Realistic Ways of Making a Rental Feel Like Home

Oh, Pinterest, you sly devil.

You get me into a tizzy about all the ways I can make my home beautiful one day. And you are good at it. The only problem is, Pinterest, I will most likely be in small rentals for a long time before I can renovate a house to the way I want it to look. You give me unrealistic expectations of the next 5-10 years (but I still love you).

Let’s face the facts.

Whatever house/apartment we get when we get back to the States will be a rental, which means you can only do so much. It’s usually not much. Plus, I am a little bit of a tightwad when it comes to buying decorative (read:  not practical) items. However, a lot of pictures I’ve pinned are of gigantic rooms in million-dollar houses that I will never own, now or in the future.

That’s understandable–I really do want a warm, inviting space that’s neat and organized. I’ve settled into four different rentals in the past three years, counting the one dorm room at HSU. Now that I’m married and have a bunch of new stuff, it’s even more important to me to be able to do it right. That means no more settling for bachelorette-living where I could set a box of crap in a corner and forget about it for six months. No more letting the coffee table do triple-duty as a dining and office space. No more leaving the walls completely bare because you’re the only one who sees them and don’t have time to care (that rhymed and I am proud). My priorities are shifting–I want to make a home for my new family (even if it’s just two of us) now that I’m out of my parents’ house and past the living-alone-bachelorette stage.

But–I still have to do all this in a rental, where space is precious and you can’t put too many holes in the walls.

So, here are some realistic ways to make a rental feel homey. I’ve made these up for myself so I can still plan and dream and be inspired, but I’ll be doing it within my limits.


#1:  Group your stuff so it becomes the decor. If there’s a way to make practical stuff decorative, this person nailed it. She saved cabinet space and added color and visual interest at the same time. Plus, the crock pot, mugs and pots and pans that are sitting out are what take up the most room in cabinets. Score. The best part is that it kind of feels like your grandma’s kitchen–a little retro never hurt anyone.


#2:  Work with what you have. If you can’t change the wall color, work with it so it seems like it was on purpose. This room has neutral rental-color walls, but the cream-colored couch makes it all work together. Also, there’s only one frame on the wall, which means less holes. Plus, that trunk is a great idea for a coffee table because it does double-duty as a storage space.

#3:  Use lamps to add mood lighting.  Overhead light can be pretty harsh and less homey.

#4:  Curtains and rugs are like magic. Adding some textiles into a room makes it feel cozy and personalized, especially if the curtains are floor-length.

#5:  Have a designated place to put your purse/keys/coat when you come in. There is nothing that irks me more than cluttering up the kitchen counter, couch, or floor with my stuff and then feeling like the house is messy. Maybe it’s just me, but I like things to be in their “place.” When it’s on the floor and I keep having to bend over and get stuff out of it, I feel like I’m camping and not at home.

#6:  Mirrors are good for living rooms. They make the space seem a lot bigger.

#7:  On a budget, to thrift is better than to buy crap. I am guilty of this. If I feel like I need something for the space, I want to get it RIGHTNOW at Ross or Wal-mart instead of being patient and taking the time to go thrift/garage-sale shopping. From experience, that’s the worst thing you can do if you’re going for “homey” rather than “college dorm room.” I get tired of cheap plastic junk really fast.

#8:  Plants or fake flowers bring life to a room. It’s true. I caught the bouquet (which was fake) at my sister’s wedding a year and a half ago, and when I stuck that sucker in a vase I was surprised at how much I liked it.

#9:  Use the height of a room as much as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I dreamed of a taller bookcase for the storage. Also, I’ve discovered that I’d rather have a tall armoire for the extra drawers than a wide dresser for me to spread more junk out on. It’s also handy to use artwork or whatever to draw the eye up. Makes it feel less cramped.

That’s all I’ve got. But these ideas will hopefully help me focus on the right things for our next place!

Do you have any other ideas about how to make a rental feel more like home?


2 thoughts on “Realistic Ways of Making a Rental Feel Like Home

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