November 29, 2022

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The 13 Renter-Friendly Hacks We Swear By (And Have Done Ourselves)

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I can think of about 10 pros that come with renting and all of them have to do with not being responsible for home maintenance. As a temporary lodger, it is technically not my fault when the garbage disposal breaks or windows start leaking when it rains. When that happens, I call up Mr. Landlord and say “We’ve got a problem that’s really your problem so please come fix it”. This lack of responsibility is one big reason why I’ve been a renter for 7 years now and will be for the foreseeable future. And yet, there can be no pros without a few cons. My apartment is temporary no matter how long I plan to stay, so I can’t go around breaking down walls or ripping up the tile in the bathroom. And even if I could, my bank account would suffer, and I’d be a dummy for spending so much time and money on something that is not mine. Herein lies the plight of us renters. We deserve a home we love but at what cost? What’s worth it to upgrade and what are we doomed to live with?

Over the years EHD has done the work in figuring out just that. These are tried and true hacks that are mostly low cost, low maintenance but always guaranteed to make you and your rental happier together. Grab your hard hats and let’s get started with the lowest lift…

Replace That Old (Or Boring) Hardware

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara’s living room & dining room reveal

This is the most low-lift yet impactful hack out there and happens to be a classic EHD design move. We encourage replacing doorknobs, cabinet pulls, towel racks, dresser knobs, switch plates, you name it. It can be very affordable and the best way to change up the style on a piece of furniture or in a room. All you need is a screwdriver and the hardware of your choice and you’re in business. Look at you go! Recently, Sara did this (above) with her Ikea entry cabinet and it upgraded a plain piece of furniture to have a modern Scandinavian feel.

If you are in the market here are some ones we love:

1. Perles Knob with Round Backplate | 2. Emerson Cabinet Knob | 3. Tumbled Brass Tilden Drawer Pull, 4″ | 4. Gateway Ring Pull | 5. Revitalize Cabinet 5 1/16″ Center to Center Bar Pull | 6. Hive Knob | 7. Classic Hardware Cup Pull | 8. Edgecliff Pull | 9. Classic Hardware Knob | 10. Luna Cabinet Knobs | 11. Classic Hardware Thin Pull | 12. West Slope Cabinet Knob

Painting (We Promise It’s Worth It)

design by ryann miller for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: ryann’s moto reveal: living and dining room

There is a reason we talk extensively about paint colors around here. Being trapped within walls that are not your ideal color is depressing. Luckily, this is a pretty easy fix and hiring help is not necessary. You will likely need permission from your landlord to do this (or, some of us rebels maintain the philosophy that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission). As long as you paint it back to the same color before you move out, you should be in the clear. I mean look at the transformation Arlyn’s dining room made with a coat of paint.

P.S. A bunch of paint companies are delivering paint cans right to your door. Head to this post to see which ones are our favorites.

Install Temporary Wallpaper For A Hint Of Personality

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a home office makeover with threshold removable wallpaper

Removable wallpaper is alive and well, my friends, and good thing because it can add so much charm and intrigue to your rental. We love adding temporary wallpaper and murals in nooks or small spaces because it can make the space pop. Also, it can create the perception of different “zones” even in the smallest spaces if you don’t cover every wall.

design by caitlin higgins for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: caitlin’s first moto revel – a vintage bathroom gets a modern update

We aren’t going to lie, wallpaper can be labor-intensive, but nowadays there are some great options out there that are easy to install and remove. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Tropical Wallpaper | 2. Birds of Paradise Wallpaper | 3. Honeysuckle Wallpaper | 4. English Rose ~ Watercolor ~ Black and White Wallpaper | 5. Blossom Botanical Wallpaper | 6. Striped Wallpaper | 7. Scenic Tree Toile Removeable Wallpaper| 8. Rose King Protea Art Deco (forest green) 18”Wallpaper | 9. Minimal Floral Wallpaper | 10. Waves Removable Wallpaper | 11. Floral Chinoiserie Wallpaper | 12. Avenie Warped Checkerboard Removable Wallpaper

Or make your own wallpaper using pages from a vintage book or pieces of unframed art!

image source

This reminds me of my childhood bedroom except my makeshift wallpaper strategy was cutting out pictures from fashion magazines and pasting them all over my walls. I am thrilled to discover that there is an adult version of this. I can imagine recreating this look with vintage botanical guides, drawing books, magazines, or postcards. The best part is you can simply use double-sided tape or even putty to avoid doing harm to the walls.

Install Window Treatments That You Love

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: julie’s huge (and diy packed) bedroom upgrade

Good window treatments don’t feel necessary (especially if you have blinds that came with the space). But we PROMISE that installing curtains or roman shades like Julie did will make your house feel like a home. It feels like a magical transformation. Now, most of the time it’s very doable to find affordable options but sometimes you might need to go custom (weird windows) like in Jess’ apartment, but if you can swing it will make all the difference. And if knowing how to hang them is holding you back, we’ve got you.

O and if privacy/sleep is REALLY important to you, then we really recommend blackout shades.

Replace Those Ugly Light Fixtures To Light You Up

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: arlyn’s bright & happy rental living room makeover
photo by tessa neustadt | from: house tour: mel’s new place makes us want to declutter immediately

This is a more advanced move and we advise acquiring the help of an electrician unless you are confident in your wiring abilities. But do not skip this step if you can help it because it’s so impactful. I mean talk about a custom-looking home. Do yourself a favor and replace that chandelier from 1985 that you can’t stand to look at. It’s worth the labor and you can always bring your light fixtures with you when you move (just make sure to save the original one to reinstall).



Hot Tip

If you have an exposed hanging cord, wrap it in twine or some patterned fabric.

1. Lucent Pendant Light | 2. Holt Leather Pendant | 3. Cedar & Moss Conifer Pendant | 4. Blair Pendant | 5. Bruna Walnut Wood and Linen Pendant | 6. Wicker Globe Pendant | 7. Sculptural Metal Pendant | 8. Bahama Pendant with Light Rattan Dark Bronze | 9. Hakka Conical Rattan Pendant

1. Amber Glass Cyra Wall Sconce | 2. Shana Sconce | 3. Wood And Black Metal Dome Adjustable Bryce Wall Sconce | 4. Flynn Single Wall Sconce | 5. Leap Black Sconce | 6. Piffle Black Wall Sconce

Ugly Floors? Install Peel & Stick Vinyl Tile

photo by tessa neustadt | from: brady’s kitchen reveal

Remember Brady’s insanely affordable vinyl floor hack?? It cost under $50. No, I am not kidding. And guys, this kitchen is so good looking you’ll be shocked that it is a rental. The best part is if you follow his steps you don’t have to touch the original tile at all. It basically entails measuring the space and putting down tile “stickers”. Here are some more of our favorites:

1. Woven Marble 12″ x 12″ x 1.5mm Luxury Vinyl Tile | 2. Mexican Diamond Vinyl Tile | 3. Self Adhesive Floor Tile-Navy Pearl-20 Tiles/20 sq ft | 4. Tiles for Kitchen/Bathroom Backsplash -Montecito | 5. Retro 12″ x 12″ x 1.5mm Luxury Vinyl Tile | 6. Salon in Red Earth Vinyl Tile Sticker Pack

Replace Outdated, Grimey Faucets

photo by zeke ruelas | from: brady gives a refresh to his vintage bathroom

This step might seem intimidating but thanks to Youtube there are thousands of videos that can walk you through it, step by step. And the labor is worth it. I personally love a matte black or brass faucet and the difference they make in an otherwise run-down bathroom or kitchen.

You can also go the route that Brady did and overhaul the whole sink, toilet, and mirror with your landlord’s permission. But unless you plan to spend years in your rental (which Brady has), it’s not the most financially sound option.

1. Widespread 2-Handle Bathroom Faucet in Matte Black | 2. Brass Linden Lever Handle Widespread Bathroom Sink Faucet | 3. Single Hole Bathroom Faucet with Pop-Up Drain Assembly | 4. Widespread Bathroom Faucet with Pop-Up Drain Trim – Less Valve | 5. Positano Standard 1.2 Gallons Per Minute GPM Widespread Faucet | 6. Ladera 8 in. Widespread 2-Handle Bathroom Faucet in Spot Defense Brushed Nickel | 7. 1-Handle 4-in centerset Bathroom Sink Faucet with Drain with Deck Plate | 8. WB-0300B Widespread Bathroom Faucet with Drain Assembly | 9. Victorian Bathroom Sink Faucet

Replace Toilet Seat Cover (Easy, Peasy)

design by julie rose for ehd | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: moto reveal: julie’s anything but beige, amazing diy bathroom refresh

We love any easy bathroom hack because rental bathrooms don’t get enough love and respect. If your bathroom is your least favorite place to visit, you probably are not giving it the attention that it deserves (she says to herself…). Replacing the toilet seat is so simple to do (plus was an EHD 2020 bathroom trend prediction) and Julie did it in her last place. The act itself will feel like a small step towards more self-care. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of self-care, you can get real fancy and install a bidet, too. Both Jess and Bowser love theirs. There are some great, affordable options out there that some of us have and love love love.

Install A Pretty Countertop Cover

photo by: sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’ moto: you have to see how she hacked her rental kitchen with diys

Who could forget Jess’ DIY countertop cover?? She used alder plywood and employed the help of her very handy dad to create this stunning and chic cover (inspired by Sarah Lonsdale) and it immediately modernized the space. Though she had some assistance, it’s a pretty straightforward process and if you are curious, be sure to head to her kitchen reveal for all the deets. In fact, head there no matter what because the whole kitchen is SO good and full of tons of other renter-friendly hacks.

Remove Cabinet Doors To Create Instant Open Shelving

Jess’ rental kitchen happened to come without closed cabinet storage up top, but seeing this photo reminded us that this can easily be done in any kitchen. Removing cabinet doors can open up your space and give you an opportunity to display all your favorite kitchenware (and could be a unique place to sneak in some art).



Hot Tip

To make the inside of your cabinets display ready, paint or use removable wallpaper for a solid glow up.

Install A Temporary Backsplash

design by anita yokota

Backsplashes are sadly overlooked in rentals. We generally don’t replace kitchen backsplash tile because of the time, energy, and money that it requires. That’s a job for homeowners, we say! But, this is not to suggest that you are destined to be stuck with ugly backsplash tile or no backsplash at all. Tile is not the only option for backsplashes. Take it from Anita Yokota (who you might remember from this #ShowEmYourDIY post) who installed Rebecca Atwood wallpaper to make her backsplash pop. (Also, take a closer look at the countertop…it’s contact paper! Another countertop that is super affordable (like $40 affordable))

We also love this scalloped backsplash by Matilda Goad (which you may remember from this post). She tested it out with cardboard and when she felt satisfied with the look she turned to a local stonemason and had them cut out the shape in a granite slab that matched the countertop. This might be advanced for a rental, but in hopes that one of you might be able to come up with something just as intriguing I had to share.

Can’t Make Any Holes In Your Walls? Try these…

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara’s tv room reveal

Drilling 50 different holes into your wall to create the perfect gallery wall is not advised, but we certainly understand that it happens. Like I said before, sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. But might I suggest an alternative: Take notes from Sara’s TV room and even opt to hang art unframed as one way to avoid the drill (hint: she used putty). It’ll save you money and the time replastering holes when your lease is up and happens to look really cool. Win-win, my friends. But whether you want to use a frame or not, here are our favorite damage free, no hole making, picture hanging tools:

1. Command Medium-Sized Wire Toggle Hooks | 2. Large Black Command Picture Hanging Strips | 3. Mounting Squares | 4. Scotch Mounting | 5. Quakehold! | 6. Large White Command Picture Hanging Strips

Alright, that is all I have for now. I hope if you are in a rental (or even not) that you feel that making your home feel more like yours is very possible. And if you are very DIY-minded, have you done any of these hacks in your own rental? Are there any other rental-friendly tricks that we missed?? Tell me everything.

Opener Image Credits: Design by Ryann Miller for EHD | Styled by Emily Bowser | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Ryann’s MOTO Reveal: A Moody Multi-Functional Living And Dining Room With A Lot Of Soul



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