10 ways to renovate as a renter

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Joey Held

As a writer, Joey Held has specialized in business, marketing, sports, music and insurance topics for more than a decade. He's also a podcaster …

If you rent an apartment or home, you might feel like you’re stuck with whatever you get. Those boring gray walls? That weak showerhead? A bare balcony? They can bring your spirit down.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to renovate a rental. Many are inexpensive and easily reversible, so you can quickly swap looks when you’re feeling something new. 

Remember to always ask your landlord before making any major changes. Some have rules against certain renovations (such as painting), so check what your rental agreement says to ensure you don’t get hit with a fine when you move out.

1. Add a patio garden



Almost every apartment has some kind of outdoor space. Some people use it as additional storage, but you can grow a little zen garden by including some plants. Keep it simple with some ivy or succulents or go extra fancy with something like an Alocasia Silver Dragon or Fiddle Leaf Fig.

Throw in a few pieces of furniture, a table, and hang up some string lighting. Voila! You’ve got the perfect setting for a date night or relaxing dinner under the stars when the weather is nicer.

Of course, if your apartment doesn't have a patio, you can still create some indoor zen with house plants on windowsills or even hanging. As long as your apartment is not a windowless box (which we hope for many reasons it's not), you can support plant life. 

2. Paint the walls

Though your apartment or home may have a nice layout, the walls are often painted a neutral gray, white or brown. If you get the go-ahead from your landlord, you can turn those walls into a celebration of color instead.

Experiment with more bold colors, like blue, red or green, and enjoy the new look. If you're doing a darker color, you may want to start with just an accent wall so you don't make your space seem smaller.

You may have to paint the walls back to their original color when you leave, but that’s a small trade-off for a burst of beauty.

3. Get creative with wall art


If your landlord doesn’t allow for painting, you could always go the wall art route instead. Hang photos and selfies up on the wall, or display paintings and sketches if you’re more of an artist.

Go big with wallpaper, too. We’ve moved beyond the tacky looks of the 70s and 80s and you can find some incredibly modern options for every room of the rental. Just make sure to choose a wall paper or decals that peel on and off, so you can easily mix and match to your heart’s content.

4. Add some rugs

Most apartments and some homes tend to follow a similar format. They put carpet in the bedroom(s) and living rooms, and have non-aesthetically pleasing tile — usually linoleum or vinyl — everywhere else. While you likely can’t lift up the tile or remove the carpeting without giving your landlord a panic attack, you can turn to rugs with no problems.

A nice throw rug can introduce a pop of color and design to the middle of a room. Add one to your kitchen, dining room, or bathroom — not to mention the front hallway — to create an inviting space for both you and your guests.

5. Add more kitchen counter space


Have you ever looked at your kitchen and thought “you know, I wish I had more counter space in here?” If so, you can easily create some additional room.

Add a rolling kitchen island to introduce extra countertop and storage space. Keep any appliances you use regularly on the counters that are already there, and use the island for food prep. Many rolling islands also double as a mobile table, which is great for a more minimalist approach.

6. Turn up the lights

Lighting is a wonderful way to express your individuality. Add a few floor or tableside lamps that showcase your personality; some larger lamps come with shelving, which you can adorn with photos or other mementos. For the bedroom, plug in a fancy bedside lamp for a little nighttime reading and relaxation. Using lamp bulbs with warm temperatures (2,700 to 3,500 Kelvin) will cause your body and mind to drift toward dreamland. 

If you’re handy, you can even remove a light fixture in the living room or bedroom and install your own. Just make sure you know what you’re doing and swap it back to the original before you move out. And if you have a room with no overhead lighting at all, try a few of these alternatives.

7. Use some shower power

Showerheads tend to lose their luster over the years, and you might find yourself wishing you had more power. Luckily, it’s not difficult to replace a showerhead, so you can upgrade with ease. Go for a showerhead with multiple settings to create a nice spa experience, or use an energy-efficient showerhead to reduce your water usage — and cut down on your water bill, if you’re responsible for it. 

To be really efficient, take phone calls, prepare meals and shop online all from your shower. We don’t recommend that, of course, but it’s an option.

no-8. Increase your storage space

One of the drawbacks to apartments is they often lack adequate storage space. You can channel your inner Marie Kondo and get rid of a ton of clutter. Or, why not increase your storage space while adding flair to your home?

Use furniture with extra storage space, such as a colorful ottoman, a table with extra shelves underneath or a mattress with drawers under the bed. Placing woven baskets around the home allows you to store smaller items while also adding to the aesthetic. Putting racks, bins and expandable hangers in your closet also frees up much needed space.

9. Stack your shelves


When you run out of space on the ground, create some more by building up. Shelves are the perfect spot to house photos, souvenirs, light workout gear, silverware, pet supplies and so much more.

Bracket shelves are a bit easier to install than floating shelves, but both add a lot of style to your home while opening up more places to store your items. Here’s how to properly set up these shelves.  

Kick back, enjoy and keep your stuff safe

Now, you’re ready to invite people over so they can check out the new look of your place. Or, just stay at home and enjoy it all to yourself. Either way works.

One thing that's always a good idea is to make sure you're keeping all the things new and old in your apartment secure. Curious about which renters insurance is the best for you? Check out your options here.

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