Decorate your rented apartment without losing your deposit

After months of painstaking searching marked by perhaps a dozen disappointments, you’ve finally hit the jackpot: an apartment that ticks all the right boxes on location, price and space. You already have your furniture layout planned out and are struggling to contain yourself as you sign on the dotted line. But it’s only once it the excitement subsides that you realise your work has just begun. It’s a fantastic space but it’s obvious the bathroom hasn’t seen any improvements for decades, the kitchen is tiny and outdated, and the walls have seen better days.

You could take a hammer, smash everything up and start from scratch. There’s only one problem: your deposit. Any unapproved changes to the apartment could suck you into a vicious battle for your deposit with your landlord. It doesn’t have to be that way if you know what is permissible and what is out of bounds. Here are tips for decorating your apartment without upsetting the landlord…

PAINTING 

Paint is one of the quickest and cheapest fixes for many of the more visible problems you’ll find when you first move into an apartment. Do the kitchen cabinets look worn out and ugly? Is the closet gloomy and dark? Is the bathroom drowning in wall stains? A new coat of paint could eliminate these problems in a matter of hours. Sometimes though, your reason for painting is less about hiding dirt and wear, and more about introducing your décor preferences to your new abode. You could for example paint just one wall of a room or do the lower half or third for dramatic effect. Or you could disregard the walls and opt to focus on the trims and doors. Either way, you’ll have to get approval from the Landlord to do ANY painting projects. They may be happy to hear that you want to decorate their house or they may not allow any changes so it’s hugely important that you check before getting out the paint brush.

SOFT FURNISHINGS

The easiest way to change the decor of your newly rented apartment is with fabrics and furnishings. Add a splash of colour to the bedroom with a new bedding set. Bring some pattern into a neutral living room room with curtains, cushions and rugs. Even vibrant coloured towels can make a big difference to the bathroom. Adding soft furnishings will help you to get the vibe you want in your home and the good news is that you can take it all with you when you leave, so you won’t be wasting your money by investing in fabrics, cushions and bedding.

REPLACE HARDWARE

Most landlords won’t have a problem if you’d like to swap out the apartment’s fittings, as long as you check with them first. Fittings may be small but they can have a profound impact on the overall ambience of the home. Add character to the apartment by upgrading door handles, kitchen cabinet knobs, light fixtures and towel racks. Only make sure that the new hardware is the same dimension as the old ones so you don’t need to drill new holes or enlarge the existing ones. Remember, you’ll need to return the old hardware at the end of your lease so you want to be certain that it will go smoothly. Store the old fittings somewhere you can retrieve them when you eventually need to put them back.

USE PLUG-IN LIGHTS

Rearranging the lighting is something hardly any tenant thinks about. And for good reason – the amount of electrical work required is too intensive and expensive, and your landlord definitely wouldn’t approve! But what if your new apartment has ugly strip-lighting or too-bright LEDs? There’s a practical alternative: plug-in lighting and lamps. You can then keep the existing lights off and let your new lights create your desired atmosphere. Another great lighting idea is to look for lamps that have a built-in dimmer. This is a practical way to control the intensity of lighting and thus the mood of the home.

USE HOOKS TO EXPAND STORAGE

If your apartment doesn’t have many shelves, cupboards and cabinets for storage, you can create more space by installing hooks. Choose a design that has multiple hooks on just one backing board. This way you’ll only be making a couple of holes in the wall to hold many hangers and will be unlikely to cause any serious damage that requires major repairs later. As long as your landlord is okay with you hanging pictures, you’ll be fine to add hooks and fill in the holes when you leave. You can use the hooks to hang hats, bags, coats, towels and bathrobes. In the kitchen use hooks to store frequently used kitchenware such as pots, pans and cutlery. If you want to be more adventurous, how about hooks for your potted plants?

A dispute with your landlord is something you want to avoid as you may loose your deposit AND it can have a detrimental effect on your ability to secure a rental apartment in future. With these tips, you can remodel the apartment in a way that makes you happy while taking care not to violate any modification restrictions specified in the lease.

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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