20 Renter-Friendly DIY and Decorating Ideas!

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A question or comment we get a lot on videos is …. “But what about rentals?” The Creative Weirdos in apartments and other leased spaces have the same amount of creativity and weirdness and design potential to express, they’re just limited by the terms of a rental agreement. But if you have the will, I have so many ways (specifically: 20) to transform your home without starting a war with your landlord. Check out the video above and read more about the projects below!

Deck The Walls

1. Removable Wallpaper

You knew I had to start here! It’s as obvious as it is easy as it is effective! One of my favorite uses was actually this wallpaper mural we used in the $10,000 Room Makeover (which was a rental!)

The difference between a mural and just regular wallpaper is that a mural is meant to take up one wall, whereas regular wallpaper has a repeating pattern that can be started and stopped anywhere!

This technique was also seen in Niki DeMar’s 70s-Inspired Apartment … both with a colorful pattern in the dining room and a realistic stone facade behind the entertainment system. 

If you’re unsure about committing to an entire wall — what about some doors? In this Weird Shaped Apartment Makeover, we covered some sliding doors in the kitchen in a lovely blue and white pattern and the effect is amazing!

For a more crafty/ budget take on this — try a roll of wrapping paper! We used this in our Dorm Room, 3 Ways video, and it added a fun pop of color and pattern for less than $5.

2. Wall Decals

Just as removable as wallpaper, but smaller and more stylized … we love a wall decal! These can be seen in quite a few spaces we’ve done, but the black and white palm leaves in James Charles’s home always stand out to me as an elegant example.

The fun thing about wall decals is that they can be used to highlight specific features of your space, like these vibrant leaves that made the stairs in the Rainbow Room Makeover into an indoor jungle moment.

Even though decals are smaller than rolls of wallpaper, they can still be used to fill large spaces … just look at our BeautyCon booth, adorned with decal gems!

Of course, I couldn’t discuss decals without showing off the dinosaurs from Colleen’s nursery! These decals were actually created from paintings I made. You can find businesses online where you can upload your own artwork and they will size it out, print it as a decal, and ship it to you!

3. Washi Tape

I love this idea so much, I can’t believe I’ve never done it! This awesome, easy, and super-removable wall art is courtesy of Creative Weirdo Blandine!

4. Wood Plank Wall

This project is a bit more involved, but such an immersive way to get that trendy Modern Farmhouse style in an apartment or rental unit! This shiplap wall in Lily Marston’s apartment is entirely mounted with removable strips, meaning no wall damage whatsoever!

Instead of white wood, we used pale, whitewashed wood planks in this Beachy Bedroom Makeover for a relaxed, bohemian take on the project.

Also don’t forget Colleen’s chevron wood wall! We have a DIY tutorial just for that, so all you need are the supplies and the time and we’ll walk you through how to get this effect!

5. Fill It With Photos

We mentioned the much loved, oft used Gallery Wall in our recent 25 DIYs to Do While Stuck At Home video, but it’s time to expand on that notion. This gallery wall from the Weirdly Shaped Apartment Makeover was hung using Command strips! Don’t let an inability to create holes in your walls stop you from hanging things!

Another great gallery wall was this one from the Color Trends Apartment Makeover. I used some paint to create most of the artwork up on the wall, so the focus is on the family photos! You don’t need to have a massive art collection to fill up your wall space … just make your own!

Once you have a gallery wall set up, you can play around with switching different art or photos in and out! We have a gallery wall in our dining room, and I change it up every once in a while to give the room and house a different feel!

The Big Stuff

6. Clean It and Mean It

You may wonder why I started “The Big Stuff” section with cleaning … but this really is the biggest thing! Nothing will make you feel more cramped and confined in your rental (especially if it’s a small one) than clutter. Just look at the difference some organization made in Tiny’s Bedroom Makeover!

For families who rent, toys are another big thing that can create clutter. My mantra is that everything should have its place … so that’s exactly what we did for this Garage Playroom Makeover!

7. Rug Cuddle

A lot of rental units are already carpeted. You can’t help that. But that does not mean that you need to embrace the existing carpeting if it does not work with your design. There is nothing — I repeat nothing!! — wrong with putting a rug over carpet. Look at how much this rug lightened up Andrea Brooks’ space.

We also used this trick in the $10,000 Room Makeover!

A key thing to remember for this is to consider if heavy furniture will be on top of the rug, and if so, to find a rug that is strong enough to not buckle where the weight is … you can see this at work in the Rainbow Room Makeover below.

Also, as demonstrated in this Under $200 Bedroom Makeover, you don’t need to choose a fluffy or shag rug! We chose more of a woven rug for this space and it worked excellently.

8. Wall-i-tis

SOS! Do you have Wall-i-tis? To diagnose, look around your room … is all of your furniture lining the walls? This is one of the most common issues we see in spaces, but are you ready for the bright side? It’s completely free to fix! Just reconsider your layout and rearrange your furniture to a better layout. The difference is enormous, as seen in the Under $1000 Home Makeover!

Here, in the Under $300 Living Room Makeover, just moving the sofa off of the wall made the biggest difference to the flow of the room, and actually made it seem larger!

If you have an open concept space like Jessie Paege’s, this rule is especially important to you. Get creative with the floor space you have to create a space that feels inviting and interesting.

Sometimes just moving one piece makes all the difference! For this Garage Playroom Makeover, we positioned the DIY table desk diagonally into the room and it completely changed the entire vibe.

9. Shelving

For renters, or anyone averse to putting holes in their walls, shelves are still an option for you! Consider getting an etagere or two, like we have in our living room.

These etageres are really seen to great effect in Paula’s Pink Bedroom. We chose lucite options, which makes them seem like floating shelves, even though they are standing structures!

Another option is a leaning bookshelf or two, as we used in this Breaking Beige Nursery!

If you’re in a DIY mood though, or prefer a more bohemian look, may I suggest these DIY Rope Shelves?

10. Windows

Repeat after me: vertical blinds are the enemy! So many rental spaces have these unfortunate features, but they are easy to get rid of and easy to replace if you have the desire. You can unclip the blinds and clip in some curtains for an easy replacement … or remove the track alltogether and opt for some window film, like we used in Lilly Singh’s Office Makeover!

Make It Pretty!

11. Artwork

I may be biased when I say this, since I am also a jewelry designer, but making something look its best is all about the accessories! The easiest accessory for your home? Some DIY artwork! Try an idea like this Drip Paint Bicycle from the Under $300 Living Room, and use the previous idea of damage-free hanging to display it!

One of my favorite tricks though, especially with smaller spaces, is to always have one big piece of art. If you have some willing friends/ family members/ roommates, try this DIY Acrylic Pour Art like we did for the Dolan Twins’ Dining Room!

One of the most oft-recreated pieces of art is this DIY Dragged Paint Art from Cloe Couture’s Apartment! No extra hands needed for this one, just a squeegee!

If you’re not sure about all that pattern though, consider a simple painted canvas. We used this as a trick to bring some color into the No-Paint-Allowed Office Goals spaces.

It also worked great as a updated bulletin/ inspiration board in Shizen’s Apartment!

12. New Hardware

A lot of rentals come with old, or pretty basic hardware. An easy facelift for a kitchen or bathroom is to switch those pulls and knobs out for something more your style! We used this trick in the Under $300 Kitchen Makeover, so you know it’s affordable!

This idea isn’t just for kitchens or bathrooms, though! Give your dresser or nightstand a new finish with some fancy new knobs! Some of my favorite knobs we ever used were these crystal ones in Andrea Brooks’s Bedroom!

13. Contact Paper

Like the removable wallpaper idea, just on a smaller scale. If you have a fridge, counter, or surface that could use a new facade, buy a roll of contact paper and get to work! We used marble contact paper to update this fridge in Tati’s Glam Room!

For a tutorial on applying contact paper, check out this DIY Marble Table!

14. Upcycled Furniture

Sometimes the best projects are the ones hiding right before your eyes! I’ve always been a major proponent for upcycling, since it’s cost-efficient, environmentally-friendly, and super creative! One of my favorite upcycled projects was this DIY Shadowbox Table, which we literally turned upside down to give new life!

Bar carts are all the rage right now, but if you don’t have one yourself … consider DIY-ing it? All this project needed was an old suitcase and some table legs, and the end product is oh-so-Instagrammable.

Any old school Creative Weirdos probably recognize this DIY Stick Chair! I took an old and beat up accent chair, some paint, fabric, and sticks sourced from nature, and created this whimsical seating option.

15. Color & Pattern

Since leases and rental agreements tend to be rather restrictive with rules, renters can end up feeling limited and make safe choices in all aspects of their apartment/ home design. But a bunch of bland/ safe choices just make for an uninspiring space. Break out of our your (beige) rut with some color and pattern … even with just one thing like this easy DIY Banana Art!

If the bananas are a little too bold for you, try making art out of just one color, like we did for this triptych from Joslyn Davis’ Studio!

But how about painting not paper … but curtains?! This project is from my book, A Hot Glue Gun Mess, but I also made a video tutorial of it!

Light It Up!

16. Recessed Conversion Kits

Recessed lights are a fact of life … you can’t change that they are a very common feature in rental spaces, but you can change them out. We used recessed conversion kits in spaces like Eva Gutowski’s Bedroom to install pretty pendants that just fit right into the lightbulb socket of the recessed light!

We also used these in the Dolan Twins’ Dining Room, to emphasize the lighting over the dining table. There are so many options available online for lights like these!

17. Swag Lighting

Admittedly, this one is a little hard to do without making at least one hole, but a ceiling hole is more easily covered up and disguised than wall holes, and if that’s the tiny price to pay for some major overhead mood lighting … it’s worth it! It’s so nice to be able to hang a light where there wasn’t one before, like here in Mia Stammer’s Living Room!

You could even DIY your own swag light like we did for this Playroom Makeover!

These hanging lights really work in almost any space in the home! I loved using a swag light as a bedside light instead of a lamp in this Tween Bedroom Makeover.

18. Floor and Table Lamps

But that doesn’t mean that lamps don’t have their place. A designer’s trick for lighting is to make sure that there are light sources at different heights/ levels in a room. This is where lamps come into play. If you’re looking for a fun project, I have always loved this DIY Cement Lamp we made!

Or a DIY approach that works for either table or floor lamps are these Floral Lampshades!

19. Plug-In Wall Sconces

I think that renters often forget about sconces as a lighting option, since they seem too permanent/ too much work to install. But! There are so many plug-in sconce options available, and they can have such an impact on a room, like this swing arm sconce did in James Charles’ Home.

We also used a plug-in sconce in Eva Gutowski’s room to create a cozy lighting situation for her windowsill nook!

Here is a set of double sconces in Joey Graceffa’s Gaming Room, adding some symmetrical, stylish light to his dark and enchanting space.

Plug-in sconces are close to home for me … because they’re literally in my home! When I wasn’t enjoying having lamps on our bedside tables anymore because they took up too much space, I opted for plug-in sconces hung above the tables instead!

20. Mirrors

Our last idea! While a mirror isn’t technically a source of light, it is the best way to emphasize and augment the light you already have in your home. A big mirror can do wonders for a small space to really make it seem much brighter, open, and more spacious, like here in Shizen’s Boho Glam Apartment.

Another major mirror moment in Alisha Marie’s bedroom!

Here in Charley’s Bedroom, I placed the mirror opposite the windows, so it would reflect the natural light back across the room and really brighten up the space!

Also don’t forget that a mirror can also be a DIY moment like this Painted Positivity Mirror from Andrea Russett’s Guest Bedroom!

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