5 Hacks On How To Pull Off The Trendiest Renovations Even If You're Renting

Rental properties often present unique challenges when it comes to making your space truly yours. Many of the hottest design trends, whether it's cabinetry, flooring, or fixtures, are just not adaptable in spaces you don't own. While many landlords are flexible and allow small changes like painting the walls, others are less so, demanding the unit be returned exactly in the condition it was rented.

There are, however, easy fixes for some of the design challenges you might encounter in making your space a little more you, most of which involve limited work or know-how, yet are completely portable and removable once you have decided to move on elsewhere. According to Making Home Base, even strictly cosmetic things like adding new window coverings or painting can make a big difference. Often the smallest things like new hardware or creating great storage solutions in limited-space apartments are all you need to make your place feel like home. Other times, a bit more ingenuity might be required to smooth out the rough spots in your rental.

1. Peel and stick magic

Kitchens are sometimes one the least-inspiring rooms when it comes to rentals, sometimes sporting little personality or outdated looks. At best, they're often occupied with builder-grade, generic cabinets, counters, and fixtures. At worst, they haven't seen an update since the last century. There are several kitchen-friendly ideas, however, that can add immediate impact to create a space you love spending time in versus a space you just make food and quickly flee from. 

While whole-scale renovations are not possible with rental properties, never underestimate the power of peel-and-stick elements like contact paper, vinyl, and yes, even tiles to completely transform your space. According to Smart Tiles, peel-and-stick tiles come in several beautiful options and often look like the real thing.

You can also create a beautiful backsplash with contact paper or removable wallpaper in several patterns, textures, and solids. Contact paper is an excellent, durable way to transform a countertop, including installing trendy marble, granite, or butcher block looks. If your fridge isn't exactly what you want, many adhesive vinyl sleeves are also available for a complete transformation.

2. On the walls

One of today's hottest trends is wall molding. Officially called picture frame molding, this molding is traditionally a permanent fixture that immediately exudes the glamour and refinement of old pre-war apartments. It's the perfect way to add architectural depth and detail without drawing too much attention to itself. It usually can be combined with artwork and other wall decor without either overpowering the other. If you don't have the luck of renting a gorgeous, vintage apartment, you can create the same look with some ingenuity. Slim, lightweight picture frame molding comes in a variety of widths and sizes, as well as different weights and materials, from wood to even lighter PVC. 

For a version you can remove when you move out, look for molding that can be attached with small nails and whose holes can be easily filled when it comes down. The DIY Playbook has some great strategies for installation. You can also buy pre-assembled lightweight versions that are peel and stick, already bearing adhesive with no nails required. If you don't want all-over molding, smaller bits like the lower half of the wall or just a single picture rail height strip can add interest to otherwise bare walls.

3. Hiding eyesores

One of the problems with renting a space is that sometimes we're stuck with elements that might not be our favorite, with more limits on what we can and cannot change. These might be an unattractive radiator or an electric or utility box on the wall in a prominent place. With a little innovation and some creative energy, however, even these eyesores can be hidden or transformed without any major renovations and with elements you can easily tote to your next home or toss once they're no longer necessary   

Radiators, even at their prettiest, are often surrounded by unusable space around or above. Placing a shelf over a visible radiator or hiding it beneath a ventilated, tastefully decorated cover is a great solution. With a tiny bit of carpentry know-how, you can build a simple box with wood and screening to enclose the radiator while still allowing the heat to escape (via The Carpenter's Daughter). Utility boxes and cabinets can be hidden in a similar way with strategically placed artwork, lightweight boxes, or carefully arranged plants and greenery.

4. Switch out hardware

Another transformation in rental spaces that's easy and budget-friendly is installing new hardware. The pulls and knobs on kitchen cabinets and other built-ins are often less than inspiring in rental spaces. If you see a similar piece that requires the same sort of fasteners, you can easily switch out the knobs and pulls for now and then simply put the old ones back when you go. While some may require new holes, you should be able to putty and paint over any new holes you make with no one the wiser. 

If you have a little more hardware installation know-how, other larger elements in your home can be switched out and easily put back before you leave according to Lifehacker, including door knobs, shower heads, and faucets if you have a little plumbing skill or someone to help you out. Often these small things go a long way toward making your rental more distinctly your personal style and require minimal effort to restore things to factory settings when you leave.

5. Storage and organization

While some apartments are blessed with ample and diverse storage options like closets and cabinets, just as many are not. That doesn't mean you can't adapt the space you do have to your needs. Many closet storage solutions are freestanding and don't require putting holes or anchors in your walls. Closets are also a great space if you have to use heavier supports since they're usually walls most landlords don't pay as much attention to and can be easily patched and repaired without detection.

If you lack the necessary space inside a closet, you can also create new freestanding storage options by using armoires, clothing racks, and shelving units. According to Erin Kestenbaum, a simple inexpensive Ikea wardrobe can be adapted to look like a built-in cabinet through the use of some molding attached in strategic places. It's also a piece you can take with you when you move out.