After all the other upgrades are over, the finishing touches are what will define your home. Here are some ideas to keep in mind in order to make your place look like an inviting, comfy, and welcoming home: 

Get some dimmers for the lights

Some experts suggest getting dimmers to set the mood of the home. Incidentally, you can take these along when moving. 

Invest in solid hardware

With highly frequented areas, it’s probably worth investing in solid hardware like doors. This will enhance the daily quality of life, and increase your appreciation for the place as well. 

Look for budget wall art

Wall art is pretty easy to create on your own but you can find affordable options in the market as well. If you’re feeling adventurous, get some inexpensive stretched canvases and start decoupaging, painting, or create a mosaic. You can even go for an easier route and get fabric in coordinated colors and frame them to go with the home decor. 

Consider Investing in wall decals

Wall decals are another inexpensive option. They’re removed fairly easily, without damage to your wall, tiles, or furniture. You can also make your own decal by getting some adhesive, removable shelf liner. Cut this into the shapes or designs you want, and remove when it’s time to leave for the next home.  

Get creative with curtains

It might sound strange but you might want to consider hanging curtains along the wall even if there are no windows there. This will give some color to the place. Alternatively, hang curtains from the ceiling for dividing up an area. 

Manipulate space with mirrors

With correct placing, mirrors can make your tiny spaces seem larger and brighten up dark corners. 

The Takeaway

A rental apartment might limit your decorating choices but there’s still a lot you can accomplish in this department. Look around your place and start brainstorming about all the projects you can start doing right now. If all goes well, you’d hopefully have a bright and fresh place with a few days of effort!