The Renter's Guide to Apartment Décor

When you're renting, you still want to live in a place that feels like home, even if you don't own it.

But renters have two unique hurdles to overcome in the décor department. First, you need to respect the rental agreement and avoid putting your security deposit in jeopardy by taking too many liberties in the 'improvement' department. Second, even if you are given the 'all clear' to do what you want, spending more money on top of monthly rent to improve someone else's property isn't the best use of your hard-earned resources.

Fortunately, both issues have a single remedy: Invest in personal home décor pieces that you can use to punch up your pad now and then take with you when you leave!

The Home Depot and have collaborated to create a comprehensive guide to some of the best design ideas and most creative DIY solutions to solve these décor dilemmas. The projects range from sprucing up your floors, with alluring area rugs, dazzling tables and glittering baskets to creating welcome wall art using stencils and paints, to making your windows absolutely unique while employing utterly inexpensive materials.

And the best part is that you can recreate them for yourself whether you have tons of practice with a paintbrush or simply prefer to add embellishments after you swipe your card.

And for some additional ideas on fabulous flooring, window and painting topics, you might want to view these pages on the Home Depot site:

So check out the wealth of options at your disposal and start deciding how you're going to turn your décor dreams into a rental reality!

1. DIY Décor: 'Craft' Projects Anyone Can Tackle to Spice up Your Place

Even if you can barely make a straight cut with a pair of scissors, there are plenty of fabulous furnishings you can fashion yourself! Here are some of our favorites:

a. Wall Art

No matter the base paint color, beautiful walls are simple to achieve (and repair before you vacate) through projects just like these.

Wall Art

Colorful Canvases 
Here are some of the unique ways you can work with a canvas to create completely custom artwork:

DIY 'Quilt' Canvas 
Instead of sewing together a quilt for your bed, paint a quilted pattern on a canvas for hanging over your bed! 

DIY Ombre Chevron Canvas 
Two of the hottest trends these days are ombre designs (a color scheme that uses the same color in progressively lighter/darker shades, sort of like a sliding scale of color) and chevron patterns (zigzags). Here's a canvas tutorial that incorporates both.

Modern 'Brick' Pattern Canvas 
A great way to replicate the look of an exposed brick wall is to paint one on a canvas in the colors of your décor! 

*Tip: Fashion a wall 'mural' by grouping together individual canvases that you have painted to create a large and impressive wall installation that will move with you when you vacate.

Stylish Stencils 
A great aspect of making your own décor is the ability to fix mistakes. Here's a cool tutorial that shows step-by-step how to stencil a canvas, plus how to mask a minor mistake.

b. Rugs


DIY Painted Canvas Rug 
When you want to add an unexpected element to your décor, consider creating a canvas for the floor rather than the walls.

DIY Friendship Bracelet Chevron Rug 
Talk about the ties that bind! This awesomely twisted 'friendship bracelet' inspired rag rug is sure to spark conversation the next time your best friends come over.

DIY Faux Bois Spray Painted Rug 
The 'false wood' craze is all the rage these days, so when you want to replicate a wood grain pattern of your own, spray paint it onto a small area rug.

c. Table Décor

Table Decor

DIY 'No Sew' Table Runner 
If you want to use fabric in your table décor but have no skills with a sewing machine, fear not – here's a way to create a thread-free table runner.

DIY Suitcase Table 
For a table that is the décor, consider attaching legs and a shelf to a vintage suitcase for some stylish storage that you can really get some mileage out of! 

DIY Wine Cork Trivet 
If you want a way to repurpose all of those wine bottle corks and have a focal centerpiece for your table that's sure to strum up some conversation at your next dinner party or Happy Hour hosting, check out this wine cork trivet tutorial.

d. Accent Pillows

Accent Pillows

Simply Stenciled 
If you want to punch up a plain pillow, do so with brightly colored paint and a stencil pattern.

No Sew Stencils – Two Ways 
Here are a couple more great options for different looks with stencils and paint.

DIY Sweater Pillow 
This pillow project takes upcycling to a whole 'nother level! If you've ever wanted to find a way to hold on to your favorite sweater once it's seen its last season on you, transform it into an awesome accent pillow for your furniture! 

DIY Personalized Pillow 
If you want to make your mark on your home décor, there's no better way than with your own monogram.

DIY Floor Pillow Pad 
Although this project is a bit more labor intensive, for the ultimate floor seating spot, foot stool or even pet bed, this colorful pieced pillow pouf takes top prize: 

e. Lamps


Beautiful 'Coffee Filter Bouquet' Lamp Shade 
Don't forget that white is a color, too! If you want to add an elegant touch to an existing lampshade, consider what you can do with a carton of coffee filters.

Light-Up Wall 'Art' 
Before you put away the coffee filters, check out this amazing statement piece for any renter's décor do-over: 

Colorful and Quirky Pendant Light 
Who would have thought that wire mesh, colorful 'bendy' drinking straws and a pendant light kit could turn into something as awesome as this far out light fixture? 

Sweet Silk Shade & Spray Painted Base 
This is a total lamp makeover from top to bottom – and one that you can tackle with a piece of fabric and some glossy spray paint.

Faux Flowers Shade 
In keeping with the floral theme, pull out all the stops by hot gluing faux flower blossoms onto an existing shade.

Painted Pattern Shade 
If some painter's tape and paint are all you want to use in updating a blah lamp shade, no problem – check out this simple Chevron project.

f. Baskets & Containers

Baskets & Containers

Don't forget that the containers keeping all of your items together can be just as colorful and unique as their contents!

Fabric Covered Boxes 
Whether it's wooden craft boxes or shoe boxes, by covering them with a fun fabric, you don't have to keep them tucked away in a back closet.

Stylish Storage Bins 
Create a cute matching pair of fabric-covered storage bins in a flash with this simple DIY tutorial.

Rustic Basket Re-Do 
You'd never guess that this rope-wrapped and fabric-lined basket used to be a plastic laundry bin before it underwent this fabulous transformation! 

Ombre Basket White Wash 
If a simple color change is all you're looking for, check out this 'whitewashing' technique with paint that results in a cool ombre effect on the base of a basket – and feel free to experiment with any color you like.

Painted Basket Weave 
When you want to weave color into an existing basket, do it with paint! 

g. Window Treatments

Window Treatments

Because every window is different and custom window treatments can become a large expense in a short amount of time, you can save yourself a ton of money and drama by simply making some inexpensive shades or coverings that can be easily removed when you move out.

Drop Cloth Drapery on a Dime 
Who knew that a traditional tool of the painter's trade could be elevated – literally! – into a beautiful window treatment

Removable Remodel Project 
Or you may choose to forego the curtain route entirely and opt instead for a simple glass 'screen' that you can peel back when it's time to go.

Custom Curtains for the Ages 
Even if you have no children of which to speak, there's no need to keep these classic, custom curtains confined to a nursery.

*Tip: Create a cohesive 'total apartment' aesthetic by carrying colors and themes throughout the entire unit. In other words, rather than separating the rooms into individual designs, incorporate similar colors and patterns into each room to tie together the apartment as a whole.

2. DIY Multipurpose Spaces: Maximize and Magnify

Multipurpose Space

Here are some spatial tips and tricks for making the most out of any space, no matter how many different uses you need it to serve or the physical limitations presented by the size of the room.

Maximize a Tight Bathroom Space 
Since one of the most common questions arises out of how to make the most of a small bathroom space, let's start with ten ways to address bathroom size deficiencies with décor.

Furniture Arrangements to Facilitate Functional Rooms 
No matter the size of your space, here are some of the better ways to work with your furniture to make it fit into the room (and some layouts to avoid).

Top Ten Rules for Arranging Furniture 
If you want to make sure you're following the furniture rules the 'right' way, check out these top tips.

Inspirational Aspirations 
Even if you don't have your dream pad yet, there's no reason you can't 'borrow' some of these big-time tips on a smaller scale.

Magnify Spaces with Glass and Mirrors 
Nothing opens up a space like a strategically placed mirror or the use of glass furniture that won't inhibit the eye's line of sight.

3. Cohesive Convertibles

In addition to the projects and furniture tips above, here are some of the top 'convertible' ways to make a multipurpose space out of any room.

Invest in Double-Duty Furniture 
There are many smart storage options available these days, including:

  • Bench Seating with Storage: Hidden storage is great for files and documents when you work in your living room, and perfect for rolled yoga mats and free weights when you work out in your living room!
  • Nesting Tables: These 'stackable' tables are great for impromptu conference centers next to the couch – pull them out to use as surface area for your conference call and realign them when you're done.
  • Open Bookcases: When you need to divide a room and store items on a shelf at the same time, the open bookcase is the way to go.

Inviting, Efficient and Effective Entryways 
Here's a great example of how you can max out the form and function departments with this creatively decorated entryway.

Use Furniture Creatively 
Who says your office desk needs to look like something you snagged from the nearest cubicle? To create a more sophisticated (and comfortable!) home office in the midst of any other room in your place, use a fashionable and functional 'furniture' chair that will not draw attention to your makeshift workstation.

Along the same lines, transparent furniture like clear tables and chairs work wonders for enlarging the feel of a small room and seamlessly merging different purposed room together into one unit.

For the trifecta in multifunctional furniture combos, use a lit mirror on a desk in your bedroom to open up the space (mirror) and add extra lighting when you're working (bulbs). When you're not working, the desk serves as a vanity for putting on makeup! Bedroom/home office/glam station-in-one!

*No matter how many ways you need to use a single room, make sure that you can conceal the other purposes when not currently in use (put away books, documents, medicine balls, etc.) or incorporate the pieces in a decorative way so that they're hidden in plain sight (similar to the fabric covered file boxes discussed earlier).

Creative Room Conversions 
And if you're looking for a way to keep all of your new crafting materials contained while you work and live and in the space, here are some suggestions for making some convertible room for creative work.

4. Comprehensive Communication: Tips and Suggestions for Working with your Landlord to Improve the Property

If you are in a long-term rental, you may decide that investing a bit of time and energy to improve the property is worth it to you. And you might be surprised to find that it could be worth it to the landlord, as well.

Painting Walls: #1 Hot Topic Area 
The #1 improvement that tenants want is new paint colors throughout the unit. Normally, if you want something different from what the landlord is offering you in the rental, you're going to need to ask for it.


If you are feeling timid about how to handle the situation, don't forget that you 'have not' because you 'ask not,' and the worst that can happen is that you receive a 'no.' But that might not be the response, so here are some suggestions for approaching your landlord and presenting the options in the most mutually beneficial light possible!

  • Because the bulk of an update/renovation cost is devoted to labor, offer to do the work yourself and paint the walls, if your landlord will spring for the paint and supplies.
  • Suggest compromising on the color choice: Going with more neutral shades or cool colors is less likely to spook your landlord and will actually offer you more options with the décor pieces you pick to complement the walls.
  • If he or she is on board with the renovation but seems hesitant at funding the project outright, offer to pay for it yourself and break up the total cost into monthly installments that you can withhold from your rent payments.
  • Make sure that any time your landlord permits you to alter the property, you get authorization in writing with his or her signature. You never know what could happen through no fault of either one of you, and having the mutual intent of both of you in writing can help to avoid potential problems down the road.
  • If all else fails and it's a no-go on the painting, you've always got our awesome DIY project ideas to pull from!

Bonus Assistance: How to Ask your Landlord for More 
When you want to talk to your landlord about more than decorative projects, implement some of these tips for working out a deal that works for everyone.

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