Designer’s Tip and Tricks for Rent Dweller’s

For the last 13.5 years and counting to my beloved husband who is in the U.S. Navy I have lived in a house or two or three, or maybe four heck, I have lost count! Through the years I have come up with different ways in my making my temporary houses feel more like home in doing some of the following things that always seem to work no matter where we go.

1.   Paint: If you’re allowed to paint this is the easiest  most cost-effective way to get big impact for your money. If the palette is neutral enough this could be considered a tenant improvement and you may ask about how to get a credit toward your next rent. I would avoid using really saturated colors because they take a lot of work to cover up that you will have to take care of in the end.

2.     Upholstered Walls: This is nothing new. They have been doing this since the Greek and Roman ages with tapestries then it became popular in the Baroque – French Neo Classic period where the walls, windows and bedding where all done in the same fabric. However, I got this idea from my Aunt Rosie circa 1987 when she rented her little house in Deer Park Texas. Thanks Tia!

Designer note: I would use upholstery tacks rather than liquid starch. That just seems like way too much work and a lot of mess. If you’re feeling frisky you could even do a design with the tacks. They leave tiny holes and are easy to fill when you go. Also, on a budget tip. I have used patterned flat sheets for a hallway in my last house. I shopped at a discount department store and I was able to cover the entire hall for $75.

3.     Large Scale Re-stick-able Murals:  Now, I have not used this technique myself YET! I am planning to do this for my guest bathroom, but this is a really good way to get big impact without any damage to the walls. Also, this particular vendor allows you to upload your own image. (high-resolution is best) I have seen a lot of really good photography lately that would be great for this application. Check out the vendor at for more information

Designer Note: Back in the late 90’s when I was newly married and had little money to decorate the house with. When I worked at Abercrombie and Fitch we were allowed to take home the large-scale black and white photo displays. I hung these up in my home when paint was not an option. It really made the space fell like a NY loft even though I was renting a town home in Norfolk, VA with 3 other roommates!!!! That’s a story for another time way to much drama MTV really missed out. Okay, back to the topic at hand…

4.     Carpet Tiles: Should you inherit unattractive floors this could an ideal solution.  Best if used on stone, tile, linoleum and low pile carpets. These are great because they come in a variety of patterns, and sizes to create custom rugs, or wall-to-wall carpeting. Plus it’s ideal for households with kids and pets because they make for easy replacement if they get stained.

5.     Size Matters: If your like me and have to move every 2-3 years you never know where you’re going land, or what size home you will be able to get into. That’s why it’s best to keep your furnishing to a clean, small, mid range scale. Meaning stick with a queen size bed, “for-go” the large over stuffed rolled arm sofa they take up a lot of real estate. Dining tables: the best shapes are round and a small-scale rectangle. When working with a round table you can squeeze in more people for dinner parties and when it’s not in use you could stash it away in corner or use it as a side table.  However, for the small-scaled rectangle table you can use it as dual workspace in a small apartment.

6.     Light Fixtures: Changing out dated fixtures to a fabulous vintage chandelier or a cool mod orbit style pendent can really make a difference. Yes, it may call for an electrician or mechanically inclined friend to make the “switch” lol…get it? Switch? I know I get a little corny sometimes I can’t help myself. My point is, it can really make a space feel special and the best thing is that you can take it with you when you go. Just be sure to safely store the other light in a cool dry place.

7.     Drapes: I can tell you right now that I have a least 4 pairs of store-bought drapes in the hall closet. Why, because every house it different and the ceiling heights vary. My suggestion… Buy the longest lengths you can.  The most common length in the store is 108”.  I believe Ikea has some that are longer. The average ceiling heights are 8’, 10’ and 12’. As a designer it’s best to hang your drapes at the highest point of the ceiling to make the window look taller. To adjust the drapes you can take them to your local dry cleaner and ask them to do a light baste stitch hem, or you can do this yourself with a sewing machine.  A baste stitch is a long length stitch that can me easily removed with a seam ripper. Just be careful not to snag the fabric.

Also, trick number two is if you stick with a solid or neutral fabrics you can easily make you store-bought drapes into custom lengths by adding a contrasting band of fabric to the bottom. Not to mention that this trick makes your store-bought drapes now look custom.  Drapes are like the eyebrows to your face.  That’s how important they are so “don’t not do it”, because they frame and soften the room.

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Happy home making!