7 Ways to Transform Your Cookie-Cutter Rental Home

    Decorate a short-term apartment with long-term style

    Rentals come with their fair share of design dilemmas, from a weird layout to a jumble of mismatched finishes, and while you might be dying to knock down a wall or rip up the flooring, doing so probably just isn’t feasible. As someone who has rented apartments since college, Madeline Fraser, the chief marketing officer and cofounder of free room design app Homee, has seen it all—and she knows a thing or two about upping the style of semipermanent spaces. “In general, you have this fear of screwing things up,” she says. “You have to be sneaky and smart about what you do.” Read on to discover Fraser’s tried-and-true tips for making any place feel like home, even if it’s just for a little while.

    1
    Wake up the walls
    With removable wallpaper, that is. Choose a vibrant pattern for a single statement wall or stick with a textured neutral style if you want to cover a larger space. “You don’t want to go crazy; you want to pick a focus—maybe the wall that’s behind your bed or behind your sofa. It could also be great for a bathroom wall,” says Fraser. Drawing attention to one spot will instantly make a small rental feel bigger.

    Highlight little details
    Available in a huge variety of patterns and colors, this Japanese masking tape is all you need to spruce up the edges of a plain white dresser or desk. More important, it’s easily removable.
    String up some style “Lighting can transform a space in a minute,” says Fraser, and simple LED string lights have found their way into all of her rentals. Fraser likes to use them to define a room, hanging them along the crease where the ceiling and wall meet with pushpins or a staple gun.
    Put a nonfunctioning fireplace to good use
    Fraser was lucky enough to have not one but two nonworking fireplaces in a past apartment. Sure, a real fire wasn’t possible, but Fraser still wanted that warm glow. She found a few elevated candle holders—better for safety and collecting wax—and lit a bunch of pillar candles for an ultracozy vibe.

    Make your floors work for you
    “When you move into a rental, chances are you’re not going to love your floors. Having a rug that really grounds each room is so important,” says Fraser. She’s not just talking about the living room. Layer rugs in spaces with wall-to-wall carpeting and place runners in your entryway and kitchen to bring in some welcome color and texture.
    Reflect on the room
    Another easy way to make a small area feel spacious? Mirrors. Instead of a typical gallery wall, Fraser will hang a mirror over the sofa and flank it with artwork.
    Take curtains to the next level
    “When you’re finding the right curtains, you don’t want them to graze the floor; you want them to billow,” says Fraser. “Adding more height is better. Go longer. The worst thing is to have a short curtain.” She always hangs her drapes six to eight inches above the window with two inches of fabric pooling on the floor to create the illusion of a much taller room.

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