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How to Decorate a Home When Your Landlord Won’t Let You Paint

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by Holly Sanders
(Boston, Mass, USA)

Are you living in a glorified storage locker with plumbing?. A lot of apartments can feel that way with their bland walls, boring floors and generic Venetian blinds!.

Your furniture and belongings can look more like they’re being stored in this beige space, than occupying a room in a home. The trick is creating a cohesive decor that brings everything together using colour and style.

Whether you want to go Minimalist, Romantic, or Rock n’ Roll, it can be hard to make a home from a rental space – especially when your landlord won’t even let you paint. However, it can still be done! Just remember these simple rules: pick a design scheme, tie together the colours you can’t change using colours you like, and only spend a lot of money on stuff you’re taking with you.

Pick a Design Scheme

A design scheme can be an era, like Victorian or Art Deco; it can be a theme, like a 1950’s Diner, or woodsy cabin; or it can simply be a visual aesthetic, like “only black and white and harsh angles”, or “pinks and greys with lots of soft furnishings”. Whatever you pick, be ruthless, especially if you have a small space.

Put anything that doesn’t match into a closet or otherwise out of sight. It doesn’t take a lot of mismatched clutter to defeat the harmony of a design scheme. Picking a design scheme works best if you can find some kind of common ground between your possessions and your space. If you live in a newish, bland apartment block with white walls and you have a lot of put-it-together-yourself Swedish furniture, “Modern and Sleek” will be easier and cheaper to do than “High Gothic Victorian”!

“Tie Together the Colours You Can’t Change with Colours You Like!”

You’re stuck with the ceiling, the walls, the floor, and kitchen countertops. My first apartment had an insipid beige ceiling and walls, an industrial grey/blue carpet that looked like it came out of an insurance office and worn laminate counters printed with a phoney woodgrain pattern.

Nice! The trick here is to find or make slipcovers, throw rugs, cushions and drapes that use these insipid colours-but as subtle accents in a pattern – to create the impression that you chose the beige walls and the industrial carpet and…well, maybe not the countertops!

No good at picking colours that go together? Never fear, you don’t have to! First you need good examples of the colours in your space. For the wall colour, pick up a large selection of paint sampler cards in whites and beiges, for example, from your local paint seller and take them home to compare to the walls. Mark the colour that matches and keep this sample in your purse or wallet to reference on shopping trips.

For the flooring, look for a hidden area where there is excess carpet or vinyl you can trim off without defacing the apartment. In my case, lifting the heat register grates revealed several centimeters of excess material I could trim off. Armed with these samples, your shopping can begin!

The manufacturers of fabric and wallpaper pay very talented designers to create patterns using colours that harmonize. Make those artists work foryou! Look for a patterned fabric that uses your wall colour and your carpet colour in small doses Remember to keep your design scheme in mind when you choose your pattern.

What other colours are in the pattern? Make sure you like them as you’ll be using this pattern as your “palette of colours” from now on! You know these colours will “go” with your carpet and walls because the designer chose them to work together in this fabric.

Updated: November 10, 2012 — 12:26 am

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