According to iProperty Management, approximately 36.6% of people in America are renters. 930,000 of the over 136 million housing units in the US are rentals. These numbers are the highest they’ve been in almost 50 years in the US. Not only are the number of renters in the US growing, but over 40% of renters are over the age or 45, which means there’s a really wide range of people that are renting. So it’s clear that there are A LOT of you out there who are home-renters. A lot of times, rentals come with restrictions. While these restrictions are realities, there are things that you can do to make your rental feel like a home.
The Big Picture
So many people can’t make the kinds of renovation changes that we refer to frequently because of the restrictions in a rental. Rentals generally don’t allow for any structural changes, flooring changes, and some don’t even allow you to change wall color! There is a lot that goes into having rental properties, whether houses, apartments, or condos, and a lot these restrictions are necessary to allow landlord to operate their business on a mass scale. The question is: how can you still make it feel like a place you love to come to even when customization maybe isn’t an option? We have a few different ways you can make changes without upsetting the landlord, and we want to share those you with you! There are sort of three levels of things you can do: semi-permanent changes to do with permission, temporary house changes, and buying furnishings you love.
Side note - a lot of these ideas can apply to people who don’t even rent -- but who maybe move often, are on a tight budget, or just don’t feel ready to make big changes to their home!
This totally depends on the landlord, but there are a couple things that make a huge impact that you may be able to do even in a rental, if your landlord is willing. When we talk to friends about the easiest way to make an impact in a room, one of the simplest things we can recommend is to paint. A new coat of paint can make a HUGE difference in a room, whether that’s completely changing the paint color or giving a room a fresh coat of a similar color. While this might work for some rentals, it doesn’t work everywhere.
Another thing to consider is changing the light fixtures! Honestly, a light fixture swap is so easy and you can even swap it back to the original fixture before you move. It may seem strange to invest in lights, but for a couple hundred bucks, new fixtures can make a huge difference.
Let’s say you can’t necessarily paint or swap light fixtures or anything semi-permanent. There are a few BIG impact things you can do to the walls that are completely temporary. One alternative would be to put up TEMPORARY WALLPAPER! You could do a whole room or just an accent wall! It could get expensive if you are doing a large room, but consider doing something smaller like a bathroom. You could even do it to spruce up the kitchen a little bit by using temporary wallpaper as a kitchen backsplash!
Here are a couple examples from Target and Home Depot (not sponsored) that we found that we really like! (including one with our fav…JoJo). As you can see, there is a lot of variety in what you can get - from patterns and textures to prints. If any of these catch your eye, click on the pictures below for more info!
Another temporary fix for wall spaces you can do in almost any apartment would be to use art strategically to take up a lot of visual space. One way that we love doing this is by creating a GALLERY WALL - you can do this either with all matching frames or a mix-and-match situation. We have a matching frame gallery wall above our couch in our living room with black and white prints of all our travels, so it serves to both take up visual space and also remind us of our travels!
Buy Furnishings You Love
So, finally, let’s talk about the third category: buying furnishings you love. Even as a renter, it’s ok to invest in nicer pieces of furniture that you love. It’s easy to think “I’m not going to live here forever, so I should just buy furniture that works for now or even just use hand-me-down furniture.” At least that’s how I was when I rented! But ask yourself the question: is it worth the cost of a few pieces of furniture to create a place I love to come home to, even for a year? The answer I’d say is usually, “yes!”
I feel like I remember a huge difference in the pride and love we had for our home when we started investing in furniture specific to us. When we first got married, we lived in a rental apartment, and every single thing in that apartment was a hand-me-down from family or friends. I have so many fond memories of that place, and we made the most of what we had.
You of course have some options when figuring out what to invest in. It could be a big singular thing like a desk, bed, or couch, but the main thing is to set aside a budget and make a plan to put some money toward styling and decorating your space. Don’t settle for things you just sort of like...invest in a few things you REALLY love. While you might not want to invest in your “forever armchair” while you’re renting, investing in an armchair that you love is really important and will make the space feel more like home. It’s something that you can look forward to coming home to and just knowing it feels comfortable and like a safe spot.
And of course this doesn’t just apply to armchairs in this scenario. Really any piece of furniture you’re bringing into a rental can be something that makes it feel like home. This reminds me of talking to Sydney and Tim in the small space living episode (episode 4). They rent in NYC and just made the switch from having a dedicated bedroom to sleeping in their living room on a murphy bed. And they invested in a nice murphy bed that was custom made for them! That’s not something that they’ll necessarily use forever, especially if they move away from NYC, but it’s something that works practically NOW and is a really nice piece of furniture that will last them as long as they need where they are.
What If There Are Other People Involved?
So one other thing that a lot of people are dealing with when renting is coordinating with your housemates. Often if you’re renting with other people, everyone is bringing something to the house - various pieces of furniture, art, etc. It can be a lot to try to figure out what’s going on when it’s coming from 3, 4, or more different people!
This might be really obvious, but a simple way to get on the same page about this is to sit down with your fellow renters and have a home design meeting! If you all are serious about making your rental space feel more like home, it’s going to take some coordination and cooperation from all sides. It’s a lot simpler if you’re in a situation where you’re the only renter in a space, but it’s not impossible to make big changes even if there are multiple people involved. It just takes a little more effort :)
Maybe you don’t have house-mates that are on board or coordination doesn’t make sense. That’s ok! While you might not be able to make ALL the changes that you want to make, there are still changes that you can make that will help make your rental feel more like home.
I would start in the bedroom. That’s the one place that whether you’re the sole renter of a space or you have house-mates, it’s pretty much yours to do with what you please. It’s where you can retreat to if you need to be by yourself or get stuff done. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of coordinating with other people about the common areas of your home, start with YOUR space. Invest in a desk to work on or a chair and lamp situation to become a reading nook...whatever fits your personality and style - create a space that is a retreat for you and that you love. That way, regardless of what’s going on in the rest of the house or apartment, you’ll always have that to go back to.
Chandler: One of my biggest tips for everyone, homeowner or renter, is to keep things you love and find another home for the things in your home that don’t bring you joy. Obviously, that can’t always be the case, but I think the biggest thing is to not let renting keep you from letting go of things you really don’t like and taking some time to carefully select things that you love to come home to.
Jeremy: One of the things we talk about a lot is how the point of making a home pretty and stylish and comfortable is to allow you to live a life where you can love and serve others better without being stressed out by your surroundings. Yes there are a lot of things that you can do as a renter to make your residence feel more like a home, but home is more than what you put in it. Host friends and family, make memories in your space. You’ll remember the feeling of a temporary residence a lot more than the look of it in the long run, so make it a good feeling.
Things We’re Loving
Jeremy - I’m loving our baby gate! It’s really sturdy and classy looking, and has a little cat door so Jack and Mittens can get downstairs to their litter box. (Jack and Mittens not pictured below). Click on the picture to check it out!
Chandler - I’m loving the cookbook “Eat What You Love” by Danielle Walker! She has quickly become our go-to for pretty much all meals. Her cookbooks are beautiful, simple, and paleo! Check it out by clicking below:
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Links and Extra Resources
Danielle Walker has 3 other cookbooks as well (all of which we have, obviously). So check them out here if you’re interested in healthy and delicious recipes!
Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great
Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion: A Cookbook
Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime