sprucing up a rental.

October 26th 2013

Yes, we are still in our rental, and no, we haven’t found a lot to built our next home on. Believe me… I am looking! You will be the first to hear when I find it!

In the meantime, our current living situation has become somewhat comical (that’s a nice way of putting it). We have dealt with a lovely family of carpenter ants (and by family I mean a big family with over 1000 relatives), a continuously leaking roof, and a shower backed up with sewage for the past three weeks (and counting). Luckily, it’s Paul’s shower. The girls and I are in the clear. Phew! And I can’t forget to mention the new species of spider I found… the albino spider (that’s what I’m calling it). I’m not joking… it’s a SEE-THROUGH spider. According to a couple water damage inspectors, the walls surrounding our “sewage free” shower are very moist. I think the spiders are living in complete darkness within these walls (hense the albino complexion??) and crawling out through the warped baseboards. I’m trying to laugh through it all, but I will admit that some days I am crankier than others. (That’s a nice way of putting that too.) But enough of my complaining…

Despite all these issues, I feel like I have pulled together a temporary “home” for my family. Which is the meaning behind this post… Sprucing Up a Rental! When we moved in, I knew I didn’t want to spend any time/money on painting and upgrades. (Although, I can’t tell you how badly I want to dowse everything in a fresh coat of white!) So, what are my tips for making an old, not so perfect rental house fun and inviting without investing too much?

1. First things first… clean it! A serious deep clean. It makes you feel better living in a space where you don’t have to wear flip flops and gloves. This includes getting rid of anything old and dusty… like  heavy dust mite infested drapery. If your landlord insists that you keep it (yep), just take it down and get it out of site for the time being.

2. Work with the space. Our rental has a mid-century vibe with floor to ceiling wood paneling. Ooooooh yeah. Rather than focus on that, I tacked up all the artwork I had on hand. Pretty soon those walls weren’t such an eyesore. My furniture strangely took on the mid century vibe too. I’m not sure how that happened… but I’m going with it. That said, if something doesn’t work in your temporary space, don’t force it. (Just tuck it away until your next move.)

3. Add some inexpensive (relatively speaking), removable and quirky items that are your own. For me, that’s little burst of color, texture, and humor. These items will make you smile as you pass them by and help you feel like it’s your home.

I’ve collected a handful of these items below. Hope this helps some of you temporary renters out there in less than ideal pads!…

sprucing up a rental / H2 Desgin

Living Room 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6
Kitchen 7 / 8 / 9 / 10
Bed and Bath 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15

And for a little extra inspiration, a few of my current favorites from around the web…

Lonny / Hammer and Spear

(above) Lonny featureed the talented design due of Kristan Cunningham and Scott Jarrell. For more, click HERE.

Rue / Brian Paquette

(above) Rue featured Brian Paquette’s new home which showcased xerox seaweed studies which he applied to his kitchen walls as wallpaper. Genius! I may have to steal this trick! For more, click HERE.

Living etc / April 2013

(above) The master bedroom of Athena Calderone, featured in Living etc, has me drooling. For more, click HERE.


  • Olga

    Oh, I have been renting for years… I feel your pain! Especially as a designer, I imagine it is hard to tell your brain to stop working out the ways you could improve the space. And it sounds like the temporary dwellings’s problems go well beyond aesthetic. Well, that’s some motivation to find that lot to build on now!! Good luck – I know it’s not an easy feat in this market. Hang in there!

  • Olga

    Yikes, that sucks:( Hope your move goes smoothly… It will only get better from here on!

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