Practical Ways to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

Anyone else out there have trouble decorating rentals? Whether it be an apartment or a townhouse, it’s always tricky to  make a rental feel like home.

We’ve been living in a townhouse for about two years now. When we first moved in, I had no idea where to start. All the walls were bare and white, the trim and cabinets were honey-oak-yellow stain, the counters were off-white with kinda purple/brown undertone specks, all the floors were white carpet … it was so empty.

How To Make a Rental Feel Like Home

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links, I may make a small commission at NO EXTRA COST to you. This helps keep the tutorials and plans free here at Bitterroot DIY. Thank you for your support! See my full disclosure here.


We were not allowed to paint any walls or trim or cabinets. Definitely couldn’t change any flooring. And the counters were there to stay.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that home decor is not my strong suite … I struggle big time. But I’ve been working on it. I really want to improve and learn and grow my home decor skills.

So with that new resolution, I set to figuring out how to make my townhouse feel like home.

I started leaving dirty socks around, leaving blankets sitting out, dirty dishes in the sink, half-read books on the coffee table … all the things that a real home has …

Ok. Just kidding 😉

I didn’t really do that.

I considered it.

But I didn’t do it.


How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home


What I really did was start with things I was comfortable with – we needed some drapes.

I could do that. Drapes aren’t too scary.

Then we needed some wall hangings – those white walls were lonely.

I found some pictures at the thrift store. Not too bad.

The tops of the cabinets were empty.

I put some vases, baskets, and flowers up there.

And on  and on … Until it started to feel like a home.

It doesn’t all match perfectly. It isn’t designer-worthy or awe-inspiring.

Most everything is from the thrift store.

But I’m learning and growing and figuring it out as I go.

And improving.


How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home
Photo Courtesy of Karianne at Thistlewood Farms


So I want to share some of the ideas I’ve come up with and things I’ve learned along the way for those of you who are also trying to make a rental feel like home.

I’m going to assume you already have furniture in your space and focus simply on decor here.

Generally, rentals are pretty plain. It’s a blessing in disguise. The plain-ness can seem so dull and empty, but it also leaves your options open. When you have a blank canvas, you can bring any style and colors you want to the space to make it your own.

I invite you to start with something simple.

*click images below to shop if interested


Drapes bring so much to a room. They add depth and make the windows stand out, bringing more attention to the beautiful outdoors. Find them in any color or pattern you like and give some personality to the room.

We weren’t allowed to paint any of the walls in our townhouse. So, instead of painting, I added drapes around the big window in our front room. They function somewhat like an accent wall and introduced a nice accent color to the room.

Some of my favorite drapes:


Or make your own with drop cloth.

Find a great tutorial from The Design Twins here.


Wall Treatments

If you’re allowed to paint your rental, go for an accent wall! Accent walls really help define a space and add character.

If you are not allowed to paint, there are some great options for temporary wallpaper, faux barn wood, and peel & stick tile that can add a lot to a space:


Or check out some vinyl decals:


Shelves bring some nice height to a room.

And you can style them however you want! Style with flowers, books, antiques, modern art … you name it. It’s a great way to showcase your decor.

Both standing shelves and hanging shelves get the job done. Choose whichever fits your space the best.

You can find great deals on shelves at thrift stores, build your own, or here are some neat ones I’ve found browsing the interweb:


Some of my favorite DIY Shelf Tutorials:

Floating Shelves by Shanty 2 Chic
Floating Shelves by Shanty 2 Chic
Rustic-Farmhouse-Book-Case-DIY by Sawdust 2 Stitches
Rustic Farmhouse Book Case by Sawdust 2 Stitches
Cubby Kitchen Rack by Sawdust-2-Stitches
Cubby Kitchen Rack by Sawdust-2-Stitches


Hanging Storage (kitchen)

Need some more space and looking to bring some life to the kitchen?

Try hanging storage. Get those cute coffee mugs up on the wall!

Plates, pots, pans, spatulas … to the wall!

… gotta sing it, if ya know what I’m talkin’ about … if not, just pretend it didn’t happen …

Wall Racks:


Gallery Wall

Gallery walls are so popular right now! What better way to bring some life to a room than to hang all your favorite photos, signs, and keepsakes on the wall!

Just head over to Pinterest and search “gallery wall” … the inspiration is endless!

Here are some fun gallery wall  goodies:


Above the Cabinets

It’s lonely at the top. Spice those bad boys up!

Showcase your white-ware, plates, pitchers, and/or baskets.


How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home
Photo Courtesy of The Lettered Cottage
How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home
Photo via BHG
How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home
Photo via BHG

… baskets … baskets should have their own category …



Use them above the cabinets (duh … ), use them to store all your beautiful fluffy blankets, organize the bathroom, organize shoes, organize the craft room … ALL THE BASKETS!

They’re cute. They’re functional. All sorts of shapes and sizes.

They can be dressed up. Dressed down.

Wear them with pumps. Wear them with flats.

Baskets are the little black dress of home decor.

Check ’em out:



Does your rental have empty floors? Consider area rugs to break up different spaces and accent rugs to liven things up. Plus, big squishy soft rugs are the most comfortable, wonderful thing in the world when you just woke up and are enjoying that first cup of morning coffee in your brand new place 😉


Throw Pillows & Blankets

Again with that first cup of early-morning-coffee-enjoying-bliss … Gotta have a warm blanket!

Throw pillows and blankets just have a way of saying “Look at me: I’m comfy, cozy, super cute, and don’t I make this couch look great!?”

Introduce some pattern to your space with the throw pillows and matchy-match it with a solid blanket … matchy-match is now a verb … just let it happen … I’m on a roll …

Layer your patterns and solids for a finished look.




“Oh my … did you just bake fresh apple pie in this lovely home?”

“Why, yes of course. I bake pies all the time for my guests … ”

Boom. Instant fresh-pie-baking homey-ness.

The best candles in the land:



Lamps are kinda along the same line as candles – they both introduce soft light, which really helps make a room comfortable.

When you own a house, you can change sconces and add overhead lighting and all sort of things. It’s a little more difficult in a rental since you usually can’t make that drastic of changes.

I’ve found that lamps make all the difference. You get the pretty lighting and added character, without the permanence of fixtures and overheads.


Fresh or Faux Flowers

Bring it home with flowers … it’s a baseball/home decor pun … that’s the best kind 😉

But faux real … flowers make everything better and are the cherry on top in a home.

Hit up the grocery store for a fresh bouquet, or grab some faux flowers at the craft store, and pop ’em in a pretty little vase and voila!

If you’re feeling really ambitious, consider starting an indoor herb garden! It’ll add some outdoor charm to your kitchen AND you’ll have fresh herbs at all times. Win-Win.


I’m sure there are a million and one things I missed, but I hope that gives you a good start and some inspiration!

And, if all else fails, try leaving socks around, blankets sitting out, dirty dishes in the sink, half-read books on the coffee table … you never know … maybe that lived-in vibe will work 😉

Happy Day Friends!


How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home


How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home
How to Make a Rental Feel Like Home

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *