A year ago, we moved from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom. It was thrilling to finally have a room for our daughters to share with each other instead of with us. We were so grateful for the space, but when we looked around we saw a lot of blank walls to fill. Because we are tenants, we do not have the luxury of painting or truly renovating things to our liking. However, we’ve figured out some great ways to make the place feel warm and perfect for our family despite the rental limitations. The best part? We did it on a very tight budget.

Here are my top tips for making your rental a home, while still respecting the landlord’s wishes:

 

1. Make Art From Your Own Photos. Our dining area has the largest white wall in our home, so I found three photos that I took with my camera and had them blown up. I purchased the most inexpensive matching frames and hung them side by side for maximum impact. It immediately made the room look full and colorful, adding a bit of drama. If you prefer a mismatched gallery wall, it’s easy to find large frames at any vintage or thrift store that can give you that eclectic look or be painted to your liking. This will make your space very personal—I enjoy looking at the photos and remembering the day I took them.

 

 

2. Use Wall Decals. If you can’t paint, beautify your space with vinyl- or PVC-free wall decals or coverings. The options are endless. We found polka dot decals for our girls’ bedroom and they add so much life and brightness to their room without the permanency. Not to mention they’re reusable, so they’re foolproof to apply and can be used for future design projects.

 

 

3. Paint Your Own Modern Art. We bought a giant canvas on sale, took out all of our paints and grungy clothing, and went to town. We painted polka dots, stripes, and swirls together to make a perfect little piece of art for the girls. They love that it’s clearly their own work, and I love that I’ve filled another blank wall with something cheerful. Another fun part is that we can paint over it whenever we’re ready for something new! And, of course, try to use no-VOC paint for your canvases (or walls if you actually can paint those) to avoid exposure to chemical fumes that can harm sensitive breathers or asthmatics.

 

 

4. Use Shower Curtains. Bathrooms can be updated easily with a bright, colorful shower curtain. We used a striped one to hide our very old shower doors. This trick made a huge impact for a small price in our tired-looking bathroom. Just opt for a washable fabric like organic cotton, linen, canvas, or hemp instead of the off-gassing polyvinyl chloride (PVC) kind that releases toxic fumes that can be inhaled by you and your children. To avoid brining home a vinyl shower curtain, look for  and stay away from those with the “#3” or the letters “PVC” next to the three-arrow recycling symbol.

 

 

5. Keep Live Plants. I get small ones for $3 or $4 and place them on end tables and other surfaces around my home. It adds life and warmth to the apartment instantly. Plus, it helps purify indoor air where the concentration of pollutants is two to five times greater, on average, than outdoors.

6. Be Patient. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect when you move in or even when you’ve lived there for a year. We still have to many areas to decorate. The important thing is to be content with where you are in the process and beautify piece by piece so that you’re sure you’re getting what you really like for yourselves, and you’re not breaking the bank.

The most important element for making a house a home is that it reflects you! What are your favorite apartment design tips?

~ Kate Brightbill of Style Smaller

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  • Jen Hansard

    I love the tips you shared! We are huge fan of buying used items and repurposing. You can see my home tour where the majority of our home is second-hand purchases: http://familysponge.com/create/cool-home-ideas/home-tour-second-hand-treasures/

  • http://twitter.com/delightedmag Delighted Magazine

    Great post. I particularly love the idea of painting a canvas. What fun!

  • Denice

    Bookshelves, bookshelves, bookshelves! We started buying Storehouse (out of business now) to take care of our multitude of books, both educational and gifts. Our dining room is now 10 feet of shelving by @92 Inches tall. We have gotten ooohs and ahhhs, because they look as if they are built ins. When we moved, we had one 20-inch cabinet too many and placed it in another room on a very small lonely wall. The cherry colored wood goes beautifully with our dining set and flows into the other room with the cabinet. This way there is no painting, then repainting when we move out. The books, and display items offer bright colors and interest.

    • http://blog.honest.com/ Honest

      Books are such a wonderful addition to a home. It sounds like you have an exciting library.