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The 13 Renter-Friendly Hacks We Swear By (and Have Done Ourselves)

photo by tessa neustadt | from: brady’s living room refresh

I can think of about 10 pros that come with renting and all of them have to do with not being responsible for home maintenance. As a “temporary” lodger, it is technically not my fault when the garbage disposal breaks or windows start leaking when it rains. When that happens, I call up Mr. Landlord and say “We’ve got a problem that’s really your problem so please come fix it”. This lack of responsibility is one big reason why I’ve been a renter for 7 years now and will be for the foreseeable future. And yet, there can be no pros without a few cons. My apartment is temporary no matter how long I plan to stay, so I can’t go around breaking down walls or ripping up the tile in the bathroom. And even if I could, my bank account would suffer, and I’d be a dummy for spending so much time and money on something that is not mine. Herein lies the plight of us renters. We deserve a home we love but at what cost? What’s worth it to upgrade and what are we doomed to live with?

Over the years EHD has done the work in figuring out just that. These are tried and true hacks that are mostly low cost, low maintenance but always guaranteed to make you and your rental happier together. Grab your hard hats and let’s get started with the lowest lift…

Replace That Old (or Boring) Hardware

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara’s living room & dining room reveal

This is the most low-lift yet impactful hack out there and happens to be a classic EHD design move. We encourage replacing doorknobs, cabinet pulls, towel racks, dresser knobs, switch plates, you name it. It can be very affordable and the best way to change up the style on a piece of furniture or in a room. All you need is a screwdriver and the hardware of your choice and you’re in business. Look at you go! Recently, Sara did this (above) with her Ikea entry cabinet and it upgraded a plain piece of furniture to have a modern Scandinavian feel.

If you are in the market here are some ones we love:

1. Brass Hexagon Knobs | 2. Patton Cabinet Knob | 3. Leather Drawer Handles  | 4. Gwyneth Handle | 5. Brushed Brass Cabinet Handles | 6. Villa Towel Hook

Painting (We Promise It’s Worth It)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: arlyn’s moody dining room reveal

There is a reason we talk extensively about paint colors around here. Being trapped within walls that are not your ideal color is depressing. Luckily, this is a pretty easy fix and hiring help is not necessary. You will likely need permission from your landlord to do this (or, some of us rebels maintain the philosophy that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission). As long as you paint it back to the same color before you move out, you should be in the clear. I mean look at the transformation Arlyn’s dining room made with a coat of paint (WHAT?!)

P.S. A bunch of paint companies are delivering paint cans right to your door. Head to this post to see which ones are our favorites.

Install Temporary Wallpaper For A Hint Of Personality

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a home office makeover with threshold removable wallpaper

Removable wallpaper is alive and well, my friends, and good thing because it can add so much charm and intrigue to your rental. We love adding temporary wallpaper and murals in nooks or small spaces because it can make the space pop. Also, it can create the perception of different “zones” even in the smallest spaces if you don’t cover every wall.

photo by: sara ligorria-tramp | from: a romantic glam bedroom reveal

We aren’t going to lie, wallpaper can be labor-intensive, but nowadays there are some great options out there that are easy to install and remove. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Vintage Blue Bird and Leaves Wallpaper | 2. Buffalo Plaid Peel & Stick Wallpaper | 3. Orange Crush Wallpaper | 4. Garden Mural | 5. Lollipop Floral Peel & Stick Wallpaper | 6. Green House Print Wallpaper

Or Make your own wallpaper using pages from a vintage book

image source

This reminds me of my childhood bedroom except my makeshift wallpaper strategy was cutting out pictures from fashion magazines and pasting them all over my walls. I am thrilled to discover that there is an adult version of this. I can imagine recreating this look with vintage botanical guides, drawing books, magazines, or postcards. The best part is you can simply use double-sided tape or even putty to avoid doing harm to the walls.

Install Window Treatments That You Love

photo: by sara ligorria-tramp |from: julie’s huge (and diy packed) bedroom upgrade

Window treatments don’t feel necessary (especially if you have blinds that came with the space). But we PROMISE that installing curtains or roman shades like Julie did will make your house feel like a home. It feels like a magical transformation. Now, most of the time it’s very doable to find affordable options but sometimes you might need to go custom (weird windows), but if you can swing it will make all the difference. And if knowing how to hang them is holding you back, we’ve got you.

O and if privacy/sleep is REALLY important to you, then we really recommend blackout shades.

Replace Those Ugly Light Fixtures To Light You Up

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: arlyn’s bright & happy rental living room makeover
photo by tessa neustadt | from: house tour: mel’s new place makes us want to declutter immediately

This is a more advanced move and we advise acquiring the help of an electrician unless you are confident in your wiring abilities. But do not skip this step if you can help it because it’s so impactful. I mean talk about a custom looking home. Do yourself a favor and replace that chandelier from 1985 that you can’t stand to look at. It’s worth the labor and you can always bring your light fixtures with you when you move (just make sure to save the original one to reinstall).

Hot Tip

If you have an exposed hanging cord, wrap it in twine or some patterned fabric.

1. Saucedo 1 – Light Single Geometric Pendant | 2. Tangent Pendant | 3. Tiered Drum Pendant| 4. Modern Globe Pendant Ceiling Light Brass | 5. Mitzi Margot Single Light 12″ Wide Plug-In Pendant | 6. Elegant Lighting LD2251 Keller Single Light 15″ Wide Pendant

Ugly Floors? Install Peel & Stick Vinyl Tile

photo by tessa neustadt | from: brady’s kitchen reveal

Remember Brady’s insanely affordable vinyl floor hack?? It cost under $50. No, I am not kidding. And guys, this kitchen is so good looking you’ll be shocked that it is a rental and you’ll be even more shocked by the before pictures ( I mean, right?!). The best part is if you follow his steps you don’t have to touch the original tile at all. It basically entails measuring the space and putting down tile “stickers”. Here are some more of our favorites:

1. Vinyl Floor Tile Sticker | 2. Nexus Self Adhesive | 3. Carrara Hexagon Peel and Stick Tile | 4. Self-Adhesive Decorative and Removable Vinyl Tile | 5. Simple Elegance Losas Mosaic Vinyl Tile | 6. White, Grey, Slate Stellar Tile

Replace Outdated, Grimey Faucets

photo by zeke ruelas | from: brady gives a refresh to his vintage bathroom

This step might seem intimidating but thanks to Youtube there are thousands of videos that can walk you through it, step by step. And the labor is worth it. I personally love a matte black or brass faucet and the difference they make in an otherwise run-down bathroom or kitchen.

You can also go the route that Brady did and overhaul the whole sink, toilet, and mirror with your landlord’s permission. But unless you plan to spend years in your rental (which Brady has), it’s not the most financially sound option.

1. Single Hole Bathroom Faucet | 2. Dia Widespread Lavatory Faucet, Brushed Bronze | 3. Kohler Tempered 1.2 GPM Widespread Bathroom Faucet | 4. Kohler Purist Widespread Bathroom Faucet  | 5. Yaquina Cross Handle Faucet | 6. Avanity Positano 1.2 GPM Widespread Bathroom Faucet 

Replace Toilet Seat Cover (Easy, Peasy)

We love any easy bathroom hack because rental bathrooms don’t get enough love and respect. If your bathroom is your least favorite place to visit, you probably are not giving it the attention that it deserves (she says to herself…). Replacing the toilet seat is so simple to do (plus was an EHD 2020 bathroom trend prediction) and the act itself will feel like a small step towards more self-care. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of self-care, you can get real fancy and install a bidet, too. Both Jess and Bowser love theirs. There are some great, affordable options out there that some of us have and love love love.

Install A Pretty Countertop Cover

photo by: sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’ moto: you have to see how she hacked her rental kitchen with diys

Who could forget Jess’ DIY countertop cover?? She used alder plywood and employed the help of her very handy dad to create this stunning and chic cover (inspired by Sarah Lonsdale) and it immediately modernized the space. Though she had some assistance, it’s a pretty straightforward process and if you are curious, be sure to head to her kitchen reveal for all the deets. In fact, head there no matter what because the whole kitchen is SO good and full of tons of other renter-friendly hacks.

Remove Cabinet Doors To Create Instant Open Shelving

Jess’ rental kitchen happened to come without closed cabinet storage up top, but seeing this photo reminded us that this can easily be done in any kitchen. Removing cabinet doors can open up your space and give you an opportunity to display all your favorite kitchenware (and could be a unique place to sneak in some art).

Hot Tip

To make the inside of your cabinets display ready, paint or use removable wallpaper for a solid glow up.

Install A Temporary Backsplash

design by anita yokota

Backsplashes are sadly overlooked in rentals. We generally don’t replace kitchen backsplash tile because of the time, energy, and money that it requires. That’s a job for homeowners, we say! But, this is not to suggest that you are destined to be stuck with ugly backsplash tile or no backsplash at all. Tile is not the only option for backsplashes. Take it from Anita Yokota (who you might remember from this #ShowEmYourDIY post) who installed Rebecca Atwood wallpaper to make her backsplash pop. (Also, take a closer look at the countertop…it’s contact paper! Another countertop that is super affordable (like $40 affordable))

We also love this scalloped backsplash by Matilda Goad (which you may remember from yesterday’s post). She tested it out with carboard and when she felt satisfied with the look she turned to a local stonemason and had them cut out the shape in a granite slab that matched the countertop. This might be advanced for a rental, but in hopes that one of you might be able to come up with something just as intriguing I had to share.

Can’t Make Any Holes In Your Walls?Try these…

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara’s tv room reveal

Drilling 50 different holes into your wall to create the perfect gallery wall is not advised, but we certainly understand that it happens. Like I said before, sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. But might I suggest an alternative: Take notes from Sara’s TV room and even opt to hang art unframed as one way to avoid the drill (hint: she used putty). It’ll save you money and the time replastering holes when your lease is up and happens to look really cool. Win win, my friends. But whether you want to use a frame or not, here are our favorite damage free, no hole making, picture hanging tools:

1. Command Medium-Sized Wire Toggle Hooks | 2. Large Black Command Picture Hanging Strips | 3. Mounting Squares | 4. Scotch Mounting | 5. Quakehold! | 6. Large White Command Picture Hanging Strips

Alright, that is all I have for now. I hope if you are in a rental (or even not) that you feel that making your home feel more like yours is very possible. And if you are very DIY minded, have you done any of these hacks in your own rental? Are there any other rental-friendly tricks that we missed?? Tell me everything.

Opener Image Credit: Photo by: Tessa Neustadt | from: Brady’s living room refresh

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1 year ago

Julie’s bedroom with the green paint details and that tiny black stripe still has my heart.

The velvet/cane pendant featured needs to live in my home.

1 year ago
Reply to  karen

Agreed!!! Julie’s MOTO will forever be my favorite!

1 year ago

There’s a hot tip that just has filler words you might want to fix..

Otherwise, great post!

1 year ago
Reply to  Lisa

Ugh! I guess the hot tip coding didn’t like that we put quotation marks within the text (palm to forehead). All fixed!

1 year ago

Command strips, hooks, velcro, etc!!!! I have been obsessed with them since I lived in a concrete block dorm room where nothing else would stay and I have used them in every rental I’ve lived in since then. They make ones that will hold up to 16 lbs (which is insane) and they always come off totally clean. I have hung full gallery walls with them, used light clips to hang fairy lights, used the hooks for organization…I am a major evangelist and probably should buy 3M stock.

1 year ago
Reply to  Alison

I can second this one!

After too many frustrations with command strips I ended up trying a few of the velcro ones as a last ditch effort. Not only can I confirm they come off clean when pulled down right – but the velcro seems to avoid that long term weight pressure that eventually leads to a strip coming clean off. There’s no ‘weak’ points and the snaps are holding strong.

I’ve had 1 very heavy poster size frame up using these (2 years) and 2 smaller frames. No movement. Definitely getting more and the only ones I’m using now.

1 year ago

Gotta love a post that links to so many other wonderful posts to review!

I’m definitely going to try some of these when we move into our new apartment – we want to make some short-term updates to the kitchen while we save up for a proper reno.

And like someone already mentioned, you have some Lorem Ipsum text in a Hot Tip 🙂

1 year ago
Reply to  Jessica

So happy that this post is going to be helpful!

And just fixed the hot tip box. Coding can be so temperamental:)

1 year ago

Haha that filler text hot tip… I’m at the stage in quarantine where it *almost* makes sense after running it through Google translate …

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Tomorrow members of the bow and mass layer Performance. Relay layer region and put him quiver. No developers propaganda that soccer dapibus yet. In fact, it becomes venenatis tincidunt. But at the bananas. Japan trigger any boat, my travel arrangements, but members of the fermentation. Now volleyball, real estate developer and sad, inexpensive gas prices drop, but wants peanut quiver at zero. Now adorn salad pregnant and pregnant. Moors need tomato worth it. Sometimes they malesuada hunger and at the first taste. Donec ullamcorper quis justo sed, tincidunt not responsible in fact it is not. Relay is playing real estate, the author of carrots, nutrition ugly”

1 year ago
Reply to  Lauren

haha! Just had a little coding hiccup! All fixed xx

1 year ago
Reply to  Lauren

Haha, That’s awesome!

1 year ago

What about rentals with carpet?

1 year ago
Reply to  Christy

I put colorful rugs on top So I don’t have to touch the gross carpet!

1 year ago

love these tips! HOWEVERRR i did brady’s DIY floor tiling years ago when it came out and it looked nice for a couple of months and has been a total pain in the @ss since. it’s so hard to clean, the tiles lift and move and the sticky residue underneath traps so much dirt. when you try to remove and replace tiles the glue is SOOO sticky and the tiles break off into pieces that are impossible to remove. i read that if you blow dry them on highest heat it helps to melt the glue, so i’ll be trying that next. my project for this week is actually to remove all the tiles. 🙁 i wish i had saved up for sheet vinyl flooring instead, could have laid down one piece that can be removed when you move out.
again, love y’all and love these projects just wanted to let you know the tiles were a big DIY fail for me.

1 year ago
Reply to  jess

update! i removed the peel-and-stick tiles and under-lying linoleum last week and installed click-lock vinyl plank flooring. one of our neighbors had some left over from a project that he kindly gifted us and it was enough for almost half of the kitchen. i spent just under $200 to get enough planks to finish the floor and it was so much easier to install than the peel-and-stickers! i love that they don’t require any glue and as a renter they can be removed very easily. it’s an investment we made because we are planning to be in this apartment for at least a few more years and i’m very hopeful that they will be much easier to maintain than the tile stickers. i’d def recommend sheet flooring or the click-lock flooring over sticker tiles! save your pennies for a few more months, i think it’s worth it. <3

1 year ago

YAY for rental tips! Thank you so much for this.

1 year ago

I love this so much! That dining area has my heart!

1 year ago
Reply to  Laura McKeown

Mine, too…I’m sitting in it right now, except of course it looks VERY different with 3 giant monitors and two computers (working from home with the husband) haha!

1 year ago

Ive done almost all of this! If you can’t paint but want to change wall color— in my last place I put up PAINTABLE temporary wallpaper. Stick it up, paint whatever color you want, peel down before move-out. I can confirm it didn’t bleed through or damage the paint underneath in any way. This is how I concealed my landlord’s lime green kitchen walls 🙂

1 year ago

Not currently a renter but thought I’d share a product I’ve used for hanging posters. It’s called Good Hangups and is basically a sticker with a magnet inside. I need a temporary solution for a Halloween poster and this worked awesome!! Love all your posts EHD!

Rachel Castro
1 year ago

Hi- Would you mind sharing the source of that amazing white sofa in the first photo?

1 year ago
Reply to  Rachel Castro

Yup — it’s this one 🙂

1 year ago

DIY newbie here! When you are replacing hardware in kitchen and bathrooms, etc, do you have to find new hardware that matches the existing holes left by the old ones? It seems like patching and painting wouldn’t turn out looking that great? Am I being silly? Do all the question marks reveal how utterly in the dark I am about anything home related? 😂

1 year ago
Reply to  Hillary

Do you mean hardware for cabinets, like pulls and knobs? matching the holes would be the easiest option. door pulls actually have a number of “standard” sizes on how far the holes are apart. for example, two holes for a drawer pull might be 128 mm or 160 mm or 80 mm apart (or the equivalent in inches).
How you know which you need: Unscrew one of your existing handles and measure the distance between the holes. Then look for handles with that same measurement. I’ve seen it referred to as “hole centers: xy inches” online, which i believe means the distance between the two holes.

1 year ago
Reply to  JayNay

Yes! Okay, fingers crossed our 80’s era house used standard sizes.

1 year ago

From a former renters perspective: Great tips to make a space your own. Art is SO important. Also, maybe share your paint before repainting (I once was in the middle of repainting when my landlady came in and wished she could have kept my color choice)

From the wife of a landlord perspective:
Talk to your landlords about what you are up to: they may freak or they may help or anything in between. (At least you will know)
We have bought tenants paint, redone tile backsplashes, and other improvements while tenants were in a place and eager for a few changes. It helps us improve places and have happy longer term tenants, with less time between rentals.
On the other hand, my husband will never forget the pitch black bedroom that took 5 coats to paint over. (I will never forget the people who threw all the handmade ceramic plates in the dumpster when they moved)
Surprises are not appreciated when trying to keep a rental. It is after all their property and most landlords (despite popular opinion) are also doing their best to balance finances.

1 year ago

a few of those faucets for renters are almost as much as my mortgage payment…

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