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How to Decorate Your Rental Apartment without Violating Your Lease

When does your apartment truly become a home? If you ask me, it’s when you decorate!

Decorating your space, while still abiding by your landlord’s rules or structural restraints of your apartment, can oftentimes feel like a challenge. If you are willing to get a bit creative, you should have no problem creating a home that looks and feels just the way you want.

Problem: Painting Not Allowed

The most commonly bemoaned roadblock keeping renters from achieving decorating nirvana is lack of landlord approval for painting. Because every landlord is different, be sure to check with yours to see painting is allowed in your unit. Some landlords will allow painting of approved neutral colors, and a few very laid-back ones will even allow any color, assuming it is painted back to neutral when you move out.

Solution: Gallery Wall

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A white wall doesn’t need to stay a blank wall. In fact, you can display an entire collection of photos and art on your wall – which can be more interesting than a blank painted wall!

A gallery wall allows for an incredible amount of creativity and flexibility, making it a perfect option for customizing it perfectly for your rental. When creating your gallery wall, keep in mind a few different options for creating a specific look in your place:

  • Will all frames be the same size and hung in the same orientation, or will it be a mix and match?

  • Will all photos and art be of the same color or color family, or will color not be an important factor?

  • Will all of the photos and art have a common theme?

Looking for more inspiration for your gallery wall? HGTV provides great examples and tips for your project.

Problem: No Holes Allowed in the Wall

You can’t entirely blame your landlord for not wanting their tenants to put holes in the wall: would you want someone damaging your property? Of course, holes are seemingly necessary for decorating. Some landlords will approve small holes, like those from hanging photos, if you spackle the wall prior to moving out. As always, you should check with your landlord about their specific regulations for your unit.

Solution: Command Strips to the Rescue

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Command Strips are a renter’s best friend. These sticky little miracles allow you to hang all of the things that your landlord didn’t want you to hang, without any of the holes: frames (see, that gallery wall IS within your reach!), posters -- I’ve even used the Command Hooks to hang curtain rods! If they are good enough for Martha Stewart, they’re good enough for me.

One word of caution: when removed properly, you shouldn’t cause any damage to your walls. However, it’s easier than you think to improperly remove the strip and rip a chunk of paint off of your walls. I’ve found that pulling VERY slowly is the most surefire way to avoid damage (and your landlord’s wrath).

Problem: Dark as a Cave

Each year, Chicago’s winter descends upon us with bitter cold, snow and utter darkness. While the darkness of winter may get you down, your home should be a bright retreat from the cold and miserable months our wonderful city gifts to us.

Solution: Get Strategic with Your Lighting!

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I can’t tell you how to make the days last longer, nor can I encourage you to get more windows installed in your apartment, but I can point you in the direction of a few tricks for creating a more well lit space.

As Apartment Therapy points out, strategically placing mirrors next to or across from windows is an old trick used by interior decorators to get more of the sun’s light inside. The mirror will help the light bounce across your room, with the added bonus of making your space look larger.

When there isn’t enough light outside to brighten up your indoor space, you’ll want to think about the types of light bulbs you use. Bed Bath and Beyond recommends using LED light bulbs. Look for bulbs with a color temperature of 2,500 to 3,000 Kelvin for a soft, warm light with an extra punch of white.