After years of living in boring and sometimes really icky rentals I began to come up with ways to makeover my apartment that were either a) inexpensive or b) I could take with me when I moved. All of the apartment remodel ideas in this post can be taken with you (except the paint, of course) if you save the items you’re replacing to put back in place when you leave your apartment.
Note: when you’re getting ready to move you might want to ask your landlord to take a look at your apartment remodel to see if he would be willing to pay for all or a portion of your remodel updates. If he says no, then in fairness to the new tenants you might want to replace the old ugly stuff before the landlord starts showing the place. Hint – this could be a good bargaining point with your landlord when you let him know that the place won’t look as nice as the apartment makeover he just viewed when he shows it to prospective tenants.
Cabinet & Drawer Knobs
are easiest to replace if you look for ones that will be able to fit the same holes already in the doors and drawers.
Cover ugly or worn carpeting with large area rugs, sisal mats, straw mats or painted canvas floor cloths.
Old, outdated ceiling light fixtures can be replaced with a new ceiling fan with light fixtures. If you live in a warm climate this investment will save on your air conditioning bill. If you live in a cold climate and invest in a fan with a reverse feature this will help you to save on your heating bill.
I like to install security locks on all windows & patio doors. You might want to ask the new tenants if they want to cover the cost of the security locks for you to leave them in place. Note: if your security locks require you to drill into the window or door frame then you should ask your landlord if he’ll cover the cost of the locks if you leave them in place when you leave. If he won’t cover the cost make sure to get his permission as he could charge you for your “improvements”.
New faucets are a little more work but wow, what a difference they can make!
Cover an ugly or nonexistent fireplace mantle by having a box built to fit over it. This is basically a box with molding attached to the front.
Here are a few more ways you can personalize your apartment or rented space.
are easy to change out and can make a dramatic difference when upgraded. You can find inexpensive light fixtures at stores like Ikea, Target, Walmart, Kmart or your local Habitat for Humanity Restore (scroll down to search for “Search for Affiliates/Restores in Your Area”).
Purchase a frame or have one made from moulding to fit your bathroom mirrors. Attach with heavy duty double-stick foam tape. You will be amazed at the transformation – from gas station grunge to model home beauty!
You’ll be surprised how beautiful your outdoor space can be with a few simple additions!
Cover an ugly outside patio with:
- painted canvas floor cloth, straw mats or sisal mats
- bricks, flagstones or outdoor tiles
- a whole new surface (see instructions below)
Edge the patio with railroad ties or two-by-fours which will hold the new patio material in place.
Fill the patio area with sand to bring it just below the level of the railroad ties or two-by-fours.
Lay down the new patio covering material.
Pour sand over the entire patio, using a broom to sweep sand into the cracks between the flooring. Sprinkle the entire patio with water. Let dry overnight.
Pour another layer of sand over patio, sweep and sprinkle with water again.
This method will hold everything in place without having to use mortar and makes it easy to take apart when you leave, although the cleanup won’t be fun.
Switch-Plates & Outlet Covers
Change out switch-plates & outlet covers. Then just put the old covers back before leaving.
Instead of changing plates out cover them with fabric, wallpaper scraps, gift wrap scraps, artwork printed from your computer, photos cut from magazines … Start by cutting the paper/fabric cover to fit the plate with a half inch extra on all sides. Cut clear contact paper an inch larger than the paper/fabric cover. Remove backing from contact paper and carefully center paper/fabric cover print side down onto contact paper. Place switch-plate/outlet cover on top of paper/fabric. Wrap contact paper around switch-plate/outlet cover, pressing firmly to back. Use a craft knife to cut an X for switch/plug holes and push paper/fabric to inside securing with tape. Reattach to wall. It takes a very close inspection to notice that your new switch-plates aren’t ceramic.
Note: even though this is the budget version you should purchase new switchplates to cover and save the old ones to put back when you leave as chances are your landlord will not consider your covered plates an improvement. Check out your local Habitat For Humanity ReStore for switchplates and outlet covers at a bargain price.
It’s worth the visual impact to switch ugly window treatments for ones that match your decor.
Find a relatively straight tree branch. Use as is or spray paint it to work with your decorating scheme.
Paint a 7/8-inch-diameter dowel whatever color you desire. Use Gorilla glue, epoxy or other strong glue to attach decorative finials to each end of the dowel. Make sure to slide curtain rings on before attaching the final finial.
Attach finials to a 3/4-inch galvanized pipe. Attach floor flanges to the pipe. Secure the flanges to your wall studs.
Shower curtain rod.
Finials can be purchased or try:
- decorative balls
- toys (if decorating a child’s bedroom or playroom)
- stacked metal or wood rings
- napkin rings
Oversize flower silhouettes painted on an inexpensive roller shade bring bright pops of color to a window. Use a pencil to outline your favorite flower (or other) shape on a shade and fill it in with acrylic paint. Hot-glue a length of contrasting ribbon to the bottom edge to finish it. You can even fashion a shade pull with leftover ribbon and a ring or a charm.
Check out these easy ways to spruce up your apartment walls without alienating your landlord.
Fabric Wall Treatment
While fabric is more expensive than wallpaper or paint, you save money because you can take the fabric with you. Brush on liquid starch or use a staple gun to attach fabric to walls. To cover the raw edges of the fabric attach trim with a hot glue gun or tack up moulding with finishing nails. When you move, the fabric and/or moulding can come with you. If it doesn’t fit your next apartment there are several things you can do with it:
- make curtains
- make a duvet cover
- cut to fit a smaller room and use the leftover fabric to:
- reupholster or make a slipcover for a chair or sofa
- make a curtain or valance
- make a pillow or pillow sham
- put up a large contrasting fabric border or molding at the top and/or bottom of your new walls to make the fabric fit a slightly larger room
Paint or stencil a border design in strips onto clear contact paper. Cut and apply to walls. This makes an easily removable and inexpensive border.
Paint or stencil a design of your choice onto clear contact paper and use as Wallies.
Go ahead, paint it! So what if your landlord won’t pay for the paint; it’s worth it to spring for a vibrant new room yourself. Check with your landlord though to see if he wants you to repaint the walls their original color before you leave though or you could end up losing more than you want to from your deposit.
Generally you’re going to want to cover up 1970’s style paneling but you can choose bead board paneling to put up over an ugly wall treatment for a very fresh look. This solution is more expensive than paint but significantly more satisfying and completely portable.
Purchase paneling and tack it up with brad nails. When you move, pull the nails and patch the holes.
Doors for Walls
You could also purchase interesting looking doors (collect them) and attach them to the walls in place of paneling or hinge them together into screens to cover the walls.
Or create your own door panels by having your hardware store cut the cheapest, thinnest wood they carry into door-width sheets the height of your room. Miter cut 3 to 4-inch wide lengths of the same wood to frame each panel and one strip to go across the middle of the panel inside the frame. Glue or nail the frame around the outside of each panel and the middle piece about half way up each panel. Paint or stain and nail to your walls.
Habitat For Humanity ReStores offer quality used and surplus building materials at a fraction of normal prices, while helping to fund Habitat for Humanity house construction.
Builders Surplus stocks and sells kitchen cabinets, entry doors, bathroom cabinets, laminate countertops, and granite bathroom tops. They also carry overstocks and closeouts of mouldings, garage cabinets, bi-fold panels, turnings, and other building materials.