Without breaking the lease or the bank

Personalize Your Apartment

by Cheryl Wright

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If your rental clause is cramping your decorating style as well as your living space, it is time to stretch with some ideas. Make the best use of your existing furnishings and improvise with inexpensive surface solutions you can easily remove and take with you to your next apartment. Be sure to check your lease or ask your landlord before trying out treatments that alter existing surfaces such as walls, cabinets or floors.


  • Divide a large room or create a private area using folding screens. They are inexpensive to make, since you may be fortunate enough to find old doors at a flea market. Hinge together two or three louvered doors or even regular hollow-core doors. Decorate them with fabric, wallpaper or paint.
  • Separate a room into dining and sitting areas using a sofa as a divider. Place a drop-leaf table against the back of the sofa to serve as a console that opens to a dining table.

Windows and Doors

  • Use tension rods to mount curtains inside window frames. Sew a simple rod-pocket valance or swag the pole with a printed fabric. Use muslin, sheeting or a lovely tablecloth.
  • Use the same tension technique to add color and privacy to doorways. Make sure the pole is securely tightened and supports the weight of the fabric.
  • Take down dingy drapery and swag fabric around the existing hardware. Put the drapery back up when you leave.
  • Add color to kitchen windows with a display of colored glass bottles.


  • Do away with basic knobs and handles in lieu of decorative cabinet hardware. Purchase plain wooden knobs and paint them with your own designs. Store the original hardware, and then put them back on before you move out. Take your pulls with you to the new place.
  • If the cabinet doors look gloomy, remove them and store them in a closet. Line the shelves with decorative paper and let your dishes become an open-shelf art display.


  • Have a wall-mounted sink in the bath? Increase storage by attaching a fabric skirt around the sink with Velcro. You can stow toiletries behind the skirt and camouflage unsightly plumbing.
  • Trim a plain wall mirror with a frame made from inexpensive molding. If the mirror attaches with clips, notch the frame back so it will fit over the clips and flat against the mirror. Decorate the molding with a colorful paint or rich stain.


  • Attach several yards or a few yards of flat sheets to walls with Velcro. This temporary treatment hides tacky paneling, bad paint colors or marred wall.
  • Imitate the look of painted walls by making a form of 2 x 2's that is flexible and fits snugly against the walls, requiring only the ceiling and floor as braces. Tightly wrap the frame in muslin or a sheet, and splatter, rag-roll or sponge it with paint. Add details with stencils or stamps.

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  • A generic carpet of worn hardwood floors in your apartment may give you the blahs, but they provide a great background to set of area rugs. Rugs can be used to delineate the different areas. If you have hardwood, ceramic or vinyl floors, use a non-skid pad for safety and to protect the floor.
  • Make your own rug by purchasing small carpet mats or discontinued carpet samples. With an upholstery needle and thread, stitch them together from the wrong side. For a simple elegant look, use one color or slight variations of one color throughout. If however, you want a style that is more beat and funky, select pieces of different colors.


  • Hang lightweight art from fishing lines tacked into crown molding. Display paints of framed prints on easels.
  • Shelves and consoles are great resting places for framed art. Set the frame at the back of the table, a few inches out from the wall and lean the frame against the wall. (Attach squares of felt to the back corners of the frames to keep them from scuffing the wall.) Framed mirrors also look great leaning against the wall. A weighty object placed at the base of the frame will help keep them from slipping.
  • Bookshelves serve double duty as storage and display space. Mix books with compact discs, colorful vases, pictures and collectibles.


  • Plants can add color, life and interest to a room, and they clean the air. Try using a variety of different sizes and types of plants, but keep you situation in mind when making your selecting.

Some of the best personalizing tricks are beyond what's allowed by your lease, but unique solutions can be easily found, or invented to add a personal touch to a generic and sterile apartment.

Reviewed June 2017

Cheryl Wright is an Interior Design Consultant and Freelance Writer. She has been writing decorating articles for the past five years. She also writes articles on motivation and self-care for women. Her work has appeared both in print and online.

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