It’s hard to ignore the constant stream of home renovation shows and websites filled with images of beautiful homes. If you’re renting, that’s when it hits you… homeownership envy.

Reproduced with permission of LJ Hooker

But that doesn’t mean you need to be limited in your design choices. Here are eight ways to help decorate and make your rental feel like home without getting in trouble with your landlord.

1. Refresh the window treatment

If you don’t like the old plastic vertical blinds in your apartment, consider replacing them with new Venetians, cordless blinds or curtains. Don’t chuck out the old blinds as you’ll need to reinstall them when you go to leave, and of course, make sure you don’t make any new holes in the wall when installing your new window treatment.

If you have your heart set on shutters, it may be worth approaching your agent and asking whether the landlord would be prepared to go halves with you to install the shutters. You get to enjoy them while you are there, and they get to keep them when you leave. This is an excellent win/win situation.

2. Decorate your rental with greenery

Plants and flowers give an instant lift to any space, so add them to your kitchen and living room. It’s clichéd to say they bring life to a room, but it’s true, plus they have the bonus of helping to clean the air and remove toxins. Cleaning the air and making it your own is a nice feeling, especially if loads of other people have lived there before you.

Don’t just limit your plants to the living room. Add them to your bathroom too. Many plants, like cacti, love the climate of a warm room and thrive in bathroom spaces.

Read more: How to declutter your living room in 20 minutes

3. Decorate the walls

Peel and stick vinyl stickers, called decals, which are super popular at the moment, can be found it loads of interior stores and online. They come in all different colours and designs and are relatively inexpensive. They can easily be added and removed and a great way to add detail to your wall without damaging the paint underneath.

Another trick is to use removable wallpaper and to create a feature wall. Made out of self-adhesive wall sticker fabric – it looks and feels like traditional wallpaper, but you can easily DIY it as it requires no glue, no water and no tradesperson. When it is time to move, the removable wallpaper will peel off without leaving any residue or damaging the surface – making it a landlord-friendly option.

4. Storage

Many rental properties lack storage space which can make your home feel cluttered and messy. A good idea is to decorate with furniture or accessories that can help with storage and make a statement.

A television cabinet with storage helps create order in the home. A coffee table with a lid and storage inside is handy to place items you don’t use a lot, and a bookshelf is an ideal piece to balance decoration with storage. Consider mixing the bookshelves up by displaying objects of different shapes and sizes. Group books together in colour order and have other shelves dedicated to showing some of your favourite items – it’s as simple as that.

5. Decorate with some artwork

Most landlords are not keen on their tenants drilling holes in the walls, but you can use removable, self-adhesive hooks to hang your favourite piece. Just check what weight they can hold as they do vary.

If you’re renting an older property, you may be lucky enough to have picture rails. This idea has been around since the 15th century, but it enables you to hang pictures from a moveable hook that can hold substantial weight and won’t damage the wall’s surface. Keep in mind bulky items may require two hooks. Of course, fireplace mantels are also suitable to place artwork, candles, a plant and some personal knick-knacks.

If you can’t hang anything on the walls, consider decorating from the floor up. A large mirror works well leaning against the wall, as do prints. An old ladder with colourful scarves, bags and rugs also look great and add a piece of interest.

6. Add some personal flooring

If your flooring is ugly and your landlord isn’t keen to fix it, an excellent way to improve the look is to decorate with a sizeable neutral rug to cover the space and then add some colour and texture with layered rugs on top. A runner in a hallway can change the whole feel of an entrance or hall leading to bedrooms and is relatively inexpensive.

Read more: Rental inspection checklist – Handy hacks

7. Add a vignette

“A what?” I hear you ask. A vignette is a grouping of objects. It is usually made up of homewares such as a vase or bowl, some flowers and other natural elements, mementos and art and craft. They help to add personality to your space, to bring it to life. Find your favourite items that you’ve collected over the years and group them to create a little display. These work well in the living room, on a dining table, in a bathroom and in your bedroom.

8. Upgrade the light fixtures

Rentals often come with terrible lighting, and while it is probably not practical to change all the light fittings, spending some time and money upgrading those in high traffic rooms can make a big difference. If you have bare bulbs or ugly pendants, an easy way to refresh these is to replace the shades. Don’t throw anything away. Upon leaving, you might be asked to ‘make good’ and restore the property to the same condition as when you moved in.

Table lamps positioned in a hall or on a side table can create a homely feel and add some character and personality to your space.

A word of warning

Before you think, “YIPEE, I can go crazy with home improvements,” remember that a standard tenancy agreement usually prevents any renovations, alterations or additions to the premises without the landlord’s written consent. If you want to do something drastic like painting a wall or change the flooring, contact your agent/landlord to find out what your options are here.

LJ Hooker
LJ Hooker

Established in 1928, LJ Hooker has become a global business working across eight countries, with a franchise network of over 650 offices. The company was founded by Sir Leslie Joseph Hooker and today is one of the largest property managers in the region, managing around 135,000 properties valued at over A$80 billion and generating A$1.5 billion in rental income each year.