As a renter, I love to find other renters on social media. There is so much inspiration for DIY projects, and it’s pretty incredible to see how people transform their spaces. I rounded up some of my favorite projects and asked the people behind them to tell me a bit about the process and cost, and how DIY is doable in a rented home.
Do Some 'Renovations'
Cyn is laser focused on "renovating" her rented home into a space that unique and utterly gorgeous. The updates are so dramatic that you'd never guess they're renter friendly. Our favorite example is her bathroom. “When I moved into my husband's apartment after we were married, the bathroom was really just about utility more than anything. There was nothing about it that was appealing or pleasant,” she said.
The Bathroom Before
The Bathroom After
Here's what she and her husband updated:
- Changed the flooring with renter-friendly sticky tiles
- Added wood to the vanity and a fresh coat of paint to give it some personality
- Swapped the light fixture
- Removed the dingy medicine cabinet to add a picture shelf and new mirrors.
Total cost: $800 (she budgeted $500)
Time spent: About a month. “Our projects often take longer than we'd like but we also take our time to make sure we're getting it right," Cyn said.
Tools: They completed these projects with pretty basic tools like a drill and a jigsaw, which she says are “good beginner tools if you’re getting into DIY.”
Cyn’s background in production design and television production has helped her with her rented home DIYs. “I had a lot of experience decorating sets that were temporary and constantly changing. I took that experience and applied it to apartment living where every addition needed to be non-permanent,” she said. Cyn really believes in making your apartment your own, even if you don’t own. "It really makes a huge difference in your quality of life if you spend just a little bit of money to make your apartment your own. It is your home after all whether it's temporary or not.”
Add Some Accent Walls
Jessie Ruane lives in Brooklyn in a very cool apartment. She decided to add some accent walls all around her home which really liven the place up. “For all my accent walls, the inspiration came from an 'empty' feeling," she said. "Quite literally, the walls seemed empty. I already had things hanging on the walls, but they never felt finished.”
She also wanted to live in a colorful home. “Accent walls are the simplest and most affordable way of adding color to a space," she said.
Total cost: Perhaps less than $35
Time spent: Up to a couple hours. "If it's a small arch, maybe an hour. If it's a full wall, maybe two. Take your time, and be precise. Mistakes can be really apparent,” said Ruane.
Tools: If you’re going to do a round shape, make sure you have a nail, string, and pencil too, “These will help you draw a perfect circle/arch.”
Ruane doesn’t have a lot of past DIY experiences, and she’s learning as she goes. "Don't be so hard on yourself. I have messed up more times than I have succeeded," she advised.
Switch Out Your Light Fixture
A lot of rented homes come with really basic light fixtures If you’re able to reach your light fixture, you can swap it out and then change it back before you move out. Kelsey Heinrichs has done just that.
“We've been spending much more time in our living room this year which led us to look for ways to transform our space," said Heinrichs. "Our previous lighting fixture featured an outdated and stained lampshade, so we installed this brushed brass flushed mount for a more modern and sophisticated look.”
Total cost: About $100 for installation by an electrician, plus the cost of the fixture. You can find light fixtures at all price points from different retailers so it’s easy to do this no matter what budget you have.
Time spent: It took a professional about an hour to install.
Hang a Ladder on the Wall to Swap Out Decor Easily
One of the best things you can do as a renter is use things that make switching up decor easy. And this is exactly what Rukmini Ray Kadam has done in her home. She built a little ladder that has allowed her to change her decor frequently.
"I needed to hang towels in my bath so thought a ladder would be a good idea. I always quite loved ladders and how versatile they usually are," Kadam said. "Unfortunately, the tile couldn't be drilled at all so I got it out to our living room and figured it's a wonderful way to do seasonal displays.”
“I had scrap wood lying around at home and I needed to hang towels in my bath so thought a ladder would be a good idea. I always quite loved ladders and how versatile they usually are... So yeah, one thing led to the other. Unfortunately, the tile couldn't be drilled at all so I got it out to our living room and figured it's a wonderful way to do seasonal displays.” She already had the wood so all she had to purchase was a small can of paint, nails and hooks. It took her about half a day to complete the project. She does suggest using a good saw as she only had a hand saw and it was difficult to cut straight lines.
Total cost: Less than $8. She already had the scrap wood which is not factored into the cost. She purchased paint, nails, and hooks.
Time spent: About a half a day
Tools: Kadam recommends a good saw. She sais she had only a hand saw and it was difficult to cut straight lines.
Kadam has been running a decor blog for more than 10 years and has been DIYing just as long, if not longer. “My grandmother is a master DIYer and I have been exposed to the whole DIY culture pretty early on in life.”
To help stay on top of wall fixes when renting, fill the holes in walls, scrape the excess, and smoothen it over as quickly as you change your wall decor, Kadam recommends.
Another easy way to switch up decor is to add shelving wherever you can. Emma Hopkinson has done a great job of utilizing shelving. “They're storage, galleries, space-makers, and bedside tables in a room too small to fit bedside tables in it," Hopkinson said. She lives in a super small flat which makes it harder to add standard furniture. "So we chose shelves instead….Anything functional or brightly coloured gets shoved in a cupboard, but for all our nice stuff, it's open storage all the way," she said.
While Hopkinson has purchased her shelves because she knew exactly what she wanted, you can also DIY shelves at home.
Total cost: Varies by shelving purchased
Tools: Drill, pencil, and level
Hopkinson said that she had very little DIY experience before moving into her rented flat but since living there her and her partner have painted the walls and their kitchen cupboards.
Use a Peg Board to Switch Things Up
An easy DIY project that’s great for organization and displaying things you love is a pegboard. Christine from Little House on the Corner created one at home, “It’s also really flexible as you can easily change and adjust it which is always a good thing as we tend to change our minds a lot," she said.
Total cost: $30 to $40
Time spent: 3 to 4 hours
Tools: You’ll definitely need a high-quality drill and a Forstner bit.
“It’s worth taking your time when measuring and marking where to drill all of the holes for the pegs as it’s important that they are all spaced out equally," she said. "Drilling the holes is definitely the most time consuming part of the project, though.”
Christine and Jan have been DIYing for almost 10 years and have completely transformed their home on a budget.
Paint Your Cabinets for Big Impact
Something as simple as painting can really transform a room. It goes for walls and for kitchen cabinets. And Salsabil El-Awaisi has done just that in her rented flat. She said that when she first moved in, her landlord did not want to redo the kitchen. “We tried to live with the old purple units but at some point, I just couldn't look at it anymore and decided to paint them and make them a little more to our taste," El-Awaisi said. "We also decided to paint the shelves that were already there and consciously style them up to make the whole kitchen more aesthetically pleasing. It made such a huge difference to the space.”
Total cost: $40
Time spent: A weekend
Tools: No special tools, just a standard paintbrush, roller, and primer.
Tip: "Speak and discuss what you want to do with your landlord and show them the potential of what change can have," El-Awaisi said.