How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

You’ve moved in and put your things away, yet your new rental doesn’t quite feel like home sweet home. Here are some easy ways to feel more settled in your new place.

By Rachel Brougham | Published Feb 23, 2022 3:51 PM

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Even though you love your new place, it can sometimes be difficult to make your rental house or apartment feel like your own. Since many rentals have rules against painting or putting nails in the walls to hang artwork, you can be left wondering how to make your new rental feel like home. There are things you can do to your rented place (and your frame of mind) that can help it feel more yours—and a place you can’t wait to show off.

1. Clean, Clean, Clean!

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Giving your new apartment or rental home a deep clean can really help the space feel like home. The last thing you want is to find leftover spills, crumbs, and messes left behind by previous tenants. Plus, sometimes it’s hard to see just how dirty a space is until it gets a good wipe down. Give the entire space a good overall scrub (don’t forget to clean the baseboards!), wipe down the windows, and mop the floors. You’ll probably want to pull appliances out, such as the stove and refrigerator, and clean behind and under them as well. Who knows—after a good cleaning you may even see your new home in a whole new light.

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2. Stage an Entryway

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Entryways not only welcome you and guests into the home, but they can set the tone for your space and make the space feel like your own. If you have room, include a small table with a lamp so there can be light right when you walk in the door. A table also provides a place to keep essentials such as your keys and wallet. Don’t forget to add personal touches, such as a favorite framed photo, colorful vase, or potted houseplant.

If your entryway is small or your space lacks an entryway altogether, try creating your own with a couple hooks (the removable kind if screws and anchors are a no-no) to hang jackets, hats, or bags. A free-standing coat rack can also help create a welcoming space to unload your things.

3. Add Personality With a Bookshelf

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Books tell stories, but try telling your own story on bookshelves. Stacking your books both vertically and horizontally on shelves and then mixing in items among the books can show off your style. Think candles, framed photos, and even vases with flowers or potted plants. You can hang or lean artwork and mirrors on bookshelves, which will help add some personality. Insert some little mementos from favorite vacations or a treasured coffee mug. Small lamps can bring in a bit of extra light to the space, as well.

4. Get to Know Your Neighbors

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Getting to know people can be difficult as we get older, not to mention during a pandemic. However, getting to know your neighbors may help you feel even more at home in your new space, and you may even meet some new friends. If you live in an apartment building, check to see if your building has any social nights, such as barbecues or monthly cocktail hours. Don’t be afraid to spend time in common areas, whether it’s a shared patio or community rooms. Finally, don’t forget to introduce yourself to those living next door or around the corner.

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5. Let There Be Light

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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New illumination can help you see your rental in a whole new light. Be sure to check with your landlord, but switching out an outdated overhead light in the dining area or in the kitchen can be an aesthetic game-changer. If changing a light fixture is not an option, a new lamp that fits your style can brighten up an otherwise dark space. You can also try adding some tasteful string lights to help boost your mood and add your own mark.

6. Replace Old Blinds With Curtains

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Window treatments can help set the tone of a space, and since many rental homes and apartments have outdated blinds that may be cracked or discolored, consider replacing them with some curtains you love. Use bold patterns and colors to make an otherwise drab space look vibrant, or add sheer white curtains to help filter in the day’s natural light. Removing blinds is as easy as installing them—you’ll likely just need a screwdriver. Then you can stash the blinds in a closet until you’re ready to move out.

7. Get Creative With Kitchen Storage

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Since apartments are known for having small kitchens, you’ll have to get creative when it comes to storage options and take advantage of every open space you have. For one clever solution, you can purchase some S-hooks and little storage baskets at your local hardware store. Place the hook over the top of a lower cupboard door, attach it to a small basket, and let it hang on the inside of your cupboard. Use this to store small items such as dish towels and utensils. You can also buy a pegboard to hang or prop up on a wall and use the hooks to store pots and pans. An adjustable shower rod can also work to hang utensils.

8. Rethink Hanging Artwork

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Yes, you can hang your artwork collection even without making holes in the wall! Command strips are great for lighter pieces, while Command hooks can support heavier items. For larger items, don’t be afraid to prop them up against the wall. A large, full-size mirror looks great (and can help your space look larger) when it leans up against a wall. If you have a lot of artwork including large pieces, play around with different sizes and have them overlap a bit or cluster them together. They can also be propped up on wall-mounted shelves or on a fireplace mantel if you have one.

9. Consider Furniture Placement

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Is one corner of your rental overrun by unsightly cords or scuffs on the wall? Is there an area that doesn’t get much sunlight so it always seems dark? Use furniture placement in your new rental home to your advantage. Camouflage cords or wall damage behind a large potted plant. Add a small table with a lamp or a standing lamp to bring light to dark areas. If you have a favorite chair, consider putting it next to a sunny window so you’ll have a special corner to read or relax. Just remember to not let the furniture get in the way of your rental’s flow. Spacing pieces out three feet away from one another usually provides plenty of room.

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10. Bring Life to White Space

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Rental homes and apartments are known for having lots of white or beige walls. If you’re not permitted to paint them, you can still inject some color and personality into your space by adding pops of color throughout. Throw pillows are a simple and inexpensive way to add color to your bedroom or living room. A new rug in a fun design adds personality to an otherwise dull floor. Try a colorful shower curtain in the bathroom, add some houseplants or flowers, or even introduce a new piece of furniture in an unexpected hue to offset the dull wall colors.

11. Use Furniture and Accessories That Do Double Duty

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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If your rental is small or short on storage space, invest in some furniture options that serve multiple purposes. A daybed is a great option for apartment dwellers who often have guests sleep over. Add some pillows and you’ll have a sofa for daytime and a place for overnight guests to relax comfortably. Additionally, consider a coffee table with drawers for storing remotes and other everyday items. Some footstools offer built-in storage for extra blankets or pillows. Use stylish bins or baskets to store towels and linens, office supplies, or any other items you may not use every day.

12. Try Temporary Wallpaper or Faux Tile

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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For those really itching to update the walls of their rental home or apartment but aren’t allowed to paint, try adding some temporary wallpaper or faux tile. Peel and stick wallpaper comes in a variety of styles, textures, and colors. It’s also easy to apply and doesn’t leave a residue. A faux tile backsplash in the kitchen or bathroom can help bring a little more color and give your rental a bit of an updated look. It works much like peel and stick wallpaper and is easy to clean.

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13. Create Dedicated Spaces With Room Dividers

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Room dividers are a great option when it comes to rental homes and apartments, even in small spaces. Room dividers are inexpensive and easy to set up and help define zones and spaces, and they can also help create barriers in studio or open loft-style apartments, where they can separate a living area from your sleeping space. A room divider or two can also create an entryway in an otherwise large, open floor plan or block off a home office area carved out of a living room.

14. Explore the Neighborhood

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Your new home isn’t confined to just the inside of your rental. Get out and explore your neighborhood, and you may be surprised how quickly the area starts to feel like home. Visit restaurants so you can find a new go-to spot for takeout. Check out your local library, parks, and entertainment venues. If you’ve moved to a new city, see if there’s an event calendar on the local chamber of commerce or visitor’s bureau pages online. Find out if there are any local organizations or clubs of interest to help you meet new people.

15. Start New Traditions

How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

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Sometimes a new rental doesn’t feel quite like home until you add some new traditions. Go beyond the holidays and think about what you can start doing in your new space that will add joy to your days. If you live with others, eat dinner together in your dining room. Vow to cook one new recipe each week. Start a Sunday morning routine of reading the paper or a few chapters of a new book in your reading nook or favorite chair. By starting new traditions, you’ll get into a routine in your new home, which can help make it feel more like your own.