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As a student living in rented accommodation, making major changes to your home may not be possible or practical. However, there are plenty of affordable, achievable DIY projects you can take on that will personalize your space and make it more functional without angering your landlord.
With just a little bit of creativity and elbow grease, you can transform even the most basic rental property into a stylish, livable space you’re excited to call home.
Small Touches, Big Impact
Sometimes it’s the smallest upgrades that make the biggest difference when it comes to improving a rental property.
For instance, replacing outdated light fixtures can instantly modernize a room, as can installing a fresh coat of paint in a contemporary color scheme.
You’d be surprised by what a difference new window treatments can make too – hang some brightly colored curtains or blinds to liven things up.
- Update lighting: Installing new light fixtures is one of the easiest ways to upgrade a space. Replace a dated ceiling fan or drab bathroom light with something more modern and stylish.
- Experiment with smart bulbs that let you control lighting color and brightness for different moods. Or add accent lighting like track lights or pendant lights to highlight display areas or create cozy dining nook.
- Fresh coat of paint: Painting is an affordable way to instantly revive tired looking walls. Opt for neutral main colors then use bold tones on one accent wall.
- Painting cabinets, shelves, railings and other built-ins is another great way to change the look without a ton of effort. Have fun with paint finishes too – try high-gloss sheens for a lacquered effect or textured paints to add dimensional interest.
- New window treatments: Windows have a huge visual impact on a room. Replace outdated blinds and drapes with stylish, modern window treatments like wood blinds, roman shades, curtains, or roll-up bamboo shades.
- Incorporate bright, cheerful colors and patterns – it’s amazing what new window treatments can do for lighting and mood.
One of the best ways students can transform a basic rental is by getting organized. Install some floating shelves or over-the-door storage racks to neatly store books, shoes and other essentials that would otherwise clutter up the floor.
Clear plastic storage bins are great for categorizing things under beds, while tension rods can instantly add hanging space to cramped closets. The ability to neatly stash your stuff makes rooms feel cleaner and more spacious.
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- Floating shelves: These versatile shelves can be installed on walls around the apartment to hold books, plants, small décor items, rolled towels in the bathroom, and more. Floating shelves come in a variety of colors and finishes to match any aesthetic. They keep items up off the floor and organized while adding style.
- Over-the-door storage: Hook over-the-door storage racks, hanging shelves or shoe organizers on the back of closet, bedroom and bathroom doors to effectively use vertical space. These storage solutions help organize scarves, purses, hats, shoes, toiletries, towels and other essentials.
- Under-bed storage: Clear plastic bins let you utilize the empty space under beds to neatly store out-of-season clothing, extra linens, memorabilia and more out of sight. Label each box so you remember what’s inside. Soft storage bags make accessing items easier since they collapse down when not full.
- Tension rods for extra hanging space: Tension curtain rods easily install inside cramped closets to instantly double your hanging clothing storage space. Use them for shirts, dresses, coats and more.
Choosing multi-functional furniture is a savvy option for small rental spaces. Look for pieces like storage ottomans that provide extra seating for guests while hiding away blankets and other items.
Nesting tables are handy as they can be pulled out when you need an extra surface but slid neatly together when not in use.
Murphy beds that fold vertically up against the wall are excellent space savers, while a sleeper sofa does double duty as a couch and spare bed for overnight visitors. The less furniture you need, the roomier your rental will feel.
- Storage ottomans: Look for cube-style ottomans with hollow interiors so you can stow throws, pillows, books and other living room items inside.
- Top with a tray to use as a coffee table or extra seating. Some also open up to become small guest beds.
- Nesting tables: These stacking side tables are a flexible solution for small areas. Pull them apart to place beside couches or chairs when you need surface space, then push back together when not in use. The slim profile helps maximize walkways.
- Murphy beds: These ingenious space saving beds flip down from the wall at night, then lift back up vertically to keep the floor clear during the day.
- Murphy beds are pricey but perfect if you need to convert a living room or bedroom into a multipurpose guest room.
- Sleeper sofas: Sleeper sofas do double duty, operating as a standard couch by day and folding flat into a bed at night. Look for high-quality upholstered models in sizes twin through queen. Avoid uncomfortable futon mattresses.
Quick Kitchen Upgrades
The kitchen is often the heart of a rental home – and with some clever upgrades, you can make yours more beautiful and functional.
Peel-and-stick backsplashes come in stylish materials like metal, stone and ceramic – instantly providing protection for the walls while also looking great.
Upgrade old appliances with a more energy efficient or stylish model – some landlords may negotiate compensation for the improvement. Or maximize space with organizational items like a rolling cart, vertical spice racks, or pot racks that take advantage of vertical wall space while freeing up precious counters.
Little touches like new fixture hardware, a fresh coat of paint, or trendy ceramic knobs for cabinets and drawers can all make a big visual impact too.
Here are some quick and easy ways to upgrade a basic rental kitchen:
- Removable backsplash: Self-adhesive backsplash panels protect the wall behind sinks and stoves while adding instant style.
- Choose materials like metal, faux brick, mosaic tiles, marble or stone. When it’s time to move out, they peel off easily with no mess or damage.
- Appliance upgrade: Ask your landlord if you can swap outdated appliances for improved energy-efficient or stainless steel models. Offer to split the cost if needed – it still revitalizes the kitchen for less.
- Rolling cart: Rolling kitchen carts maximize storage and counter space. Stash small appliances, spices, cookware and pantry overflow inside, then roll out of the way when not in use. Great for small galley style kitchens.
- Vertical storage: Install floating shelves, wall-mounted spice racks, pan racks or an independent vertical storage rack that mounts onto walls and corners to take storage items off precious counters. Great for small spaces and organizing kitchen tools.
- Update hardware: Swap outdated kitchen hardware like faucets, handles, drawer pulls and hinges for updated brushed nickel or matte black hardware.
- Matching modern fixtures brings cohesion while adding style on a budget.
- Trendy ceramic knobs: One of the easiest ways to update old cabinetry is by replacing worn hardware. Ceramic knobs come in fun shapes, colors and designs to showcase your personality. Quick to install using a screwdriver.
- Fresh coat of paint: Choose a vibrant glossy shade for an instant color injection, or coat cabinets and an accent wall in chalk paint for a trendy matte finish. Contrast walls with white cabinetry or vice versa.
Much like kitchens, it’s amazing what some minor upgrades can do for a basic bathroom. Replace an outdated light fixture above the vanity with something more modern and stylish to instantly improve the look.
Update existing hardware like faucets, towel rods and cabinet knobs with brushed metals or sleek black finishes for a more sophisticated vibe.
Apply some removable wallpaper above the toilet or behind the vanity to add an artistic focal point. Or hide existing unattractive cabinetry behind a fabric skirt secured with Velcro at the top. It provides a quick no-sew solution for concealing whatever you don’t want on display.
The right accessories like a mirrored tray for toiletries, some fake plants and soft towels can also help a bathroom look its best.
Here are some recommended quick fixes to upgrade a basic bathroom:
- New light fixture: An outdated bathroom light fixture can make the whole room seem dated. Replace it with a new fixture featuring an interesting shape, modern finish, or smart technology like motion sensor activation or dimming ability.
- Hardware facelift: Replacing hardware like faucets, showerheads, towel bars and hooks, drawer pulls and more with coordinating finishes like matte black, brushed nickel or bronze pulls a bathroom together. Matching metals and finishes create a polished look.
- Removable wallpaper focal accent: Choose a fun removable wallpaper design to install as a focal point behind sinks, on a shower wall, or above the toilet. Geometric patterns, nature prints and textures work well. When it’s time to move, it peels off easily.
- Fabric skirting for cabinets: Upgrade builder-grade cabinets and hide unsightly plumbing by installing a fabric skirt secured at the top with Velcro or trim. Use the matching fabric to cover grim vanity interiors too. Choose cotton prints or fabrics with moisture-resistant backing in bathrooms.