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I've been living in rental apartments and houses since moving out of my parent's home years and years ago. Living in Calgary for more than four years now, I haven't decided yet on purchasing my first house. I guess I'm still waiting for the house prices to go down, so at this moment, I'm renting this beautiful two-story townhouse in the southeast part of the city.
As a renter for many years, I've learned a lot of ways to turn your lease space to look nicer and feel like your own space. Yes, there will be many restrictions and rules when designing or styling your rental home, but there are also cost-effective ways to redesign or restyle rental space to make it more like your style. These tips are from my experience as a renter, and it will be a series of blogs about tips and tricks on redesigning and restyling spaces in a rental home; I will start with one of the most used areas in the house, the living room.
Rental Home's Rules and Limitations
First, you must establish the limitations and basic rules when restyling a rental home. These rules and guidelines are in your lease agreement that you signed before you moved into your place. In my case, the following are some limitations in my lease contract that I need to follow in my rental apartment.
- Repainting of walls and ceilings are not allowed.
- Changing existing fixed finishes are not allowed.
- Changing existing appliances included in the contract (usually fridge, range, hood, microwave, dishwasher, washer, and dryer) are not allowed.
- Adding interior features that will affect the integrity of existing structures is not allowed.
The list goes on and on. The landlord's primary concern is always to avoid permanent changes in the house, such as painting works, new partitions, finishes such as tiles and flooring, and all additional works that will affect the existing structural, mechanical, and electrical components of the house. These limitations keep other people from renting because they think they could not do anything to make their rental space homey and feel like their own space.
On the other hand, these rules keep us from spending tons of money on renovations and any alteration works. Moreover, there are different ways to style lease spaces by not altering fixed elements in the house, resulting in a budget-friendly way that makes the room more like your style and personality.
Rental Living Room
Now let's proceed to how to make your rental living room feel like your own. The living room is one of the most used rooms in a house because of the various activities we can do in the space. I love to watch movies and hang out in my living room; it's more like a relaxing and entertaining space. It would be best to define the types of activities you usually do in your living room before deciding the design style you want to achieve. In most cases, I typically sketch the floor plan with all the furniture, lighting, and functional decors I will need for all the activities I established for the space.
Now that you decided on the functions for your living room (could be watching tv, listening to music, space to read books, entertaining friends, etc.), the sketch that I mentioned is a crucial step to do next. You need to measure all four walls in your space, the height of the existing ceiling, locations of windows and doors; try to sketch a straightforward floor plan and write down all measurements.
Once you have your floor plan sketched, try to locate the activities that you've established you want to do in your space. Once you have all these functions, it will tell you the proper locations and positioning for the furniture you want to bring into your living room. I know it sounds a bit complicated, but this process will save you time and money by eliminating the stuff you don't need or mistakes of buying furniture that will not fit your space.
Essential Existing Design Elements
A concrete plan is essential; now that you have it, we can move on to evaluating the existing elements of the space. In most cases, before you move into your rental house, the property owner already had the room cleaned, and the walls and ceilings have new paints. Usually, it's an off-white paint for walls, doors, and molding, pure white paint for ceilings and floors can be wood paneling or, in some newer houses, luxury vinyl planks.
These existing finishes, colors, and textures will be your starting base when selecting new furniture, lighting fixture, rugs, and other decorative pieces you want to incorporate into your living area. In my experience, the difficult part is when I'm not too fond of the existing paint on walls. If this is the case, then talking to your property owner about repainting the walls is an option. Some landlords will agree if you repaint the walls to their original color before you move out. Make sure to ask your landlord for the color and brand name of the existing wall paint.
I did before and after renderings of a living room to conclude this blog. I tried to apply most of the tips and ways I mentioned in the article to show you how I did it in my living room and give you a visual idea if it's applicable in your own rental space.
The living set with a sofa, coffee table, and accent chairs is always the main furniture in the living room. It's always a pain to locate these pieces, but since you did your sketch during our planning stage, this should be an easy-peasy task to do. Whether you're bringing in your existing furniture or purchasing new ones, ensure that the color of fabrics and finishes goes with your design style goal and existing wall colors and finishes.
I always opted for a clean and contemporary look because that is my design style, so white walls always work well with my existing furniture and taste whenever I decide to get new pieces. Neutral-colored fabrics such as grey, white, and even warmer leather go well with white walls and wooden floors. You can add more pop of colors to your accent chairs, such as green, yellow, and navy blue.
If you have an existing wood coffee table and side tables, you can repaint them to tone down the color if your goal is to match the current wall paints or make them pop by repainting them with pastel colors to make them stand out.
You can add other furniture depending on the function that you want for your space. A media cabinet is excellent if you want to convert your area into a more entertaining room. A table with shelving for books, vinyl records, and a turntable is also a kind of multifunctional furniture that you can add to your reading or relaxing corner.
Another trendy idea for living rooms is spaces for indoor plants; it's an excellent feature to make your room look biophilic. If you have a window to let natural lights in, a "green space" is one of the best features to include in your living area.
Moveable lighting fixtures are the most straightforward and budget-friendly to include in your space. It's always nice to have the floor or table lamp on the corner where you always read your books or do other tasks that require lighting. Some lighting fixtures can be decorative, serve as an accent or conversation piece, and serve as mood lighting during the nighttime.
Suppose your space has existing surface mounted or hanging lights, then you can change the fixture to match your design and personality. Depending on your budget and style, you can opt for a transitional style chandelier or modern surface-mounted fixtures. Of course, don't forget the existing ceiling height, which you have the measurement during the planning stage. Also, if you decide to replace the existing ceiling light fixture, store it nicely (wrapping it in bubble wrap and putting it in a box is a great idea) because you need to install it before leaving your rental home.
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One last piece of advice for lighting is to choose the right color temperature for your bulb. Try to match the current color temperature of all other lighting fixtures as much as possible. If the existing is warm white, try to get a similar color temperature for all your moveable lighting fixtures.
Decors and Accent Pieces
Now that you have all your furniture and lighting in their proper places, it's time for finishing touches, the décors, and accent pieces. This process is where you cannot go wrong; whatever you put on your coffee table, shelves, or side tables will reflect your personality and character.
But hold on to that weird sculpture; you must remember some primary considerations to achieve a clean and organized living room. Color matters, but texture matters most; you have already incorporated pops of colors in your furniture, such as accent chairs and your coffee and side tables. Now, it's time to add more texture to your space.
Texture from functional decors such as rattan boxes and baskets for organizing books, magazines, and pillows are the best options to add texture. You can also introduce rugs with softer threads or patterns that mimic textures. Throw pillows and blankets are also great to add texture as well as playful prints and colors, don't get too excited with throw pillows, though; they can easily overwhelm the entire look of your space.
Fabrics make the entire look and feel of your space softer and sometimes warmer or cooler. Some rental apartment comes with installed curtain rods where you can put new draperies. White or grey fabrics are always my go-to color for draperies because they always match the existing colors of walls and window trims, and it doesn't overpower all the design elements in the room.
Storytelling is a significant and fun way to incorporate decorative pieces into your space. I love details with stories behind them, whether they are gifts from family or friends or your ex-lover or it is an heirloom that was handed down to you by your parents from their great great grandparents. It deserves a space in your room if there's a story behind it.
A wall gallery is one of the best ways to tell a story thru arts or photography. You can play with different frames and combine other art pieces, wall sculptures, and photos. Your narrative is yours to tell, so the positioning of frames and art pieces depends on how you want to tell your story.
Your Own Living Room
Designing and styling your living room is a process that can take days, months, and even years. Sometimes it takes more than twice of moving to different rental homes before you finally come up with your living room style, which is true to my experience, and I truly enjoyed the process. You don't need to fast-track the method; you can add one piece of furniture a week or even a month, you have an entire year on your lease contract, and you can always extend your rent yearly. Try to enjoy designing your space at your own pace; make it slowly but surely. You already have your plan in place; all you need to do is follow it.
Styling your living room doesn't need to be expensive; if money is not an issue, then it's always an excellent option to splurge on something you need. You can save money by reusing your old stuff or repainting your old furniture. There are many ways to save money by not sacrificing your overall design goals; you need to be resourceful.
There are many limitations to a rental home, but many design ways and tricks are applicable to work around what exists. It's the process that makes all the difference, and I hope I inspired you with all my design tips to start your project of styling your rental living room.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blogs. I aim to impart more than a decade of design (primarily interior designs) knowledge and experience through reviews, tips, inspirations, and DIYs. I hope you enjoy your time here as much as I enjoy writing my blogs; feel free to comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or subscribe to our newsletter for fresh blog updates.
Together, let's create meaningful and beautiful spaces.