Orchids, natural lighting and checkered table runner.
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6 Cheap Ways to Transform a First Rental Home

Orchids, natural lighting and checkered table runner.
There are very easy ways to make your rental apartment or house feel like home. Adding plants is one of them!

Whether it is a 12 month lease where you’ll be moving again next year, or a month to month rental, take the time to make your home YOUR HOME. Do not let the terms “rental” and “short term” make you feel as though you are unable to make yourself comfortable and proud of your space. The following are suggestions you can use in any living space. You deserve to look forward to coming home – you can easily give that to yourself!

Creative Space Utilization

It is easy (and very human) to desire what you do not have. When renting or living in an apartment – the desire for either more space, more rooms or more storage has probably crossed your mind at some point.

When COVID-19 hit and my husband and I both found ourselves working from home, we realized we lacked proper office space to make this work. While we set him up in our spare bedroom, I felt strongly about letting our main bedroom be a place of rest, peace and calm so I did not want to set up my work space in there.

Our creative solution: turning an empty wall in our main living area into a makeshift office space. Here are a few tips in making this a productive work spot while also still being a seamless part of our decor and home:

  • Choose a spot or wall space that is situated between two “rooms” or functional spaces in your home. We realized we had unproductively utilized space between our living room and dining room. By moving my desk here, it helped define the living room from the dining room by separating the two spaces.
  • Use a statement piece on the wall above the desk that matches the rest of your home decor. This helps make the space an extension of your living room, dining room or kitchen.
  • Little details like a throw blanket, adding a plant and some photos will make it seem as though that space was meant to be your ‘work space’ all along!
Creating a home office space on an empty wall between our living room and dining room.
Apartment living can be tough on space; be creative in wall utilization. Here I’ve made my office space next to our dining space – similar design style, different functions!

Wall Collages

Now most likely, the home you are scouring Pinterest for decor and DIY ideas for is not the only rental you’ve had! Our current apartment is actually my husband and I’s fourth rental together. Honestly, this is the first one that really feels like home for us! And with all those moves – from dorm rooms to crowded city apartments – we have acquired a lot of random frames and wall art.

Also, a lot of times when you move into a new space, you want everything to be new. New sheets, towels, comforter… you’re looking up the nearest Target right away! When you have the urge to give your home an overhaul or make your rental feel like yours, you might be inclined to toss all the cheap frames, random wall accessories and old posters. But why waste items that could easily help transform your living space for free? Go on a treasure hunt and pull out those pieces you’ve struggled finding a home for in the past- lay them out on the floor together and watch a unique wall collage come to life.

Adding a bar cart is a fun storage idea for alcohol, and you can get creative with wall collages with items you already have!
Don’t hesitate to recycle old frames and wall art from previous living situations – you might be surprised how nicely they look clustered together in a new space!

This is also another creative way to use wall space – we turned this area into a makeshift bar that we often use when entertaining. Instead of having your wine bottles and alcohol stuffed in a cabinet, invest in a bar cart to organize your alcohol collection and accessories. Add a fun cocktail recipe book or a charcuterie dish and you’re prepped for entertaining!

Unique Storage in Rentals

You don’t have to have a “farmhouse chic” decoration scheme to your home to get the benefits of a using an old ladder as storage. Find a more modern one or refurbish an old one to make it flow with whatever theme you have.

A rustic ladder from my husband's grandmothers barn serves as blanket storage and a beautiful accent in our home.
I have always loved the look of wooden ladders serving as blanket storage – it your blankets most definitely do not have to match!

This particular ladder was one that was kept in the barn at my husband’s grandparent’s property. A little sanding made it as good as new and a beautiful way to bring their memory into our home.

So don’t feel like you have to buy one of these rustic ladders when you can easily refurbish a used one with a little sanding and paint. Take advantage of Goodwill, Facebook Marketplace and your family’s garages to find one! It’s a great way to store all those blankets you have no idea what to do with- especially in the warmer months.

Curtains in a First Home

Orchids like filtered light - in our apartment they line our dining room table.
Natural light is key in small spaces to make it look larger – and ading curtains can make a huge difference too!

Don’t underestimate the power of a curtain rod and curtain panels… they can transform your space! I can’t believe we waited two years before hanging curtains in our apartment and we absolutely love the result. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on inexpensive curtain solutions.

Side note: we did not go two years without nothing on our windows! We actually had blinds on all our windows but our lovely cats have made a bit of a mess of them over the years, so when we added curtains we easily removed the blinds with intentions of replacing them before we move out.

Indoor Plants

Another inexpensive way to liven up your home is to add plants. There are so many benefits to having plants and greenery inside your home. I’ve acquired quite a few orchids over the years. I have a blog post coming soon about how to re-pot your orchids to enable them continued growth and blooms.

Outdoor Space

Our current apartment has a little patio and flower bed- and this truly was an answered prayer for me. (It just goes to show that sometimes we don’t know what to pray for but God already knows what our hearts need!).

When we first moved in, this littler flower bed was an overgrown mess. Technically, it was our apartment complex’s responsibility to maintain it- but ours had clearly been overlooked. While most may say “forget it” because they don’t want to put in extra labor, money and time to an aspect of their rental they can’t take with them to their next home, I embraced this opportunity. I put my gardening gloves on and pulled out all the old shrubs and weeds, planted some decorative grass a friend gave me when she pruned her own at the end of last season and iris bulbs my mom had extra of, and made this patch of land something I loved looking at.

Don't hesitate to turn an outdoor patio or balcony into your own little oasis.
Utilize patio and any lawn area you have to become your own little garden! Your neighbors will appreciate it and it can become something you’re proud of.

I spent next to nothing making this space my own, and it’s also nice to think about how much my neighbors appreciate the care I put into this space. (Not to mention gardening is great for your mental health!) If you’re able to secure an apartment or home with a little patio or porch, take advantage of it! There’s so much you can do with a little outdoor space. I was gifted with a large ceramic planter where I grew both cucumbers and tomatoes this year.

We are growing tomatoes in a large ceramic planter on our patio.
You don’t need a house to have a vegetable garden! Buying large ceramic pots are a great way to grow cucumbers, tomatoes and more.

One thought on “6 Cheap Ways to Transform a First Rental Home

  1. Your website is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your many wonderful ideas. I look forward to your new creations.

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