Decorating an Apartment Bedroom

Seven easy ways to add personality to a bland rental.

Bedroom with birch tree wallpaper.
Removable wallpaper is just one way to spice up a rental. James Balston/Getty Images

The benefits of renting are many: someone else has to deal with that overflowing toilet, hiring a gardener isn’t your problem, when it’s time to re-roof, the money isn’t coming out of your bank account. Plus, renting can be the best solution if you know your stay in a particular city is short-term, or you’re still getting the lay of the land after a relocation. Still, there are also undeniable downsides to being a renter: ever-increasing rent, of course, but also an inability to change your home’s paint or flooring (at least, not unless you want to lose your security deposit.)

If you live in an apartment, you almost certainly have the typical renter’s bedroom: beige wall-to-wall carpet and Swiss coffee or a similar off-white paint on the walls. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a palette of neutrals as a room’s decorating base: it’s safe, it’s sure to match whatever furnishings you bring with you, and it makes the typically small rooms of an apartment look a bit larger. But a cookie-cutter room can get stale after a while, or perhaps you’re more of a color lover to begin with. If so, don’t despair. Just because you rent doesn’t mean you are doomed to living with someone else’s color preferences forever. There are actually quite a few ways to jazz up a rental bedroom (or any other room of your apartment, for that matter) without leaving permanent damage you’ll have to pay for when it’s time to move on. Here are seven ideas for adding a personal touch to your apartment bedroom.

Ceiling Medallion Decal

When it comes to decorating, few people think to look up. But the ceiling is a large stretch of surface just begging for a touch of something special to break the monotony and add some spice to the entire room. Ceiling medallions certainly meet the definition of “something special,” but unfortunately, leave behind considerable damage when you remove the medallion at move-out.

There’s another option, however: ceiling medallion decals. Just peel and press into place, and voila! Your formerly boring ceiling now has a touch of glamour, elegance, whimsy, or whatever other mood your chosen medallion reflects. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a ceiling light fixture; there are medallion designs that resemble flights of butterflies, intricate Celtic patterns, retro geometrics, compasses and many other ideas that look fantastic on their own.

Doorknob

Yes, the boring builder doorknob that came with your bedroom door is serviceable. But why settle for serviceable when you can have spectacular instead? Switching out a doorknob is an easy project requiring little beyond a screwdriver, and there are so many great knobs to choose from. Go with a Victorian glass knob, a sleek and contemporary lever, a rustic design, or even a hand-painted ceramic doorknob. Just remember to save the knob that came with the unit so you can replace it when you move.

Removable Wallpaper

Regular wallpaper is a full commitment, but today’s temporary wallpaper makes hanging and removing as easy as 1-2-3 (okay, not quite that easy, as it’s generally a two-person job to hang any type of wallpaper and you also need to take the time to measure carefully before starting.) One of the most fun ways to use wallpaper is to create an accent wall at the head of your bed.

If you decide to go this route, feel free to choose a wild, bright, or large pattern. If you are going to hang the paper on all four walls, however, you’ll sleep better with a more subdued print surrounding you in your bed.

Area Rug

You probably have carpet on your apartment bedroom floor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t layer an area rug right over the top. Doing so is a great way to add a hefty dose of color, pattern, texture, and contrast to your room. If your bedroom is small (a likely scenario in an apartment), choose a rug large enough to fit your entire bed and nightstand on top. If you prefer something smaller, pick a scatter rug that fills the space between the foot of your bed and the wall (or nearest piece of furniture), or an even smaller rug to set where your bare feet will hit it first thing in the morning.

Window Treatments

Most apartments feature cheap white mini blinds on the bedroom windows, or vertical blinds if the window is large or is a sliding door opening to a balcony. While they serve to provide privacy and keep out light, such window treatments don’t create much in the way of decorative impact. There’s a simple solution, however -- go ahead and hang curtains right over the existing blinds. Since the blinds provide privacy, you can hang sheers or whatever pretty and colorful curtains you like without fear of the neighbors’ peeping eyes. Remember though: hanging curtains means first installing a curtain rod, which means holes from the screws. You’ll need to patch those when you move out of the rental.

Washi Tape

Paper washi tape created quite a splash in the DIY and crafts worlds when it first hit the scene in the early 2000s, and its popularity hasn’t ebbed since. There’s a good reason for that: washi tape (invented by Japanese masking tape company Kamoi Kakoshi in 2006) comes in a nearly endless range of colors, patterns and sizes; it clings to just about anything; and most importantly (from a renter’s point of view) it removes easily, without leaving any residue or damage to the walls.

So pick up a roll – or two or three – in your favorite colors and patterns, and start to decorate. The potential is only as limited as your imagination:

  • Create a geometric design on your wall
  • Use the tape to write your favorite phrase, word, or poem over the bed
  • Outline a fanciful “headboard” in place of the traditional furniture
  • Layer on color around the windows, doors or even along the baseboards or ceiling edges
  • Jazz up the closet door with a taped design

Plug-in Sconce

Chances are your apartment bedroom has either a boring flush-mounted ceiling fixture or no ceiling fixture at all. Either way, you can shine a little extra light in the space – all while adding a decorating statement – by installing a pair of wall sconces next to your bed. You won’t be able to wire the fixtures into the wall, but luckily, there are many plug-in wall sconces available.

As long as you have an electrical outlet under your bed or right beside it, it’s an easily doable project. You’ll need to screw the fixtures into the wall, so there will be small holes to patch on move-out day, but that’s a small price to pay for so much style (and extra light for reading in bed.)

Plug-in sconces come in just about as many styles as the wired-in versions do: rustic country, edgy contemporary, stark industrial, sedate traditional, fun and whimsical, or midcentury retro – the choice is up to you. You’ll find a large selection of these light fixtures on websites like Lamps Plus, Pottery Barn, Overstock.com, and Wayfair.