How to Decorate a Nursery in a Rental Home or Apartment

Baby room with white dresser
KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

When you own your own home, designing a nursery may seem like an exciting opportunity. But when you’re decorating a rental, those stark, white nursery walls can be downright intimidating. Most rental agreements prohibit the use of paint, and many will not even allow tenants to hang anything on the walls. So what’s a pregnant mama on a nesting mission to do?

If you’re looking for a way to get around that big, bad rental agreement, you’ve come to the right place. Get inspired by these clever and creative nursery ideas for renters.

Choose a Bright Color Scheme

Love color? Embrace those whitewashed rental walls, and opt for brightly colored bedding and accessories instead. Nothing makes a bold hue pop like a fresh, white canvas. It’s a clean, contemporary look that never fails to impress.

Play With Pattern

Incorporating a bold pattern is the perfect way to bring color into a neutral space.

Choose dramatic, large-scale patterns and pair with solid elements. (If you’ve chosen bright orange crib bedding with a chevron pattern, for example, opt for a solid orange crib skirt.) The contrast will keep patterned elements looking fresh.

Want to mix it up? Go for it. A lively mix of patterns and prints makes for a fun and visually interesting design.

Paint the Furniture

Can’t paint the walls? Paint the furniture instead. A quick coat of paint can transform an old dresser or worn, wooden crib into a bold statement piece, giving a rented space some much-needed pizazz. For a more dramatic effect, try painting all of your furniture in a single color, reversing the traditional order of colored walls and white furnishings.

Create an Accent Wall

A single, show-stopping accent wall can transform a nursery from blah to breathtaking. Try dressing your walls with decals or removable wallpaper. Need a more budget-friendly option? Create your own temporary work of art using washi tape. You can even create your own removable wallpaper designs using fabric and a homemade, starch-based solution. When it’s time to move on, simply peel the fabric from the walls, and wash away the paste with soapy water.

Dress Your Floor

Need an instant style boost? Add a rug to your nursery. Rugs offer added color, pattern and texture, delivering a pretty impressive design punch. They don’t have to cost a lot, and they work perfectly in almost any room—even those with carpeting.

Need help picking the right rug for your space? There are only three key details you should really consider when choosing a rug. Make sure the size, material, and color/texture are balanced within your nursery.

Add Height to Your Design

When you’re renting, anything that requires a hole in the wall is usually a no-no. That means no pictures, shelves or any other kind of décor normally found at eye level. To soften the effect of bare, white walls, concentrate on creating levels in your design.

Tall pieces of furniture, such as a dresser/hutch combo or tall bookshelf, create visual breaks in a room full of low-level furnishings. They also allow you to introduce color on a second level. Tall accessories, such as standing lamps and fabric screens can also be used to draw the eye upward.

Do More With Less

Dreaming of an elaborate nursery gallery? Instead of making dozens of holes in your wall, try installing one large sheet of pegboard, and mount your wall décor to that. You could also hang art from a wire, or use cute clips to attach lightweight art prints to a shabby-chic inspired clothesline. A little creative thinking will save you a whole lot of patching.

Update Existing Fixtures

When it comes to decorating, small details can make a big difference. Want to make a statement? Why not replace the room’s existing light fixture with something more dramatic? Hate the curtains? Hang your own. Ugly blinds? Use a tension rod to hang lightweight curtains in front. Just be sure to store all original fixtures away for safekeeping until you move.