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Best and Worst Things to Add to a Rental, According to Interior Designers

  • Some renter-friendly additions are more worth your time and money than others. 
  • Skip bulky beds, customized furniture, dark paint, and storage racks to free up space.
  • Brighten up your living room with wallpaper and use adhesive tape to make a gallery wall.

Renting a home or apartment comes with its own set of decorating challenges. 

Certain design choices may make your space more beautiful and efficient. Others can make life harder or even violate the terms of your lease. 

Insider asked interior designers for their take on the best and worst things renters can add to their homes.

Add an area rug for an instant dose of coziness

Interior designer Jessica Welling told Insider that a well-chosen area rug will go a long way towards making your rented space feel like home. 

“Bare floors in a rental leave the space feeling unfinished, especially in a living room or bedroom,” said Welling. “An area rug is the perfect fix.”

Rugs don’t need to be expensive, but Welling noted that they should be large enough to fit your seating furniture.

Clip-on task lights can brighten dark corners

Dark room with hanging lights.

Overhead lights will brighten up your space.

kunmom/Shutterstock


Using a wall or furniture-mounted task lamp can make a small rental space feel brighter and less crowded. 

“Having your task lighting mounted overhead makes cleaning easier and frees up desk, floor, or table space,” said Welling. 

Make sure to purchase lamps that can be mounted with non-destructive adhesives or clamps. Opt for fixtures with cords that plug into the wall rather than the kind that needs to be wired in. 

Patio furniture is a must for outdoor space

Balcony with twinkle lights and patio furniture.

Make your outdoor space even cozier with furniture.

fashioninmysoul/Shutterstock


Whether your rental comes with a large backyard or a tiny balcony, adding comfy seating or a dining set can help you get the most out of your space. 

“Even if you can only fit a single chair on your balcony, it’s totally worth getting some patio furniture to make your outdoor space usable,” said Welling. 

You can also add plug-in string lighting or a durable rug to create some extra ambiance.

Peel-and-stick wallpaper can add instant personality to a rental

Stick-on wallpaper may be the perfect way to add some flair to your rental home’s walls without violating your lease. 

“I suggest using peel-and-stick wallpaper strategically on just one of two accent walls to create a focal point,” Welling told Insider. 

Carefully read all the instructions before applying it and make sure your walls have the right type of paint and texture, or the wallpaper may not stay on properly. 

Add window treatments to give your space a polished look

wooden table and chair in modern dinning room at home

Consider adding curtains to your windows for an elevated look.

All About Space/Shutterstock


Interior designer Courtney Sempliner told Insider that window treatments can give your rental home a serious aesthetic boost. 

“Curtains can change a space entirely,” Sempliner said. They can help with “framing a window to create the perfect view or blocking an unsightly one,” she added. 

Try using tension rods to suspend your curtains to avoid drilling into the wall to mount brackets. 

Moveable bookshelves and partitions can help you customize your living space

luxury modern design of a cozy small Scandinavian-style studio apartment with white walls, second floor with a library and huge high window full of day light

Moveable partitions and bookshelves can help break up a room.

PinkyWinky/Shutterstock


Interior designer Laura Roberts said it’s easy for renters to add more function and storage to their space with furniture partitions. 

“A moveable bookshelf or storage partition can turn a single room into separate dining and office spaces,” said Roberts. “And, of course, you can take them with you when you move out.”

Heavier partitions like bookshelves or wardrobes may block some sound. Thinner paper or fabric screens allow some light to pass through, keeping both sides of a room bright. 

On the other hand, you might want to skip the over-the-toilet storage racks

Over-the-toilet storage racks may seem like a great space-saving idea, but this kind of shelving can lead to unhygienic mishaps. 

“These racks leave your products sitting right over the toilet and items can easily fall in,” said Welling.

Instead, Welling recommended placing storage baskets and caddies away from the toilet. 

Oversized beds can make your space feel tiny

Pillows on modern bed with grey lamp on wooden table side in modern bedroom.

A raised bed can make your space feel larger.

All About Space/Shutterstock


Trying to squeeze your king-sized bed into a twin-sized bedroom may leave you feeling cramped.

“It’s common to see massive beds crammed into small rental bedrooms,” Welling told Insider. “A better option is to size down and free up floor space.”

Welling suggested opting for a platform bed with a headboard and without a footboard to maximize your bedroom space. You can also choose a

bed frame
with built-in storage drawers. 

If you paint your space, stick to light colors

Some leases allow tenants to paint their walls as long as they are returned to their original condition before they move out.

Save yourself a headache and keep any new paint colors relatively light. “Having to paint over dark colors will take hours of labor and gallons of paint,” said Sempliner. 

Don’t use tacks or nails to hang artwork

Wooden chair at desk with yellow lamp and laptop in home office interior with gallery.

Use adhesive tape instead of tacks to hang art.

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock


Adding artwork to your rental can elevate your space, but using tacks or nails may violate the terms of your lease. 

“Consider using adhesive wall-strips to hang art, which can be easily removed and won’t damage the walls,” said Sempliner. 

If your rental came furnished, try swapping any pre-existing art for your own pieces to avoid drilling new holes or spending money on adhesives. 

Custom-sized furniture can be a risky investment if you’re renting

Splurging on large, custom-sized pieces of furniture like sectional sofas or media cabinets may not be a wise investment. 

“Keep in mind that custom-sized furniture that fits your current space may not fit into the next, and furniture generally has a very low resale value,” Roberts told Insider.

You may also want to choose furniture pieces that can be easily disassembled or reconfigured, which will make moving out easier.