5 Easy Expert Tips to Make a Space Feel Special When It's Super Temporary

decorative throw pillows and special touches

House of Chais

As a late 20-something, I’ve moved apartments four times and am preparing to relocate to a new space in the coming weeks—but this number doesn’t include the time I lived in a summer sublet, rented a flat while studying abroad, or stayed in university housing at New York City college during a two month-long internship. Let’s just say that by this point in my life, I know how to pack, organize, and declutter like a pro. 

Sarah Lyon's blue chest of drawers features a round platter, blue lamp and art on the wall

Sarah Lyon / Photo by Ryan Hicks

Most design savvy individuals know that there are countless ways to customize an actual rental apartment, whether that entails painting, installing removable wallpaper, switching out kitchen hardware, or hanging new light fixtures. I’ve made many of these upgrades myself, but usually with the intention of staying in a space for a couple of years. So what’s one to do when the space they’re staying in is super temporary or isn’t even truly their own? Some may find it silly to even consider jazzing up intern housing or a semester-long rental space, but taking small steps to make a room or apartment feel a bit more custom can truly make all of the difference. 

“Oftentimes, when people are in a temporary living situation, they’ll set up the bare essentials since they’ll only be in the space for a short time,” designer Stephanie Purzycki explained in an email. “But, it’s the extra details that will make it feel like a home, and usually, these details aren’t that expensive and take just a few hours to set up.” 

Even when I knew I’d only be living somewhere for a couple of months, I always made an effort to print and hang my favorite photos (as we all did in the early 2010s!) and display a few favorite books and trinkets. However, there’s so much more that you can do to make a temporary spot feel more like your own—keep reading for designer-approved tips that you’ll be able to easily implement this week. 

  • 01 of 05

    Think About Textiles

    cozy bedroom with textiles

    Blanco Bungalow

    “Textiles like rugs, bedding, and throw pillows make a space feel cozy,” Purzycki shared. “If you're thinking about leaving yours packed away, don’t! The added warmth they’ll bring to your home will be well worth it.” In addition to having aesthetic benefits, certain bed linens and accent pieces may remind you of the comforts of your full-time space and help you feel more at ease in a new bedroom in an unfamiliar location. If you can’t fall asleep without your silk pillowcase or throw blanket, don’t leave these things behind—they may have a major impact on your mental health as you adjust to a new spot. 

    Bring your favorite bedding and pillows. You won't regret it.

  • 02 of 05

    Include Art

    Living room with wall gallery by design blogger Kate Dreyer

    Kate Dreyer

    Obviously, there’s no need to go ahead and devote countless hours to getting the art just right in your summer sublet space. But don’t neglect the walls entirely. “When a space is temporary, a lot of people tend to skip details like hanging art, but art is one of the best ways to make a space feel finished and more like home,” Purzycki explained. “Plus, it’s incredibly easy to do, and it's impermanent if you hang it with adhesive strips.” Just make sure that whatever you use to adhere your prints won’t leave any major residue or damage behind! 

    Not sure how to source chic art without breaking the bank? “If you're just starting an art collection and are on the hunt for affordable prints, check out printable art shops like The Crown Prints, Juniper Print Shop and BFF Print Shop,” design blogger Kate Dreyer suggested in an email. “For budget-friendly frames, try Michaels and Target.” 

    Say 'yes' to wall art.

  • 03 of 05

    Try a New Layout

    furniture arranged to make a room look bigger

    Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp / Design by Arlyn Hernandez for EHD

    Even if you have to work with the furniture provided to you during a short-term stay, it’s more than likely more than ok to move things around as you wish—just be sure to return everything to its original placement before you move out. “Sometimes the key to make a space feel more homey is as simple as rearranging the furniture, whether it is to mimic something you are more familiar with or to make the space function more to your needs,” designer Julia Newman said in an email.

    Repositioning furniture can make a big difference.

  • 04 of 05

    Do Some Quick Styling

    Designer Ashley Colombo styled this living space

    Ashley Colombo / Photo by afmphoto

    Add some simple touches to make someone else’s living room look more like your own. “Add some chic pillows to give your furniture (and the room) personality,” designer Ashley Colombo suggested. “Make sure you have proper lighting in your space with plenty of table and floor lamps and style your tables like the pros do with stacks of books, fresh flowers and fun objects like an interesting box or bowl.” 

    Always say yes to fresh flowers.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Don’t Forget About a Rug

    berber rug in an interiors

    Black & Blooms

    “Get a fun rug and ground the space in something that feels great underfoot or is visually interesting,” designer Rachel Sherman shared in an email. Even the smallest of rugs will cozy up a temporary space and make for a more pleasant day-to-day experience (we all know what those tiled dorm room floors are like!).

    Rugs add a cozy factor.