The 5 *Best* Ways to Update a Rental Apartment

Hooray! Your new apartment has a fabulous location, updated appliances and...all the personality of a dentist’s office in Des Moines. Don’t stress, though—we asked our designer friends to share their top tip for adding flair to a space that isn’t yours to keep.

How to Give A Cookie-Cutter Home Some Character (Without Breaking the Bank)

Upgrade Generic Lighting Fixtures

Coterie member Gabriela Gargagno of Grisoro Designs swears by adding interest with elevated lighting fixtures. Her tried-and-true go tos? “Wall-mounted plug-in sconces instead of table lamps (who doesn’t love a good swing-arm sconce?), and if you have harsh, recessed lighting, add a few interesting lamps with soft lighting to create a more inviting space.”

cozy eclectic living room
Courtesy of Bella Mancini Design

Install Legit Window Treatments

Interior designer Bella Mancini swears that curtains, roller shades, blinds and elevated window hardware can make a space feel light-years more polished and personalized. “Custom window treatments are literally so transformative that they’re worth the expense!” she insists.

boho accent wall
Courtesy of Homepolish

Splurge On Removable Wallpaper

The single most impactful way to upgrade a rental? Removable wallpaper, of course—even if it’s just an accent wall or two. “You can’t take it when you leave, but wallpaper really adds so much personality,” says Coterie member and Homepolish designer Tina Rich. “It’s well worth it”.

tharon kitchen red flowers
Courtesy of Tharon Anderson Design

Invest In Quality Furnishings

If you know that your space is temporary, it can be tempting to opt for bargain furniture. But if you ask designer Tharon Anderson, quality pieces are a worthy splurge—not to mention, the best way to make your space feel like a real grown-up home. “If a standard-size sofa fits in your apartment, it will surely fit in your house some day,” she says. Don’t waste money and displeasure on a lumpy sofa that will only last a few years.”

dark paint foyer
Courtesy of Homepolish

Personalize The Space With Paint

An oldie but a goodie: In most rental spaces, you’re welcome to paint the walls if you return them back to their original state upon leaving. So why not take advantage? “Don't shy away from painting your rental just because you’ll likely have to paint it back,” says Homepolish designer Tali Roth. “It's important to create a space that feels uniquely you in the interim, and a coat of paint is the best way to achieve that.”


Home Editor

From 2014-2019 Grace Beuley Hunt held the role of Home Editor covering interior design, styling, trends and more.