by Winnie Saunders
Rentals can feel like college dorms – spaces are small, carpets are worn, and kitchens are dated. Since you don’t own the space, you don’t want to invest any money into it – you’ll never get that money back. But you don’t have to live like a cash-strapped student – you can turn your rental into a home by making smart design decisions
First, never invest in anything you can’t take with you. Install freestanding book shelves instead of wall shelves or built-in cabinets Buy an armoire or a dresser instead of a custom closet system. And remember to compromise; learn to love the ugly tiles in the bathroom, since new limestone tiles could set you back hundreds of dollars.
Where can you spend your money? Good quality furniture is always a wise investment. A sturdy dining table and a comfortable mattress will make your time in your rental enjoyable. Best of all, when you move into your first house, you can take your furniture with you.
Wallpaper is beautiful, but it is expensive. It is also stationary-your landlord will never let you take down the drywall to transport your $100 a yard wallpaper to your new home. So leave the wallpaper at the store, and grab a can of paint instead. Paint is an affordable way to transform any space. Feel free to experiment with colors – try a daring purple in your living room or a bold pink in your bedroom.
Just be prepared to paint over your brave choices with a neutral color when you leave your rental, or risk forfeiting your security deposit. If you want to paint anything other than the walls in your unit – like a cabinet or a door – check with your landlord first.
Few rentals have gleaming hardwood floors Tired parquet and dingy carpets are standard in most apartments. If the floors in your rental unit are dated and dirty, cover them with rugs or carpet tiles, Keep the rug dimensions large; when you move into your first home, you want these investment pieces to fit your new larger rooms.
Is the Sos-era chandelier in the dining room the joke of the dinner party? Does the flickering fluorescent light in the bathroom give you a headache? You don’t have to put up with tacky light fixtures and dim rooms.
Purchase timeless light fixtures, since you’ll be staring at them for years to come. When you install your new lights, store the old lights in a closet or cabinet. When you move out of the rental, reinstall the old chandeliers, and take your new lights to your new home.
Rental units, especially those in high-rise buildings, can appear cold. Four blank walls and a lack of architectural features can make yourhome seem devoid of personality. Fortunately, you can give your rental unit character without investing in crown moulding by hanging artwork on the walls.
Go with one large painting behind your sofa or over your bed, or create a gallery by grouping different sized pictures in the center of a wall. Artwork should have meaning; don’t just purchase the first print you find at the store. Buy a painting that you love, or blow up favorite family portraits or vacation photos and have them custom framed.
Rental units with views are rare finds – most rentals overlook other rentals. If you don’t want to see your neighbor making breakfast in the morning, you’ll need to invest in window coverings Instead of installing blinds or roman shades on your windows, hang curtains.
Panel curtains can be packed up and moved to your future home, but custom blinds and shades are cut to fit one window only. Odds are, your future home won’t have a window the same size as the window in your rental. Again, don’t buy it ifyou can’t take it with you.
If you still want to change a feature in your rental unit – the back splash in the kitchen, for example, or the showerhead in the bathroom – see if you can make a deal with your landlord. Volunteer to install the back splash tile or the showerhead for free if the landlord covers the purchase price. Labor is expensive; the promise of free labor just might entice your landlord to upgrade the finishes in your rental unit.