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These Are the Easiest Rental Upgrades Your Landlord Won’t Hate

a young Caucasian woman sitting on the floor of her apartment, with an open laptop and half-painted wall in the background
Getty Images

Given the cost of living in Canada right now, chances are you’re a tenant. But, whether it’s a long-term or short-term rental, you’ll still want to put your own personal stamp on the space. After all, it’s your home and should reflect your personal style.


But can you just simply… upgrade your rental unit?

@hgtvcanada Because rentals deserve to look cute too!! ⚡️ #rentalfriendlydecor #decorinspo #apartmentfriendlydecor #homedecor ♬ original sound – Ethan Hibbs

Although every rental situation is different from the next, many landlords are amenable to affordable upgrades — and they might even chip in on the cost of renovations with a little negotiation (by entering into a longer lease, for example).

However, upgrading your rental doesn’t have to cost a fortune. We break down some of the easiest cost-effective ways to elevate your space.

Related: 10 Ways to Make Your Rental Feel Like Home

Bedroom with striking heron-print wallpaper from Wallpapers4Beginners on Etsy.
Stephanie Foden

Consider Self-Adhesive Wallpaper

This renter-friendly home upgrade can be used on any type of wall. Your best bet for a plethora of patterns is to buy online — Society6, West Elm and Wayfair offer plenty of options. Get creative with the leftover pieces (or skip the walls entirely) and plaster the back walls of cabinets, inside the closet, the bottom of drawers or even the ceilings.

Related: 10 Tips and Tricks for Hanging Removable Wallpaper

a young Caucasian woman holding paint samples and looking at her apartment wall
Getty Images

Add a Fresh Coat of Paint

Chances are high that, when you first moved in, the walls of your rental were either a basic white/beige or an icky colour you would never select for yourself. Adding a fresh coat of paint is the fastest, most cost-effective way to upgrade your space. Some landlords won’t even require you to paint over it again whenever you leave.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, from rich earth tones to Savannah Green, check out these 2023 paint colour picks of the year.

close-up of blue kitchen cabinetry with frosted glass doors
HGTV Canada


Swap Out Cabinetry Hardware

It might seem a little tedious at first, but swapping out cabinet hardware is actually pretty easy in the grand scheme of things. Although it might seem like too small an upgrade to leave a big enough impact, it will actually leave your cabinets looking almost brand new.

You can even opt for unusual materials to add a little character. Think: glass, leather, acrylic or stone pulls. Or, upcycle your kitchen cabinets with this easy DIY.

Large black paned mirror leaning against wall in kitchen bedside white table bistro set.
Lauren Miller

Lean Your Standing Mirror (or Art) Against the Wall

If you’re loath to puncture the walls with holes, consider leaning eye-popping works of art or vintage pieces against the wall. In addition, a huge standing mirror will not only look stunning in the living room or bedroom, but it will help give the illusion of a much bigger space. You can get even more creative and move the pieces around over time to mix things up — without having to worry about patching up a bunch of holes.

Related: 10 Stunning Statement Mirrors for Every Style and Budget

mid-century modern living area with beige patterned rug and gold glass coffee table.
Lauren Kolyn

Bring in an Area Rug

The perfect way to cover up blemished or damaged flooring (especially in an older rental unit) is to cover it up with a chic area rug. Not only will it immediately add a pop of colour to any room, they’ll also lend the space a cozy vibe — which is especially welcome during those long winter months.

Although rug prices vary, there are plenty of affordable options out there (think: IKEA). Get all the inspo you need with these tips on how to decorate with an area rug.

vintage-inspired floral bronze light switch plate

Replace the Light Switch Plates

Over the years — and after dozens of previous tenants — those little plastic light switch plates can accumulate enough grime and grit that it often becomes yellowed or even cracked. Gross, right? Replacing the old beat-up ones will instantly freshen up your walls, and will no doubt put your mind at ease. Whether you freshen up the standard variety for cheap (like these Amazon options) or select a stylish hardware piece (like these Anthropologie stunners pictured above) your walls will thank you.


Cropped shot of a sunny bedside table filled with plants. Plants surround the end table on the floor.
HGTV Canada

Introduce Plants

Perhaps all your rental really needs is a bit of plant life to elevate the entire space. Not only do plants boost our mood and productivity, they also help reduce stress and clean the air.

For the kitchen, consider savoury herbs like mint and basil. You might find your bedroom benefits from lavender or a snake plant, while your bathroom will be the perfect place for a Boston fern or African violet. The options are endless — but, when it doubt, you can’t go wrong with these beginner-friendly houseplants.

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