11 Tips to Make Your Rental Feel Like You Own It

Relationship status: renting.

photography by AMY BARTLAM


Whether for a year or a week, there are a lot of great things about renting a home: ease, flexibility, variety. But rentals lack a certain amount of, shall we say, gusto. Owners often strip rentals down to bare bones decor for preservation’s sake—or at the least scale back on those personal touches that make a space feel special.

We turned to Kate Driver, the interior design mastermind behind Los Angeles-based firm West Haddon Hall, to solve this dilemma. She recently revamped her Los Angeles rental and shares her tips to help us do the same.


1. Plan well.
“Come up with an overall cohesive look, pulling images of places you like, and creating a mood board for your space. Once you have that framework settled you can make much faster decisions. Then prioritize your purchases so your space is functional first.”

2. Love lamp(s).
“Table and floor lamps are sculptural and decorative, and the light is more flattering than overhead fixtures. You can always find cool ones at a flea market or on sale…. And I think you can never have too many—take them with you to the next spot.”

photography by AMY BARTLAM


3. Fill the walls.
“Add art that speaks to you personally. Something you have collected in your travels adds a memory to the space. You can always frame it later if you don’t have time now.”

4. Invest in common spaces.
“Focus on the living room and dining room, where you’re going to make the biggest impact if you have a dinner party or friends over. Pillows, small chairs, and area rugs are all things you can take with you later. In the dining room, invest in flatware or china and table linens to create a personalized layered look.”

photography by AMY BARTLAM


5. Splurge on one textile.
“One expensive textile, whether a rug, nice pillows, or upholstery fabric, makes a room instantly stand out.”

6. Get shady.
“A lot of rentals have inexpensive plastic blinds. Upgrading those to woven, wooden, or cream linen roman shades completely changes a space. It’s a sunk cost, but easy to source at blinds.com.”


photography by AMY BARTLAM


7. Add flowers.
“Flowers and greenery always help round out a space. I like very low flowers on the kitchen or dining room table so everyone can see each other, and then big blue-and-white or concrete pots everywhere else with about two dozen big, long stems.”

8. Think hardware—an unexpected difference maker.
“A kitchen suddenly looks very elevated if you pick cabinetry knobs, pulls, or hinges that are more curated than what a landlord has chosen.”

 kate driver rental apartment

photography by AMY BARTLAM


9. Get cozy.
“A beautiful, comfortable throw blanket is not only decorative—it makes you feel so cozy in your living room.”

10. Light it up.
“Candle your life! I love flameless, battery-operated candles. You can get them on Amazon and put them everywhere. It creates a great mood—and you don’t have to worry someone will knock one over and burn the house down….”

photography by AMY BARTLAM



11. Source locally and online.
“Vintage and flea markets are great for unique, personal pieces—Scott’s Flea Market in Atlanta, Round Top in Texas, Brimfield Antiques Market in Massachusetts, Long Beach flea in California. Online, Chairish has an incredible assortment and aggregates furniture shops nationwide. You can find things close to you so you don’t have to pay for shipping. 1stDibs is worth looking at, too. It can intimidate people because of the price point, but they actually have a lot of stuff that’s less expensive than you would think. Ballard and Jayson Home have an extensive assortment too. And Etsy is great, particularly for bolts of fabric or pre-made pillows.”

Get more rental apartment inspiration:
This Apartment Makeover Proves That Rentals Don’t Have To Be Boring
One Couple Turned a 650-Square-Foot Rental into a Plant-Filled Boho Oasis
How to Have Cool Kitchen Tiles in a Rental

Published on September 15, 2017 - 6:00am EDT

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