home equity

10 home improvement projects for renters

Fed up with your rental? Sick of your drab decor, tiny dimensions or bland landscaping? Don't panic.

Fixing up your rental
There are plenty of (reversible) projects that can spruce up your living space without breaking the bank -- or incurring the wrath of your landlord..
10 home improvement projects for renters
  1. Play with color.
  2. Hang it all!
  3. Live in a material world.
  4. I screen, you screen.
  5. Be a divider.
  6. Reflect on adding mirrors.
  7. Lighten up a room
  8. Create a built-in look.
  9. Change up your hardware.
  10. It's easy being green.

1. Play with color. Most apartments will let you paint walls and even floors. So give your rooms a shot of color. Some ideas: Paint one wall to liven up a room and create a focal point; paint the floors and molding a contrasting color or paint a stenciled border along the tops of walls. If your lease specifies that you return the walls to their original color when you leave, use lighter shades, as they are easier to paint over.

To bring some life to that blah beige carpet, "toss down a big colorful area rug and you've changed the room" says Linda Holmes, certified remodeler and president of Creative Carpentry Remodelers Inc., in Aurora, Ill.

Her advice: Focus on using items that are portable. "Don't spend money on anything you can't take with you when you leave," she says. As well as adding color and texture, a rug can define an area like a dining or sitting room. Big pillows and colorful throws are also portable ways to bring in color.

2. Hang it all! And don't be afraid to put colorful rugs, scarves or art on the walls. Try a Victorian-inspired grouping of photos or mirrors hung from picture hooks and suspended from ribbon in an accent color, says Holmes.

3. Live in a material world. Beautiful fabric can pull a room together. Here are some ways to use it:

  • Put cloth directly on the walls with decorative nail tacks along the ceiling and baseboards, says Deborah Houseworth, ASID, president of DLH Design Studio in Chevy Chase, Md. Drape or gather the fabric for "a subtle, wavy look," she says. To cover tacks, you can glue decorative trim over them. When it's time to leave, just take some toothpaste and fill in the tack holes. "(Fabric) adds a little more texture and interest to the wall than paint," she says.
  • Drape colorful cloth from a rod suspended at the top of the wall to create a headboard, camouflage an unsightly vent or cover a window with a back-alley view, says Houseworth.

4. I screen, you screen. Angled across a corner, a folding screen "adds a lot of drama to a room," says New York interior designer Michael Love, FASID, president of Interior Options Inc. Plus, you can use the hidden area to store a vacuum cleaner, ironing board or anything else you might want to disguise.


Indulge your do-it-yourself talents by constructing the screen, or check out home, discount and import stores for less expensive models.


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