Rent Like You Mean It is a series all about giving our rental spaces a new lease. We’ve rounded up a whole host of refreshing spruce-ups (and cover-ups), impactful DIYs (plus how to get them back to square one when you leave), and peeks at real-life rental transformations. Because a lease should never stop you from having a space that feels like yours—even if it’s only for a year.
Renting your apartment is usually temporary—maybe you’re in a certain area for your job, or maybe it’s a pit stop before buying a starter home. But that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with dated kitchen tile, lack of light, and zero closet space for the rest of your lease—not if we have anything to say about that.
Once you identify the issue(s) that are keeping you up at night, there are plenty of easy ways to transform your space from an empty, windowless shoebox to an organized, well-lit home. In fact, we’ve personally done all of these in past rentals and have always gotten our security deposits back in full, too.
Here are 28 easy ideas to address common rental problems and transform every room—even before you have to pay the first month’s rent.
No closet space
Even if you’re lucky enough to actually have a closet in your bedroom, it’s often just a hole in the wall with one rusty rod for clothes and no shelves or storage nooks. Make the most of the hole with adjustable rods to maximize vertical space and storage containers for thick sweaters and accessories. If you have extra space in your bedroom, a freestanding clothing rack can show off your daily uniform while a leaning ladder can hold extra linens and throw blankets. Just get one in a style you like, whether that’s rustic or contemporary, so it won’t be an eyesore.
Not enough light
Natural light is a premium no matter whether you rent or buy, but there are lots of easy fixes. The easiest would be to swap heavy blinds with sheer curtains to let in the most sunshine or double up on light and peace of mind with privacy decals—I’ve used these in a previous apartment where my bedroom faced someone’s bathroom and they were super easy to apply and take down when I moved.
A plug-in sconce can add also ambiance and lighting, while mirrors can help bounce light around a room and take full advantage of golden hour—almost making you forget that you live in a shoebox with no holes.
While I personally don’t mind a darker bedroom, a too-dark bedroom can make it harder to avoid the snooze button. I keep a wake-up alarm clock on my nightstand; it mimics natural daylight to gently rouse you from your slumber.
Living in a space without any rooms or doors
If you’ve ever lived in a studio, then you’ll understand the problem of having one big room that encompasses everything but the kitchen. The trick to transforming a large empty space without any doors is to create zones that mimic a living room, bedroom, and home office, using your furniture and decor. Instead of having your sofa right up against a wall, try moving it toward the center of the room to split it into two zones; I use the chaise end of my Burrow sectional to separate my living room and home office area. Or place a large rug under your bed, nightstand, and garment rack to create the illusion of a bedroom—there are endless ways to move your furniture around to maximize your space.
Visible wires and cables
Between our TVs, laptops, speakers, phones, and all our small kitchen appliances, and bad rental layouts, there are just too many visible wires collecting dust on our floors and getting mangled by our robot vacuums. Short of buying only wireless gadgets, we’ve turned to cable management boxes, trays, and concealer tubes—even creatively rearranging our furniture to hide unsightly cords.
We’re big proponents of loving the space we’re in, but it’s hard to love worn-down, dated kitchen tiles—especially if it’s staring back at us three times a day (seven if you count our snacking trips). One of the easiest ways to update an unsightly backsplash is to cover it up with peel-and-stick tiles and wallpaper. There are ones for every kitchen style—and yes, plenty of variations on the classic subway tile too. You can also use them on furniture, appliances, and more. Once you’re ready to move into a new space, you can just peel these off and get your security deposit back.
Not enough counter space
When it comes to kitchen counters, there’s just never enough. That’s why I absolutely love smart organizers like expanding shelves and Lazy Susans to double the amount of space in kitchen cabinets, and freestanding dish racks so there’s a place to dry plates and prevent water from dripping everywhere. If there’s not a single extra square inch of space, look for magnetic organizers that will make use of your fridge door or rolling storage carts that can fit into the weird nooks and crannies every apartment seems to have.
No bathroom storage
If the only bathroom storage you have is the top of your vanity, side of your tub, or top of your toilet seat, you’ll need a sturdy shower caddy, handy storage cart, or at least some clear organizers. There’s no reason to live in fear that you’ll knock your toothbrush onto the floor or worse, into the toilet, every day. If you go the storage cabinet route, make sure to look for one that can pull double duty in the kitchen or elsewhere around your rental—versatility is the name of the game when you’re working with small spaces and tricky layouts.