Rent or buy? Sometimes it’s a choice. Other times it’s not. So we rent. However, if you rent it doesn’t mean you can’t customize your living space and make it uniquely your own. As a designer, I meet people all the time who complain about their space and refuse to upgrade anything in it because they don’t want to do the landlord “any favors”.

While I understand not wanting to invest a large amount of money and/or time into a property you don’t own, I don’t understand not making your personal space - which you pay for every month - your own. If you have lived in the same space for years and plan to be there for the foreseeable future, who exactly are you doing favors for? 

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re not happy with the way your rental looks, I’m not suggesting major improvements at your expense. That would be silly. What I am suggesting is investing a little to increase your personal comfort and creating an aesthetically appealing environment you can enjoy on a daily basis.

There are a number of improvements that can be made to a space that don’t cost a fortune but make a big difference in how it will look and feel. There is one caveat though, be in communication with your landlord or super before you start. And if you decide to make changes that cannot be reversed when you leave, make sure you get permission in writing. I find that most landlords love it when their tenants want to improve their space so it’s rarely a problem. But again, get everything in writing so there won’t be any misunderstandings when you move and expect your deposit back. 

Here are few upgrades that will go a long way in helping you make your rental home your castle:

Decorative Blinds

Another thing you can do to add some style to your space is to replace the dingy unattractive plastic blinds that come with the apartments. Simply take them down, roll them up, and give them to the super, remember to get your receipt, or just store them in a closet so that you don’t have to see them again until you move out. Then bring in your own shades, with your chosen texture and style. This will help give you a sense of being in your own personalized kingdom.

Light Fixtures

Most apartments have contractor grade fixtures that are functional but look cheap and unattractive. There is a wide variety of moderately priced, yet stylish, light fixtures that will add a whole new look to your space. Your local home store is a good place to start doing your research. And if you’re concerned about leaving your lovely new light fixtures behind when you move, save the existing one and put them back when you leave.        

Kitchen ‘Face Lift”

I find that many renters have issues with their kitchen. And for those who enjoy cooking it can become a deterrent. Yet there are improvement options that don’t cost a fortune. If you hate the cabinets ask the landlord for permission to repaint them. It’s not a very difficult project, between sanding, priming and painting it may take you one or two weekends to get the desired look, but it will make a significant difference.

In my experience, many standard rentals have unattractive contractor grade countertops.  Yes, new ones can be expensive, but for approximately $250 to $300 you can usually find premade countertops at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. If you install them yourself you may have to ask the super to come in and reconnect the plumbing, but it will be worth it.


Like the kitchen some of the improvements you make to a rental stay with the space after you leave and flooring is one of them. Floating floors are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. However, if you have an ugly floor that makes you shutter every time you look at it, in a rental it will remain ugly unless you make a change. You do not need to do the entire space, maybe just do the area that really bothers you the most. It will pay itself back in how you feel about your space.

Faucets and Showerheads

If your kitchen faucet or showerhead annoy you on a regular basis then upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. You may have to leave the kitchen faucet behind but if you get a year or two of good use out of it, and save yourself a little aggravation along the way, your investment will have paid itself off.

I am a renter myself and I practice what I preach. There is nothing more gratifying than coming home to a welcoming and personalized space after a hard day of work. So if you don’t love your rental space do something about it. It will be worth it. I promise!

Marlene Pratt is the co-founder of Casa Latina, an interior designer and on-air television host on both English and Spanish-language television. Follow Marlene on Twitter at @CasaLatinaToday and Like her FB page

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