When you rent instead of own your home or apartment, you might assume that what you see is what you get. While it's true that you likely won't be able to make any major changes to the existing fixtures or layout, there are plenty of ways to personalize a rental and make it feel like yours. Temporary updates, such as plug-in sconces or peel-and-stick tiles, can bring tons of style, but it's typically best to get approval from your landlord before embarking on a project. "If you're updating in a way that brings value, the majority of landlords will not only approve but be grateful for your work," says Chelsea Coulston, a serial renter whose military family has lived in seven homes in 10 years. Her blog, Making Home Base, chronicles their DIY adventures. She gives her landlord the plan details, including how it will improve the property. Try these affordable DIY upgrades to make a statement in a rental (or any small space).
1. Change hardware.
To instantly add character to a rental, freshen bathroom or kitchen cabinets with modern knobs and pulls. Just be sure to save the originals for when you move out. Look for inexpensive options at retailers like IKEA.
2. Replace switchplates.
For a style boost, swap out old plastic light switch covers for something different. Remove the covers when your lease is up or check with your landlord about leaving them for the next tenant to enjoy. Check out Nostalgic Warehouse plates on Wayfair for stylish, affordable options.
3. Add a ceiling medallion.
Add prominence to a pretty light fixture by hanging a lightweight plastic medallion on the ceiling above it. Look for two-piece split designs-which slip easily around an existing light fixture-at home center stores. Many come primed and ready to paint if you'll like to add an extra pop of color.
4. Install peel-and-stick tiles.
When your dream kitchen is out of reach, stick-on tiles are a frugal shortcut to a pretty backsplash. Sheets of Tic Tac Tiles, for example, come in a variety of colors and styles and start at $35 for a 10-pack. The moisture-resistant sheets can be cut to fit using scissors or a utility knife, then applied over paint, ceramic tiles, mirrors, or wallpaper. If you need to remove the sheets, warm them with a blow dryer to soften the adhesive backing then peel them off. A nonabrasive cleanser removes any leftover glue.
5. Swap out your showerhead.
Don't underestimate the power of a new showerhead. Give your bathroom a spa upgrade for less than $100 with an option like Delta's In2ition FiveSpray Two-in-One Combo Kit ($75, The Home Depot). Bonus: If you buy one labeled WaterSense, you might trim your monthly water bill. (It uses 20% less water than the industry standard.) OK the swap with your landlord or store the original to reinstall.
6. Update lighting.
Sure, you could add another table lamp, but plug-in sconces also add architectural interest with no more hassle than drilling a couple of holes and turning a screwdriver. Or turn recessed lights into pendants for impact in the entry or above a kitchen sink with a simple kit like the Portfolio Polished Nickel Pendant Light Conversion Kit ($25, Lowe's).
For added lighting in the kitchen, install a length of dimmable LED tape light under cabinets. You can customize the Plug & Light LED Under-Cabinet Tape Light Kit (starting at $10, AQLighting) to fit your space.
7. Frame a mirror.
Don't settle for an uninteresting, unfinished wall mirror in the bathroom. Frame it instead. The frame company MirrorMate builds a custom-size frame that sticks onto the mirror edge with heavy-duty tape. It's removable, but it's so good-looking your landlord might ask you to leave it.
8. Repurpose rooms.
When you can't make any structural changes, it's time to get creative with your existing layout. Rethink underused spaces to better serve your needs. Repurpose a coat closet as a pantry, for example, or use a linen closet to store toys.
9. Repaint walls.
So many rentals have beige or yellow-white walls. A fresh coat of paint will give your space a clean backdrop. Many landlords repaint between tenants anyway, but you might want to clear it with yours first before picking up a brush.