Courtney Warren is a Texas-based interior designer whose work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and Today.com. She is a frequent consultant on Fox 4 TV’s Good Day program in Dallas, was ranked in the top 3 percent of interior designers in the US by Houzz.com, and starred in the Dallas episode of TLC’sFour Houses. She delights in helping overwhelmed clients create beautiful spaces—and will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or Diet Dr Pepper.
The color purple?
Warm, cozy Sherpa blankets?
We promise you. It’s not worth getting focused on having a picture-perfect space. Social media doesn’t always tell the whole truth. After all, we’re designing for REAL LIFE.
Vomit after eating old mac and cheese.
Dirty soccer shoes.
Thoughtful design is so much more than style. A well-designed space embodies function and beauty.
So, how do you design a rental without damaging walls? AND, how can you make your rental look nice and feel like home?
Start small. Install floating shelves that can become perfect vignettes. Plus, they come in ALL materials. Glass, wood, metal, AND all styles. Industrial, farmhouse, traditional.
Once you put them up, you’re good to go. Style your shelves with a collection of decor and mementos you love. Or make room for more storage like books and picture frames.
Fewer holes and super easy to restyle anytime you want a refresh.
As you style your spaces, focus on your entryway! Even if you’ve got a teeny-tiny entryway space, make it work for you. Or, create a drop zone. Well-designed entryways are the key to making a rental feel like home. They are the first spaces we see, after all!
Install pegged wall hooks and a good lookin’ mirror. If your rental isn’t OK with screws in the wall, use adhesive-back hooks instead. There are all sorts of adhesive hooks now, including ones that look like real chrome or satin nickel.
Just because you live in a smaller space or rental doesn’t mean you have to stick to small space furniture pieces.
Mix it up.
Think scale and balance. Pick a focal point for each room and style your other pieces around it. For example:
Bedroom- Pick a bed with a beautiful, comfortable headboard. Pair it with floating nightstands or circular accent tables.
Living Room- Pick a roomy statement sofa. Pair it with a floor lamp that has a built-in table.
Keep adding character to your rental without compromising your horizontal real estate. THINK VERTICAL!
Opt-in for floating desks, tables, and shelving units. Keep your ground clear whenever possible.
Vertical units also give you MORE storage. Plus, you can go as high as your ceiling height. Organize your clutter and clear up your walking space.
Example: Replace bulky media centers. Instead, mount your TV! Use your walls and get back your floor space. Place your TV amongst a gallery wall of artwork, and you’ll trick people into thinking it’s art.
Framed vintage or handpainted art will also add a touch of elegance to your spaces (and make them look much more tasteful than they really are). Also, try adding several panels of drapery along a wall that doesn’t have any windows. Use this trick in a bedroom, and it will make your room feel bigger than it is.
Place mirrors in spaces that have low light or no natural light. Mirrors reflect light well and also increase faux square footage. Anywhere you put them, they’ll make that space appear larger than it is!
Be clever. Create more space when you technically can’t. Accomplish this by shopping for pieces that serve dual functions.
Use a day bed. Extra guest seating during the day and a full bed at night? YES! Plus, day beds also come with trundle options. Perfect for guests. And they’ll slide right underneath your bed so you don’t have to stress about losing any rental square footage.
The hardest part about living in rentals is dealing with its permanent finishes. You can’t change the carpet or flooring. You’re stuck with it.
Try layering multiple area rugs that coordinate with your decor. If you have a not-so-chic carpet, get an oversized rug that will work well for high traffic areas. There are machine washable rugs out now, too! How easy.
We love convenience. There are SO many non-permanent and EASY ways to update your bathroom.
AND contact paper for ugly countertops.
Don’t forget about the small stuff, too. Replace your outdated polyester shower curtain and get a cotton or linen one for an instant cozy feel. Try vintage rugs instead of traditional bath mats.
If possible, change out your mirror and faucet. These upgrades cost a little more and take more time. But, you can save your rental’s originals and swap them back in before you move out.
Just because you’re in a rental doesn’t mean you can’t bring in color with smaller items. Think bright curtains, throw pillows, OR oversized prints framed in white.
Adding color can be hard if you’re stuck with a pink-tiled bathroom! BUT, we say… use it to your advantage. Coordinate your color scheme around your existing space’s hues. Not sure which colors complement each other?
Google it, y’all! “What color goes with pink?” “What’s a good complementing color for blue tile?”
EMBRACE WHAT YOU HAVE!
Acceptance is key but so is thinking long-term. Chances are you’ll be moving soon, and you don’t want all of your design picks to become non-functional or useless in your next space.
Example: Pick modular sectionals or sofas that can be left- or right-handed. Think of folding options that will work well anywhere. Foldable stools, console tables that double as dining tables, or storage ottomans that act as additional seating.
You can also take hardware with you too. Upgrading cabinet pulls in your kitchen or bathroom spaces is a SUPER easy and FUN way to move away from boring, builder basics. Add your zest. Pick cool hardware options. Porcelain Asian blue knobs or gold finger pulls.
The quickest way to make an impact in a rental is with wall upgrades. Paint your spaces if you can. Most apartments and landlords are OK with this as long as you paint the rooms back to their original color before you move out. If this isn’t an option, try wall decals or stick-on wallpaper.
Just by adding one focal point above your fireplace or accent wall can make your home look more bespoke.
You’d be surprised what a good decluttering and cleaning session can do for your home. Sometimes you’ll discover beautiful pieces that would look GREAT on display hiding in the back of your closet.
Or make room for new pieces you didn’t think you could. Donate what you don’t use. My rule of thumb is usually a year. If I haven’t touched it in a year, I probably won’t. Plus, donating your used stuff can help someone else brighten their spaces.
Home decor magazines and social media craft every detail in that final space photo you see. Even that rumpled bed was carefully nudged to get just the right amount of wrinkle.
That pillow was karate chopped until it reached a 40° angle.
SO, if you have a cotton shower curtain– IRON IT. Or get it ironed at your local dry cleaner if you’re not a huge fan of ironing.
Polish your wood pieces to keep them looking shiny.
Dust and vacuum your drapery and soft goods, including your sofa!
Don’t force yourself to have a picture-perfect home style that doesn’t fit who you are.
Your design style should be a creative expression of what makes you feel good.
We hope these design tips inspired you to start making your rental feel like home. If you’re still lacking some inspo and need some serious help, we’re here for you. Let’s chat!
I offer a complimentary, no-strings-attached phone call consultation.
We can also consult by video conference. If you’d like to meet at your home, please know we will use all current safety protocols.
For now, check out what our team here at Courtney Warren Home can do for YOU on our YouTube channel!