Give your rental the decor makeover it deserves with our six tips for budget-friendly apartment style.
1. Banish the builder's beige
Some buildings prohibit tenants from painting the walls in an effort to avoid the costs of repainting down the road—money-saving for the building, but drab and boring for you. Liven things up with funky removable decals. These grown-up stickers come in a variety of cool modern shapes, retro geometrics and abstract birds (check out www.whatisblik.com, one of the most popular wall decal brands, for more info). Another trick: take a picture you like into a copy shop and have it blown up to mural size, then use sticky tac (the gum-like stuff teachers use to hang up artwork) to adhere to the wall. Keep an eye out for sales at the local fabric shop and buy yards of the stuff when the price drops. Use small finishing nails to tack the fabric across one of the walls to create an instant focal point.
2. Say "No way!" to parquet
Parquet flooring, cold sterile tiles or well-past-its-welcome hardwood planks—all signs of a rental home. The quickest and easiest way to disguise ugly flooring is to cover it up. But, what to cover with and how to do it? One of the most economic ways to cover up a large floor surface is to lay down a few sisal rugs. Sisal is inexpensive, albeit a little rough on the feet, but if you're dealing with a high-traffic area, you'll appreciate its practicality. You can find a lot of stylish, polyester rugs at decor shops at easy-on-the-wallet price points. Temper the lesser quality fabrication with a slip pad underneath. Laminate flooring that you click into place is another solution. It floats on top of the old floors and you can take it with you when you leave and use it again.
3. Go dumpster diving
In this age of reuse, reduce, recycle, why wouldn't you take one man's trash and turn into your own treasure? Stigma aside, staking out the curb the night before garbage day is one of the best ways to get cheap, yet functional furnishings. A few tips: bring a friend, a car and possibly a trolley if you have it to make transporting the goods back to your place less cumbersome; avoid anything upholstered or risk taking home bed bugs and outdoor "critters" of various shapes, forms and levels of grossness; and finally, if it ain't broke, you can still fix it! Solid wood pieces can be painted, distressed or stained to revive their style quotient. Changing drawer pulls turns granny's old dresser into your funky bohemian TV stand slash DVD storage and inlaying a few panels of wallpaper into an old bookcase transforms it into a chic hipster storage unit.
4. Fake it till you vacate it
Chances are you won't be in your rental forever, so making a few miner cosmetic changes will help to give the overall space a stylish look even if it won't last for years to come. If your appliances are old and chipped, head to the hardware store and ask for appliance-grade paint. You can do a pretty decent spot job on those unsightly chips and spots for a few bucks. Replace the old hardware on the kitchen and bathroom cabinets for new, stylish ones. Don't freak out at the cost—just take them with you when you move. Give your kitchen a modern update by installing a stainless steel sheet to the backsplash.
5. Add some foliage
Plants can do wonders for a rental. They bring in a bit of nature and colour and make apartments feel more like a home, less like temporary living quarters. The amount of sunlight your unit gets will determine what kind of foliage you should invest in, but generally speaking, ferns are fine friends for renters, as are spider plants and African violets. Put a plant in your bathroom (some varieties will go ga-ga for the humidity and dampness!) and in your entranceway.
6. Beat the big box syndrome
Big, rectangular or square rooms, devoid of architectural detail getting you down? Strike out that bowling alley look by creating your own interesting faux modeling or delineating spaces with the use of paint and wallpaper. Choose wallpaper with a striking pattern and then pick out one of the colours in the paper to paint one half of the wall and paint the other half in another colour. Place a panel of wallpaper down the middle where the two colours meet to divide your space into two living zones. Don't be afraid to reconfigure kitchen that don't work. Move the fridge or the stove to the opposite wall or buy a pre-made kitchen cart or small island to give your space better functionality. Today, budget-department stores sell easy-to-assemble kitchen furniture making it easier to get the look you want at a price you can afford. If your apartment's door opens right into the living space, create the sense of a proper foyer by placing a mirror in the area and perhaps a sideboard perpendicular to one of the walls.