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How To Make Your Apartment Pop (Even If You’re Renting)

One in four Millennials say they plan to be “forever renters,” according to Apartment List’s Millennial Homeownership Report. For many people in that generation, crippling student loans, high-interest rates, and the housing crash of 2008 make home ownership less appealing (and less possible) than for previous generations.  

Whether your apartment is your temporary or forever home, shopping around for a few simple design changes can make it feel like your own space. Many leases are explicit about what you can and can’t do to your apartment; getting your security deposit back means no ripping up tiles or knocking down walls. But, there are still plenty of rental-friendly DIY hacks you can try to make today’s home feel more like your home. 

1. Try peel-and-stick wallpaper

Temporary wallpaper is easy to use and won’t ruin your walls. It’s also widely available at stores like CB2, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters, and Etsy. Use it to create an accent wall, create different “zones” in smaller or uniform spaces, or on the ceiling to play with color and perspective. There are also peel-and-stick kitchen backsplash options to try that are made of thicker vinyl — although installing a temporary backslash takes a little more effort than simple wallpaper.

“If you’re installing the backsplash near the stove, it should be rated for long-term heat exposure or placed 15 inches above the stovetop for breathing room. To prevent mold from accumulating behind the peel-and-stick tile, ensure the surface is completely dry before installation and keep moisture away from the finished project,” wrote Insider

2. Replace light fixtures

Rental apartments usually come with standard light fixtures that are pretty basic. Changing those out for something with a little more character can make a big impact on the look and feel of the room. You may need to hire an electrician to do some basic rewiring, but there are also a number of YouTube tutorials you could try if you’re feeling confident. Just remember to keep the old light fixture to reinstall before you move out. 

3. Swap out old hardware

Another easy change is to switch the hardware — drawer knobs, cupboard handles, doorknobs, switch plates, etc. — with options that suit your style. “All you need is a screwdriver and the hardware of your choice and you’re in business,” wrote the design experts at Style by Emily Henderson. You can even change out the hardware on your furniture, like a dresser or wardrobe, to create a cohesive feel from room to room. Keep the old hardware to return to its place when you move out. 

4. Try peel-and-stick tile 

Peel-and-stick isn’t just for your backsplash or walls; your bathroom and kitchen can even get an upgrade with peel-and-stick tile patterns. Floors can be a little trickier than walls since many rooms aren’t a perfect square; you may have to work around countertops and cupboards, sinks and bathtubs. But, with the right tools and a forgiving pattern, peel-and-stick tiles can cover up cheap flooring and breathe fresh life into your apartment. 

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