January 13, 2020

5 myths about decorating a rental apartment that prevents you from creating a home you love

If you are a renter, chances are that you’ve probably experienced one of these 5 myths. Renting your apartment comes with constraints that may look daunting when it’s time to actually furnish and decorate the place. Questions such as “Can I paint this wall?”, What am I going to do with this ugly tile? should I invest in a nice couch or an inexpensive one? come up and seem to create a sort of analysis paralysis that prevents most of us from doing anything. So why do we have trouble decorating a rental apartment and never feel really happy with our rentals?

The Renting life

I’ve been a renter since I’ve moved out of my parent’s home. But it’s really with my last rental apartment (the one I live in now) that I’ve decided to demystify this whole “decorating a rental apartment” thing and make it a place I can be proud of!
Since I’ve decorated my actual rental apartment, I’ve noticed a few shifts in my way of approaching rentals. I’ve also seen a lot of people from my entourage impressed by what we managed to do. But, when I think about it, there is nothing so extraordinary about what we did. Surely it takes a bit of time and energy. And I won’t lie, we had some arguments. But in the end, we didn’t do complicated work. You just have to be willing to put the time and energy into it.

So let’s see about these myths that we had to overcome for decorating our rental apartment properly:

Myth #1 “It’s only temporary”

I’ve heard that excuse a lot from people and from myself as well. Firstly, you don’t really know how long temporary is. Second, even if “temporary” means a pre-defined period of time, it’s still a period of your life where you’ll be coming home to a place that you dislike. For instance, I was sure that we weren’t going to stay for more than 3 years in our old rental. But we ended up staying there for 7 years… talk about temporary… There were a thousand things I would have wanted to do but never did because I told myself “we’ll only enjoy this for a year at best, that’s not worth the trouble”. Truth is life is unpredictable, you don’t know what will come your way in two or three years. So you’d better make the most of it right now.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not suggesting to go nuts and tear the whole place apart. Your landlord wouldn’t be really happy about it… But there is a lot of rental-friendly ways to make you feel at home nowadays.

Myth #2 “I’ll never be able to work with that ugly tile/floor/cabinet…”

This is one misconception that is really widespread. It’s not because you weren’t able to choose the flooring, the tiles in the bathroom or the wall colors that it’s a lost cause. Nowadays there are a lot of clever and cheap ways to pimp an ugly kitchen or cover bad flooring. Also, you could be surprised how a fresh coat of paint could change the face of a room. How only switching the kitchen cabinets doorknobs could take your kitchen from old-fashioned to modern and sleek. (Proof with my kitchen)

Renting a place is by definition not starting with a blank canvas but navigating through a series of constraints. It is exactly in this kind of situation that the best ideas are born. I’ve seen so many clever solutions that made a space go from unpractical to awesome that I feel like working with the existing is more fun than starting from scratch.

5 myths about decorating a rental apartment

Myth #3 “I’m not allowed to do anything apart from furnishing the place”

I don’t know what are the renting-conditions in other countries but in Switzerland when you rent from a property management company, you are supposed to return your apartment in the same condition as you found it. So for example, if you’ve drilled the wall you are expected to fill the hole. But you CAN drill the wall as much as you want. If you have painted a wall you are supposed to paint it back in its original color. I think we can all agree that repainting a wall or filling holes with mastic isn’t really what we call real trouble. Still, we all seem to have this big fear of what would the property manager say? Will I retrieve my deposit? Frankly, and from my experience, I think that if you take good care of your rental and don’t break stuff there is no reason why you shouldn’t retrieve your deposit. And if you are thinking of doing more work such as electricity or plumbing work, you could discuss it with your property manager to see what’s possible.

Myth #4 “It’s gonna cost me a fortune to really get where I want”

Renters don’t usually want to spend big money on their rental. That seems pretty fair, who’d want to invest too much money on a place they don’t own. The truth is that decorating an apartment comes with a certain price whether it’s a rental or an owned property. You’ll still have to buy a couch, a dining table, chairs, etc… All in all, it will cost you even though you choose the cheapest option. So, I have set this rule for myself: I have the right to splurge only on pieces that could fit in any other space. For instance, I bought this designer armchair that I’ve been longing for a long time. Meanwhile, my couch from IKEA cost me only CHF 600. My thought was that an armchair can pretty much fit in any type of living room (or else) while our couch wouldn’t work so well in many other living rooms.

Invest in customization solutions and easy DIY

On the bright side, IKEA makes very good sofas that nowadays are customizable. Thanks to that I was able to pimp my IKEA sofa so it could fit with the rest of my living room perfectly. All that at a very affordable price. The same goes for our entryway where we decided to go with the IKEA Ivar cabinets. We needed storage but not too large because of the small width of the entryway. These cabinets couldn’t be a better fit even though they didn’t look like much at first. We pimped them as well so that they could be to our liking and the result is stunning.

The idea here is to not spend a fortune on items that are going to only fit this particular rental apartment. Instead, be creative and find solutions that fit your taste and way of life. And only splurge on items that you can take with you and that you genuinely love.

Myth 5 “I feel like I’d need an interior decorator help but don’t want to spend that kind of money on a rental”

Even when you have understood that the above myths are only myths, getting started on your rental decoration can still seem overwhelming. It’s sometimes hard to see the potential of a room or imagine what could be done to optimize it. Creating a welcoming atmosphere with elements that suits your style and then source the best furniture while respecting a certain budget takes also a lot of time. Especially when you don’t know where to look… That’s why there are interior designers. Nevertheless, it seems kind of crazy to go to an interior designer to help you redecorate your rental, doesn’t it? For some reason, we all seem to think that hiring an interior designer is reserved for people that have bought their place or that are wealthier.

E-design service

But this is starting to shift with the online world. Nowadays, you can look for an online interior designer that offers advice and turnkey solutions to help you decorating your rental apartment. This service is often called e-design. It’s addressed to people that don’t know where to start in terms of creating a nice interior but that are willing to do the shopping and installation work by themselves.

Imagine getting a detailed blueprint of what you need to do and buy in order to change your bedroom. Wouldn’t it be nice?! It’d save you hours of research on the perfect bed frame and countless hesitations on whether this or that is a better option… Instead, you’ll get a sense of the style and ambiance of your future room and a blueprint with what to do and what to buy to achieve the look. All in all, an adequate solution for anyone looking for a quick fix at an affordable price. If you want to learn more about online interior design, I have written a very comprehensive article about what is it exactly and what you’ll get from it.

I hope I’ve helped you realize that these 5 myths are really only myths and are nothing that you cannot overcome. If there are any other blockages that prevent you from going where you want with your rental please, share below.

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