Renters Can Use These Cheap, Clever Hacks To Decorate And Personalize Their Space

Renters cannot change their homes in ways that homeowners can. Some are not allowed to paint the walls, change the tile, or hammer in nails. But if you rent, you can make inexpensive, temporary changes to glamorize your home.

Removable wallpaper has been made for almost every surface, replace cabinet doors or hardware…the options are endless. Here are cheap, clever hacks for home renters.

Swapping Out Hardware Is Easy

Hardware can redefine a space. If your cabinet or door knobs look old and rusty, swap them out. Use black hardware for a more modern appearance or brass for some shine. Can’t find hardware in the color you want? Buy some new hardware and paint it.

A variety of crystal knobs are on kitchen drawers.
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POPSUGAR Home/Pinterest

When you remove the apartment’s knobs, place them into a resealable bag that is properly labeled. That way, you can reinstall them when you move out. And whenever you buy new knobs, they’re yours to keep!

Need More Natural Light? Hang A Mirror

Some apartments have limited natural light. If your room feels too dark, hang a mirror where the window’s natural light shines on it. Mirrors reflect light and add more depth to a room, making it appear brighter.

A woman carries a mirror into her home.
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Mirrors also act as functional art pieces. At night, the other lights in your room will bounce off of the mirror, too. If you’re low on cash, go thrifting. There are plenty of inexpensive mirrors out there to give your rental a vintage flair.

When In Doubt, Ask!

If you’re concerned that your landlord will not let you paint, replace hardware, or remove cabinet doors–ask! Some landlords are more strict than others; they might let you keep the changes if they think that it looks better.

A landlord holds up the keys to his apartment.
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images
Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you decide to paint your walls, ask your landlord for the paint color first. That way, you’ll know exactly which color to repaint the walls before you leave. Some apartment complexes will even give you the paint for free.

Taller Is Larger

Although apartments tend to be small, you can make them look bigger by taking advantage of the wall space. Hang shelves upward to make the eye go up. Put a tall plant on the top shelf of your bookcase, or hang some pots from the ceiling. All of these tricks will make your room look bigger.

A man installs floating wall shelves.
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Also, do not hang your curtain rod directly above the window. Raise the rod as close to the ceiling as you can to make the windows look taller.

To “Add Space,” Choose Artwork With Depth

Have you ever noticed that restrooms often have landscape pictures? It is to make the room appear bigger. If you have a small room, get an art piece depicting something with a lot of depth, such as a road going off into the distance or a mountain range.

Although the depth is contained in the picture, it will make the room feel bigger. These landscapes act as a window to give the room some dimension and lift peoples’ moods.

Stick On Removable Tiles

Countertops are not the only place where you can add fake texture. Some companies make removable, peel-and-stick tiles. Use them as a backsplash in a kitchen or on the wall of a bathroom. They can add some texture, color, and interest to your space.

A woman sticks removable tiles onto her wall to creative a backsplash.
Dongguan Wenjun Industrial Co., Ltd/Pinterest
Dongguan Wenjun Industrial Co., Ltd/Pinterest

As with the contact paper, you only have to cut the removable tiles and stick them on. Peel them off before you move. These will make every wall and countertop in your apartment appear more put-together.

Yes, You Can Replace The Bathroom Mirror

Not all apartment mirrors are permanently attached to the wall. If you can take off the bathroom mirror, you can replace it with something more stylish. This will drastically change the entire look of your restroom.

Princess Maja von Hohenzollern does her makeup with her bathroom mirror.
Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images
Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you can’t take the mirror off–or if you have nowhere to store it–build a DIY mirror frame. With some wood, stain, or paint, you can construct a frame that will add some warmth to the room. When you move out, bring it with you.

Ditch The Floor Lamps

If you want to save floor space, ditch the floor lamp and install hanging lights. This is easier than you might think. You just need hooks on your ceiling or wall to hook the cord that attaches to a light.

Several lights hang in a living room of an apartment.
Ed Reeve/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Ed Reeve/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Hanging lights will also draw the eye up, which makes your space appear larger. You can swap out bulbs if you want to change the appearance or lighting of your room. This is perfect for bedrooms and for those who want more desk space.

Don’t Have Tools? Rent Them

If these hacks sound intimidating because you don’t own tools, don’t fret. Some stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s allow you to rent tools. You can rent anything from hammers to vacuum cleaners to paint sprayers.

A man browses the tool section at Home Depot.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

You just pay for the tools, use them, and return them. Renting can be much cheaper than purchasing, especially if you don’t have the storage space to keep more tools. Now, your decor options have just expanded.

It’s Wallpaper, But For Countertops

Did you know that people have made wallpaper for countertops? It’s called contact paper, and it allows you to redesign your counters without replacing them. The designs look like real marble, tile, faux wood, and more!

Removable marble contact paper has been attached to a countertop.
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Nicole Loyd/Pinterest

Simply cut the contact paper and attach it to your counter, like you would with a giant sticker. When you move out, you can remove the contact paper with little residue. This paper lasts a surprisingly long time and won’t harm the counters.

Conceal Exposed Pipes

If you have exposed pipes dangling from your sink or ceiling, they might appear unsightly (unless you’re going for the industrial look). You can cover pipes with materials such as rope, twine, crochet, or many more options to appear more finished.

An exposed pipe is concealed with wrap-around rope.
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Megan Hunsberger/Pinterest

Take the Joanna Gaines route and wrap rope around them, stick wallpaper on them, or even paint them. A brightly painted pipe could become the room’s statement piece, as long as your landlord is okay with it.

Start Layering Rugs

Some people believe that you can’t put a rug on top of a carpet. That’s not true! A rug can transform the mood of a space, adding some color or extra brightness in a dark room. No matter the flooring, don’t be afraid to lay down some rugs.

Since large area rugs are expensive, consider piling multiple rugs. Layering many rugs is popular in interior design styles like boho, and it’s much more affordable than getting an 8 x 10.

Remove Cabinet Doors

Do you like the open shelf look? Remove the doors on your hanging cabinets and put them away. This can make your kitchen look bigger and allow you to use dishes as decor. Stash them in a secure spot to reattach the doors before you move.

With open cabinets, you can use your ceramics as decor. You can also provide more space for plants and other decorative items to help your kitchen appear more lively.

Stack Towels Like A Hotel

Have you ever noticed that bathroom towels are stacked on top of each other in hotels? Do the same thing in your restroom. Fold a bath towel first, then a hand towel, then a washcloth (if applicable).

Three bath towels are stacked on top of each other.
Jumping Rocks/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jumping Rocks/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Not only will this save room, but it will also make your home appear more organized. You can also have fun with the towel colors; place black on white or a colorful, patterned hand towel on top of a beige bath towel. The possibilities are endless!

Out Of Wall Space? Use The Ceiling

Wall shelves are not the only option you have for floating storage. You can also hang shelves, lights, and potted plants from the ceiling. Install hooks into the ceiling, and you’ll have many more options at your disposal.

A plant hangs from the ceiling in an apartment.
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You don’t have to hang plants, either. Attach a curtain rod to the ceiling and hang towels, pots, or cutting boards from there. You can also hang a chandelier, wind chimes, or macrame art piece. These are great statement pieces that make the room appear taller.

Cover Shelves With Decorative Towels

If you don’t like your cabinet doors but are not ready for that open shelf look, cover the cabinets with towels. This will not only conceal your dishware but also add some color and pattern to the room.

Blue towels are draped over open shelves in a kitchen.
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Rachael Marsh/Pinterest

Either attach the towels with a thumbtack or place the edge of the towel underneath a heavy dish. You can also move these out of the way to get dishes. Plus, they’ll provide an airy, cottage-like feel to your home.

How Wall Paint Changes A Room’s Size

Interior designers know that, depending on how you paint a wall, your space could look wider, taller, or narrower. For instance, if you want to expand the space, paint the walls and ceiling the same color. If you want to elongate a room, paint the two opposite walls in a dark color.

Half a wall is painted green, horizontally.
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Cool colors like blue and grey tend to make a room look bigger, while darker colors draw attention to the walls. Some people paint just the lower half to make their ceilings look taller. Get creative!

The Ol’ Pop Tab Coat Hanger Hack

It’s overwhelming looking at the tiny little closet in your apartment and imagining how you can fit all your clothes in there, but it’s totally possible with a few pop can tabs!

coathangers on pop tabs hanging in closet

Simply slide a pop tab through each hanger and hang the rest from them, simple as that!

Even Kitchen Utensils Can Go On The Wall

Many apartments have small kitchens with little cabinet space. Make use of your kitchen walls to be functional and decorative. For instance, a magnetic knife strip will securely hold your knives and clear up counter space.

Pots, pans, cheese graters, and other kitchen utensils hang from a curtain rod on the wall.
Loren Gu/Unsplash
Loren Gu/Unsplash

Look for inexpensive wall storage options at Amazon, Target, or Walmart. Some spice racks hang on the walls, and you can hook pots and pans on a rack so that they’re easy to reach. It’s cheap, stylish, and will transform your apartment.

Use The Stovetop As Extra Storage

As odd as it sounds, you can use your stovetop as extra storage. Certain cooking appliances, such as tea kettles and pots, look great on a stovetop. It will make your kitchen look “in use,” which contributes to a feeling of comfort.

A stovetop is decorated with a tea kettle, spoon rest, and faux plants.
Remodel Home/Pinterest
Remodel Home/Pinterest

Grab a decorative pot, pan, or tea kettle and place it on one of your stove burners while not in use. When you cook, simply move these appliances out of the way. How often do you light all four burners, anyway?

How About Clear Furniture?

If your space feels crowded, try getting acrylic furniture. These pieces are as transparent as glass, which will make your space feel larger and brighter. Plus, acrylic furniture is (usually) far cheaper than wood pieces.

Consider getting an acrylic coffee table, side table, bar cart, or even desk. If you want more brightness, some of these pieces come in fun colors that look like stained glass. They’re also incredibly lightweight and can withstand scraping and bumping.

Temporary Flooring Exists, Too

There are temporary wallpapers, backsplashes, and countertops–and now temporary flooring, too. Stores such as Home Depot sell vinyl flooring for under $50. They stick to the floor and are removable, just like adhesive wallpaper.

Temporary carpet squares are laid out in a child's playroom.
Callie Cochran/Pinterest
Callie Cochran/Pinterest

Designs include wood planks, tiles, carpet, and more. They look real but are actually just giant stickers. You just need to clean your floor, press on the temporary flooring, remove air bubbles, and you’re done! These can transform your restroom or kitchen.

Use The Underside Of Shelves, Too

Many people know that you can stack items on top of shelves, but have you considered using the underside? If you attach some hooks or a basket to the bottom of a shelf, you’ll be able to store mugs, jewelry, towels–anything you want for extra storage.

White mugs hang from hooks underneath a wall shelf.
Sharzad Hedayati/Pinterest
Sharzad Hedayati/Pinterest

Some hooks can attach to shelves via adhesive. These are removable, but they might not be able to hold heavier items such as mugs. If you get inexpensive hooks at the thrift store, you can drill them into hanging shelves.

Stack Multiple Side Tables And Stools

Do you have a stool that you use as a side table or extra seating? Get a smaller stool to put underneath it. You can take them out for guests to sit on, but in the meantime, they’ll both stand in one spot to conserve space.

Three tables fit neatly underneath each other.

Some side tables are sold in this design. If you’re in the market for tables or stools, you can buy a three-piece nesting table, which are all the same design and pile on top of each other.

If You Can’t Nail Or Drill, Do This

Some apartment complexes do not allow people to drill or nail into their walls. If that’s the case, use a moldable putty instead. These putties become rubbery once they dry, allowing people to hang hooks and curtain rods without damaging the walls.

A person applies mounting putty to the back of a poster.

You can also purchase adhesives to attach wall art, hooks, or even shelves. These adhesives are strong but removable and inexpensive. However, they can rip off paint, so ask your landlord for the paint color just in case.

For Seating And Storage

Never underestimate the power of trunks and benches. These provide extra seating at a dining table, in a living room, or at the foot of a bed. But they also give you extra storage.

For a bench, stack books, boxes, or crates underneath it. Some benches open up to give you more storage. If you cannot find a cheap bench, thrift shop for trunks. Vintage trunks are gorgeous, and many are big enough to sit on or stack.

Need More Kitchen Storage? Buy A Bar Cart

Although bar carts are not as popular as they were in the 1950s, they’re just as functional today. A bar cart provides extra storage on wheels. Some people use it to serve drinks and snacks to their guests, which is great for those who don’t have a dining room. Others buy one for extra kitchen space.

A bar cart stands underneath a mirror next to a doorway.
John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images
John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Not only will you get more shelves, but you’ll also roll the cart wherever you need it. Use it as a makeshift kitchen island or movable countertop.

Let Your Walls Breathe

Although gallery walls are all the rage, you might want to rethink them if you have a small apartment. Adding too many pieces of art to the wall can make your space feel crowded. Leave some space, and your home will appear bigger.

A small bedroom is decorated with a small painting, hanging light, and small shelf.
Ed Reeve/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Ed Reeve/View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Paint an accent wall and leave it bare, showing nothing but color. Or, leave one wall white for extra brightness. If your wall is less than four feet wide, leave it bare. Trust us; it’ll look more organized.

How Your Door Becomes Storage

Have you ever considered that your door can hold extra storage? With a hook, you can hang clothes, hats, jewelry, or even a laundry bag. Install some inexpensive hooks to the door without drilling into the wood.

A variety of shirts hang from a door.
GHI/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
GHI/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some hooks latch onto the top of the door and hang over one side. Others are adhesives. Depending on your goal, you can add more or less storage to your door. Plus, it might add some color and texture.

Illuminate Your Shelves

Do your shelves look dark? Stores like Amazon and Home Depot sell stick-on lights for shelves. Press them onto the bottom of a shelf, and turn them on by pressing them. Your shelves will look like an Ikea display!

LED Lights are attached to the bottom of shelves to illuminate them.
Judith Larson/Pinterest
Judith Larson/Pinterest

There are other uses for these lights, too. If your closet is too dark, stick one above your door. It will illuminate the rest of the closet, laundry room, bathroom–whichever small space requires more light on a budget.

New Curtains Make All The Difference

Many people can replace their shades in their apartment. If your rooms feel dark, swap out the shades with sheer, white curtains. These look light, bright, and airy, and they let in much more light.

A 1980s living room with sheer, white curtains is seen from above.
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

If you have vertical blinds, ask your landlord if you can replace them. You might be able to swap out the rod with a curtain rod. Curtains are an inexpensive and easy way to change the style and lighting of your home.