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December 12, 2020
Do you remember your first apartment? Buying furniture and curtains and bedding and wall art to make it your own? Were you nervous about putting nails or tacks in the walls to hang up pictures? What about the floors – wall to wall carpet? Yucky linoleum? Whatever the bones of the place, it was all yours, and it probably holds a lot of memories for you.
But do you wish you’d been able to do more with it? Add more personality to your bedroom, some more pizzazz to your kitchen, generally make the place feel more your own? We know what it’s like to be a renter with a burning desire to make more of your space, without sacrificing your security deposit. Luckily, we’ve got a list of easy DIYs that will keep your wallet – and your landlord – content, while helping you infuse your space with your energy and your aesthetic.
SWAP OUT THE HARDWARE
There’s hardware all over your apartment: cabinet handles, closet handles, door knobs, towel rods. All of it is fair game for a good ol’ switcheroo! Knobs and handles are super easy to remove and swap, and you can find them in all shapes and sizes at many retailers. Looking for something basic? Any hardware or big-box store has you covered, easy. Looking for something a bit funkier? Go for smaller, independent shops for those quirkier pieces, like gorgeous painted ceramic ones, glass, brass knobs in the shapes of animals. And don’t forget, for the sustainably-minded consumer or retro enthusiast, the value of going vintage.
The key here is keeping the original hardware to return to its place when the time comes to move out – but if you can keep this in mind, you can apply it all over your apartment. Light fixtures – as long as the requirements and wiring is the same, you can swap ‘em out for different ones, easy (and if you’d rather not futz with that, you can at least change the lightbulbs.) Kitchen cabinets: consider repurposing some cabinet doors from a thrift store or from somewhere like Ikea, or remove them and go open concept to show off your cute dishware. Faucets and showerheads are both easy to change for the fixture of your choice. A slightly more involved but highly rewarding swap – bathroom mirror. A mirror cabinet is, for many, an essential storage area in the bathroom, but there’s no need to be disappointed if the one in your apartment isn’t up to snuff. Take some measurements, check out where the existing holes are, and, like we said – make sure you keep the original.
CONSIDER YOUR ZONES
If you’re looking to personalize a smaller apartment, start by assigning each area a specific function, and then choose a visual element to separate that zone from the surrounding ones. This can be really useful if your bedroom is also your office, and your kitchen is also your dining room. If your landlord allows paint, a swatch of accent color can very clearly delineate the space. If not: peel and stick wallpaper to the rescue! It’s widely accessible these days, in fun patterns and textures, and is super easy both to put up and to take down. The best part about zoning with paint or wallpaper is that you won’t need to do the entire wall, just the expanse that belongs to that zone. A striking carpet under your desk or large, bold headboard behind your bed can create definition between those spaces and keep you from feeling like your bedroom, which should be curated to optimize your rest and relaxation, is taken over by another function.
Find more tips on zoning at Square Inch Home.
UPGRADE YOUR FLOORING
Flooring can be something that can seem kind of hopeless in a rental. However, never fear! If you’re willing to get creative or put in some work, there’s a solution for you.
Plagued by wall to wall carpet? Don’t be afraid to put a rug on it. It may seem odd to layer rugs and carpet, but if the rug fits the space just right, it’ll look fantastic. If the rug is large enough to fill the whole space, leave a fairly narrow margin around. Otherwise, take a hint from the zoning section above and focus on using the rug to delineate a specific area, and consider using rugs in other places, too!
If you’ve managed to avoid carpet but still don’t much like what you’ve got going on, consider going for click and lock SPC. You can put it directly on top of your existing flooring, it’s super easy to install yourself (thanks to the tongue and groove click-and-lock system, which locks in with the tap of a hammer) and, best of all, you can pick it right back up when you’re ready to move. SPC is extremely resistant to damage (it will be unfazed by pets and parties) and easy to maintain, and you can get it in a huge variety of colors and styles. Did we mention it’s a great way to make sure you don’t damage the existing floors? No more worrying about spilling or scratching!
PLANTS: CATCH THE GREEN BUG
Plants are much more than the most popular antidote for COVID19-related cabin fever. They’re also a wonderful way to infuse your space with vitality and beauty. Bringing some green into a neutral space can make white or beige walls seem much brighter and fresher, and there is a nearly infinite variety to choose from based on how involved or how hands off you’d like to be. Succulents and cacti are a great beginner’s plant, since they’re very hardy, and come in a variety of sizes, from fun-size to life-size. Hanging plants can be very visually appealing, with draping vines that also act as décor, and large standing plants add a lot of personality to a space. If you prefer something more utilitarian, or lower commitment, you should consider having some living herbs in your kitchen – you can buy already grown plants in most supermarkets, or you can start from scratch in a cute window box – or, if you’re really in a pinch, cut flowers. Whatever you choose, adding some green to your home instantly adds life and dimension, and give you something to take care of! (If you’ve got pets, though, always be sure to double-check that the plant you’ve fallen in love with and your little guy are compatible. Cat owners: as we head into the holiday season, remember that unfortunately your little babies will not get along with poinsettias!)
And don’t forget – cute planters can add even more spice to your space. It’s a win-win!
GET YOUR VAN GOGH ON
If you don’t have money to burn, but your empty walls are bumming you out, don’t discount giving a new artist a chance – how about yourself? It’s easier than you think to make something visually appealing and give your space a new point of interest, and, these days, there’s no shortage of inspiration on Instagram, Pinterest and Tiktok. Get a canvas from a craft store, some paint and some tape, and make some fun geometric shapes. Or, go completely abstract, and go with splotches, flinging paint, paint-filled balloons, even! (Princess Diaries definitely had the right idea.) Get some help from your pets and frame their paw prints. Get some photos printed – yes, you can still get that done – and make a collage of your adventures, your friends and your family. Got a favorite comic book? Hit up your local used book stores, find a spare copy and frame a page or two. For that matter, go through the art books at those same used book stores, and if you find something you like – frame those too!
There’s no shortage of things you can do to add some pizzazz to your space. Peruse thrift shops and estate sales and look for paintings in cool frames. Even if you don’t like the paintings, you can replace them, or even hang the snazzy frames on the wall, empty! Cute mirrors of various sizes make great fillers for collage walls. If you’ve bought flowers to bring some green into your space, when they start to look a little worse for wear, flip ‘em upside down and hang them on the wall to dry.
If you can afford a splurge, think about supporting a creator directly. Instead of buying something pretty but impersonal at a big box store, take some time and go down a Pinterest and Instagram rabbit hole and find someone who makes prints that really speak to you, and buy from their shop. It can mean the world to someone that you’ve purchased something they’ve created, and you can build a collage wall around that special piece. Tapestries, prints, hangings – there’s a whole wealth of art out there, at a variety of price points, local or from far away. If you like looking at beautiful things, starting a collection of independent art is a great way to add some flair to your home, and it’s a fun new hobby to boot!
Making your space your very own is so important, and it can feel impossible in a rental space. But you can’t let the fact that you’re a renter hold you back. Your apartment should still feel like a sanctuary, restorative and inspiring, with which you’re totally and completely in love. There’s so much you can do with a rental space that will let you infuse it with your taste, without flushing your security deposit down the toilet. Your apartment may not be yours forever, but the memories you make in it will travel with you from home to home for the rest of your life: make sure the backdrop for those memories is one you’ve created for yourself!
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