Personalizing Your Rental Space: Common Dos and Don’ts

by Cassandra McCullersJanuary 29, 2018

Renting an apartment or house has always been a popular alternative to home ownership for couples, singles, and college students, and the popularity of renting continues to grow as a viable option to affordable housing. But just because you’re renting, doesn’t mean you can’t make the space your own. Most rentals allow a fair bit of self-expression — just be sure to check with your landlord before embarking on any permanent changes.

If it’s a cosmetic change that you can (and will) remove yourself when you vacate, its probably okay. These include hanging posters, changing the window coverings, adding throw rugs, and accessorizing your furniture. But whatever you choose to do, don’t be afraid to make it your own. This is now your space, and even if you’ll only be there a short while, you should feel comfortable making it a reflection of your tastes and interests. And best of all, many of the temporary changes you make you’ll be able to take with you to your next home, adding to your collection of personalized touches over time.



You’ll want to check with your landlord beforehand, but typically renters are allowed to add nails in the walls as long as they spackle over them when they move out. Rental agencies expect to have to paint between tenants, so you may be able to paint or add other non-textured wall coverings, like temporary wallpaper, depending upon your agreement. Don’t paint over natural wood, brick or stone, though, unless you get permission from the landlord in writing. You can also put up peel-and-stick tiles in various places, including as a kitchen backsplash. If your lease agreement bans nails, try hanging pictures with adhesive strips. There are also no-nail adhesive hooks you can put on the wall for additional space to hang things.


One of the easiest ways to add color, texture, and warmth to a space is by adding area rugs. Rugs and other innovative floor coverings are inherently temporary and do nothing permanent to the existing floor system. Rugs can completely change the color and vibe of a space, while adding a delicious layer of insulation against any foot-freezing wood or tile floors.
cabinet hardware


While looking for ways to make your rental into your home, don’t forget to look at the knobs, handles, pulls, towel rods, and other nick-knacks. Often builders will use very inexpensive, commercial looking hardware throughout their rentals as a way of keeping their costs down. You can swap these out for pieces that make the space more unique, then swap them back when you leave, and take your upgrades along with you. You may be able to find some very affordable options at flea markets, antique shops, or big box stores.


Hate that drippy shower faucet, ugly light fixture, or the gnarly toilet seat? You might be surprised to find out how easily those things can be upgraded. Get the high pressure shower head or other fixtures of your liking and swap them out. Just be sure to save the original fixtures and appliances, and then return them to their places when you vacate the property. Or, if you don’t want to keep the originals around, check with the landlord – they may appreciate the free upgrade. You can also donate them to a worthy charity, like one of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore shops.
Exposed Brick Wall


Speaking of free, don’t expect that you’ll recoup the costs for any upgrades that you add. If you want new outlet plate covers, go for it! But it’s very unlikely that the landlord will cover those costs, even if you plan on leaving them behind when your lease is up.

Don’t make any permanent or hard-to-reverse changes without written permission from the landlord. This includes everything from major renovations like removing walls, to minor touches like painting brick.

Don’t forget to read your lease agreement, to see if there’s any specific language about what you can or can’t do — some places don’t allow you to paint or put in nails, while others don’t mind anything short of a floor plan change.

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About The Author
Cassandra McCullers
Cassandra is a writer with a background in engineering, enjoying the rural life in the Virginian Appalachians. When not working, she enjoys writing fiction, running a blog, camping, working in the garden, and tending to her flock of chickens! In addition to writing, she has a passion for art and graphic design. Her interests include disaster preparedness, homesteading, landscaping, cooking with natural ingredients, history, and animal husbandry.