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16 Renter-Friendly Design Upgrades You Won't Regret Trying

Updated: Jun 10

Designing a home that reflects your personality can be challenging in a rental with landlord-imposed limitations. Most standard lease agreements outline that you can't damage or permanently change walls, floors, cabinets — the list goes on. But there are plenty of ways to flex your design creativity without stressing over your security deposit. Here, we've rounded up the best designer-approved, renter-friendly upgrades that can be completely undone before you move out.

Hang Wireless Lights

Statement lighting elevates any space — and luckily, this DIY project doesn't require any skills or understanding of electrical wiring. Adhere LED puck lights to wicker baskets, then hang new fixtures from the ceiling using twine. Most puck lights can be controlled with a remote control; you just have to replace the batteries from time to time.

Mount Temporary Wall Molding

Picture frame molding gives simple white walls more character. Instead of using nails, blogger Anna Page relies on mounting tape to secure the panels to her walls, making it easy to remove when she inevitably moves out.

Experiment With Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Jessica Teich, Good Housekeeping Institute deputy editor and self-proclaimed "peel-and-stick queen," revamped her New York City apartment with a floral accent wall just outside her bedroom. Peel-and-stick wallpaper is beginner-friendly and designed to be easy to remove — so there's no sticky residue left behind for the next tenant.

Make Faux Stained Glass

While it may look permanent, this striking stained glass panel is simply leaning against the window sill (you can also try mounting it with mirror hanging hardware). To personalize a rental, design blogger Mandi Johnson creates custom stained glass using a glass panel, lead adhesive strips and glass paint.

Create the Illusion of Built-In Shelving

Decorate a blank white wall with floor-to-ceiling bookcases that are lightweight and easy to mount (helpful for when it's time to move to your next apartment). You may need to drill a few holes into the wall, but it's easy enough to patch them up when the lease ends.

Consider a Peel-and-Stick Backsplash

Your rental may not have your dream kitchen, but small changes — like an earth-toned mosaic backsplash — can have a huge impact. Peel-and-stick kitchen backsplashes look like ceramic or porcelain tiles, but are mostly commonly made from thick vinyl. They typically come in 10- to 12-inch square sections that can be arranged and cut to fit your space.

Swap out Light Fixtures

Trade boring light fixtures for flush mounts, pendants and chandeliers that spark joy. Design influencer Bridgette Muller thinks it's well worth hiring a professional.

"I've been told it's not super hard to do, but I live in a 96-year-old building, so I definitely don't want to be messing with wires of that age," she says. If you plan to take the fixtures when you move out, hold onto the originals so you can swap them back in again before you go.

Embrace Tile Stickers in the Bathroom

Waterproof vinyl tile stickers make it easy to cover dated bathroom floors with a playful pattern of your choosing. You can even use tile decals on shower floors or walls.

Keep in mind: Tile stickers won't work on every surface, so make sure to read product descriptions before purchasing them.

Replace Light Switch Covers

My Jersey City rental has been given the "landlord special" in more than one way, but what drove me crazy were the outlet and light switch covers dotted with black wall paint. Light switch covers cost around $1 and a fresh one makes the room look newer! For a pop of personality, there's plenty of funky light switch covers, too.

Change the Shower Head

Of course, if your showerhead doesn't work properly, your landlord should be responsible for replacing it. But, feel free to tackle the project on your own if you prefer something more aesthetic (like the gold fixture pictured here, chosen by Arterberry Cooke) or a shower filter option. For the most part, replacing a showerhead doesn't require any technical skills or knowledge of plumbing.

Divide Rooms With Curtains

Designer Brigette Muller, who lives in a railroad-style apartment in Brooklyn, uses curtains to create a bit of separation between her bed nook and living room. "Curtains — and textiles in general — are the key to making a space feel like home," she says. "They really help soften the space, and are such a great way to add a little bit of color, pattern or texture."

Try Removable Tiles in the Kitchen

Shelby Turner recently removed these blue geometric peel-and-stick tiles from her kitchen floor. Although it took a lot longer than expected to clear all the residue, Turner says "I would totally do these renter-friendly upgrades again!"

"When it comes to flooring, I would never lay peel-and-stick floor directly onto the floor in my rental again," she adds. Try putting a layer of poster paper or a shower liner between the original floors and the peel-and-sticks.

Cover up Old Countertops

In the same apartment, Turner covered her plain white kitchen countertops with marble contact paper for a more luxe look. Following the process of removal, which involved using a hair dryer, a bottle of Goo Gone and manual scrapping, the influencer rated the removal a 7 out of 10.

Build a Faux Fireplace

Recreate the beauty of a real fireplace by crafting an antique-inspired mantel. Shelby Vanhoy of Pretty in the Pines created this statement piece using MDF board and roman clay, plus peel-and-stick brick panel for the center. The best part? You can take it with you when you move out!

Update Cabinet Hardware

Swap out simple kitchen knobs and pulls — just be sure to store them somewhere safe and replace them before you move out. Here, Kitchen Design Group’s Caren Rideau pairs statement gold hardware with white cabinetry for a chicer style. For expert guidance and support throughout your journey, reach out to Benson Group when you're ready to take the next step towards finding your dream home.



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