Ways to Decorate the Apartment Without Losing a Security Deposit

Shannon Quinn - May 12, 2019

When most people move into an apartment, they are afraid to do too much interior decorating, because they fear too much customization may dip into their security deposit. This is why many apartments look alike, and they are honestly pretty boring. Don’t be afraid to decorate your space so that you feel more at home! Keep in mind that a lot of landlords might actually be happy if you improve the apartment. If you add certain features that will permanently improve the property like a ceiling fan or a new light fixture, they may give you permission to do these things, because it increases the value of the home. The only catch is that you will have to leave those features behind if you ever leave. Before you do anything drastic, make sure to contact your landlord to see if they will allow it. However, everything on this list should be fine

Neutral colored walls will allow you to layer more textures and colors successfully. Credit: Shutterstock

50. Paint The Walls With New Neutral Colors

Most landlords and apartment complexes want walls to be painted neutral colors like white or beige. Others will enter a privately owned rental to see that the landlord got a little bit wild with the colors. More often that not, painting (or keeping) neutral colors can help to add elements of design later. Think of it as an empty canvas that does not distract the eyes.

Industrial light fixtures like these are very popular. Credit: Shutterstock

49. Upgrade Your Light Fixtures

In most cases, you can replace a light fixture, so long as it fits into the hole that is already on the ceiling. And in some cases, your landlord may actually be happy to let you add a more complicated fixture or ceiling fan, so long as you promise to leave it when you move out. Remember that a security deposit is meant to prevent tenants from making a property worse. If you are actually making it better, there should not be an issue.

Vinyl floor cloth on top of tile. Credit: New England Home Magazine

48. Cover Ugly Tiles With Vinyl Floor Cloth

There are loads of apartments and houses where the tile floors in the kitchen look atrocious. But you don’t exactly want to put a rug on top of it, since you want the convenience of sweeping up a kitchen floor, or wiping any liquid spills. A great solution to this is vinyl floor cloth, which is similar to a rug, but it is made of vinyl. Once you move out of the apartment, you can take it off of the floor. It also helps to make sure you never damage the original floors.

Sometimes, changing a shower head will improve the water pressure. Credit: Shutterstock

47. Install a New Shower Head

Plenty of apartments keep the same shower heads that have been there since the complex was built. Of course, the quality of these showers are not always the best. Thankfully, this is such an easy upgrade. You can buy a really fancy rain shower head for less than $50 at places like Home Depot and Lowes, and easily replace it on your own.

Some bed frames have built-in drawers. Credit: Shutterstock

46. Use Under-The-Bed Storage

Most apartments and rental homes are small, and storage space is precious. Even if you do not have a special bed frame, you can buy boxes that will fit underneath your bed. This is great for cleaning up any extra clutter around your home, and hide it away from plain sight.

Cover your ugly radiators. Credit: Shutterstock

45. Build a Radiator Cover

If you move into an old property, it may have metal radiators heating the house. But you do not have to live with them forever. They make wooden radiator covers that look rather luxurious. Just google radiator covers and you’ll find some really nice options, like this one pictured above. Always make sure that a radiator cover is not some DIY project that consists of flammable materials. Make sure to get a legitimate radiator cover because it could present a fire hazard.

If you invest in nice furniture, it will go with you throughout your life. Credit: Shutterstock

44. Invest in Nice Furniture

When most people move into their first apartment, they immediately go for IKEA or Walmart furniture, because it’s all they can afford. And as the years go on, they may collect a few news pieces as-needed. However, this mismatched furniture is not the best for interior decorating. If you want your rental to look nicer, seriously consider investing in real, solid wood furniture. The good thing is that these high-quality pieces should be able to last a lifetime, and go with you from place to place.

Add storage to your closet. Credit: IKEA.com

43. Add Storage To Your Closet

Some rental closets are equipped with wire shelving, while others are completely empty, except for a single bar to hang your clothes. If there is empty space, be sure to utilize that area with storage solutions, like the set of drawers from IKEA shown in the picture above. Keeping things like this in your closet also eliminates the need to buy extra furniture like dressers that will take up more space in your bedroom.

Sometimes, you can get away with replacing your cabinet doors. Credit: Shutterstock

42. Invest in New Cabinet Doors

Landlords typically do not want to replace cabinet doors unless it is absolutely necessary, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with an outdated mess. As long as you are improving the look of the apartment, and not making it worse, most landlords will not be upset if you paint cabinets or replace the doors. If you are not sure, always ask your landlord, just in case, to avoid any issues.

Your kitchen experience will be far better if you have the proper storage. Credit: Shutterstock

41. Buy Kitchen Organizational Tools

The easiest way for clutter to occur is when you do not have the proper places to put your things away. You may want to buy a kitchen cart from IKEA, containers, knife holders, or dividers inside of a drawer. Keeping a kitchen clean is actually a huge part of making your apartment look more designer.

Farmhouse style black overhead lights. Credit: Shutterstock

40. Overhead Lights Without Drilling

Lights that hang from the ceiling are very trendy right now, but most of the time, it requires drilling hooks in the ceiling, and a lot of rewiring. Bobvila.com has a whole list of creative solutions to this problem. So now you don’t have to settle for the boring light fixtures that most apartments come equipped with (and some may not have ceiling lights at all)!

Normal marble countertops are very expensive. Credit: Shutterstock

39. Faux Marble Countertops

Marble countertops are very expensive, and they are something that many people cannot afford. Lucky for you, though, you can buy rolls of wallpaper sticker that looks exactly like marble. Once it’s on the top of the counters, you will not be able to tell the difference. If you must remove it before you leave, it will peel off, and you can use vinegar to scrub off any glue residue.

Backsplashes do not necessarily have to be permanent. Credit: Quadro Style

38. Faux Tile Contact Paper Backsplash

Adding a backsplash to a kitchen immediately makes it look a lot better. Believe it or not, you can buy a wall sticker that looks like tile, but it’s actually completely removable! The great thing about these sticker versions of tile is that they come in all sorts of patterns that would normally be very expensive if you actually went out to buy the speciality tile.

Sometimes, cabinet doors detract from the look of a room. Credit: Shutterstock

37. Remove Kitchen Cabinet Doors

Sometimes, apartments and rental homes will have old cabinets that look atrocious, but once you remove the doors, they look like perfectly good shelving. As long as you are willing to put the doors back later, there is no harm in hiding them in a closet until you are ready to move out. Some people really like the open cabinet look, because it forces them to keep everything neat and tidy.

You can use removable wallpaper to create an accent wall in your apartment or rental home. Credit: Shutterstock

36. Accent Wall With Removable Wallpaper

Normally, wallpaper has to be stuck on with a heavy glue adhesive, but in modern times, you can buy a wall decal to achieve some really bold looks. For example, they made some wall stickers that looks like concrete, which will instantly help you get a more industrial vibe. You can also achieve a look that would normally be impossible to do, like the image above where you see a massive marble wall. The sky is the limit in terms of possibilities for your accent wall.

Storage ottomans come in all shapes and sizes. Credit: Shutterstock

35. Double Up on Storage and Seating

Storage ottomans are amazing, because they serve two purposes; seating, and storage. Larger pieces can also be a coffee table in your living room. These are especially great for hiding away kid’s toys, extra blankets, and seasonal items that you do not want out in the open.

This balcony has temporary wooden tiles. Credit: Houzz

34. Outdoor Flooring On Your Patio or Balcony

Most outdoor patios and balconies are your standard concrete. While there is nothing wrong with that, it can become old and worn down over the years. An incredibly clever solution is to install removable wooden tiles. Once this project is complete, the end result looks incredibly luxurious, and it is sure to impress your friends and family.

Washi tape can be used to create designs on a wall. Credit: Shutterstock

33. Turn Washi Tape Into DIY Wall Decals

Some people wish they could create a mural, or paint designs on their walls. However, most landlords would not be all too happy about that once you leave. A great solution is washi table, because you can put it on your walls, and easily peel it off later without causing any damage. You can find all kinds of washi tape in your local craft stores like Michael’s, or find it online for next-to-nothing.

You can creat a reclaimed wood wall to make a bold statement. Credit: Shutterstock

32. Removable Reclaimed Wood Wall

Accent walls made with reclaimed wood are very stylish, and they look expensive. Believe it or not, these wood panels are available on Amazon, and you can easily take them down before your lease ends. Check out this video by Home Insider, where they show you the process of putting up the reclaimed wood wall.

Contact paper can help give you more privacy in your home. Credit: Reddit

31. Contact Paper on the Windows For Privacy

If you live on the first floor, chances are that you may have a window that faces the parking lot. In some cases, people may even be able to see into your apartment. (Yikes.) You can help to combat this by putting contact paper on the windows. This way, light can still come in, but no one will be able to see inside.

If you want a stailess steel dishwasher, you can just use a sticker! Credit: Shutterstock

30. Stainless Steel Contact Paper For the Dishwasher

When you live in a rental, there is very little chance that you would be willing to replace the appliances, because you cannot take them when you leave. So if you wish you had a beautiful, brand new stainless steel dishwasher, you actually can! They sell peel-on stickers that will transform your appliances right before your very eyes. They are available on Amazon, and in most hardware stores.

Command hooks do not damage your walls. Credit: Shutterstock

29. Hang Art Using Command Hooks

Command hooks are a huge lifesaver, and a must-have for most DIY apartment projects. Instead of nailing or screwing things into the wall, Command hooks will help you hang paintings, tension rods, and more. As you probably already know, you can find Command hooks practically anywhere. Check your local hardware store or superstores for the right size. Always make sure to check the weight limit on your hook.

It’s possible to install removable tiles. Credit: Shutterstock

28. Put Up a Removable Subway Tile Backsplash in Your Kitchen

Adding backsplash to a kitchen immediately makes it look more luxurious. However, most of the time, you have to put on permanent adhesive and possibly hire a contractor to help you. Believe it or not, they make removable subway tile that you can put up on your own, and easily take it down before your lease is over.

New window shades will help improve the look of your home. Credit: Shutterstock

27. Replace Those Ugly Plastic Window Shades

Most apartments come with ugly plastic window shades, because they are the cheapest option. However, you do not have to live with these shades during the entire length of your lease. You can hang cloth Roman shades that fold up and down, and match the fabric to the colors of your interiors.

Folding screens are great for studio apartments. Credit: Shutterstock

26. Use Folding Screens To Hide Anything Unsightly

If you have a studio apartment, you can use a folding screen to help divide spaces. You can also use them to hide anything unsightly, when your friends and family come over to visit. And if you find an interesting folding screen at an antique store, it can also double as a statement piece that any visitors will envy.

You can cover up wire shelving in your closets and pantries. Credit: Do It On A Dime on YouTube

25. Mask Your Wire Shelving

Almost all apartment closets are equipped with those cheap wire shelving. However, it is not always the most attractive or convenient type of shelf to use, because items fall through the slots of the wires. Thankfully, there is a cheap and easy solution. The Do It On A Dime YouTube channel has a great step-by-step tutorial video on how to transform wire shelving into attractive shelving using just Dollar Tree items.

Over-the-door shoe storage is great for organization. Credit: Amazon.com

24. Use Over-The-Door Shoe Racks For Extra Storage

Clear over-the-door shoe racks are great, because you can create a storage area, and hide it once you close the door. These storage racks are also great for just about anything you need to organize. It doesn’t have to be shoes. Plenty of people use these in the closets of their craft rooms for supplies, as well.

There should always be a space to put your shoes to keep a small apartment clean. Credit: Shutterstock

23. Create Entryway Storage

Most apartments are small. If you are trying to keep a lot of stuff in a small space, it is all too easy for things to become cluttered and messy. This is why it’s so important to have a front entryway storage area. Shoe racks, benches, coat racks, mirrors, and small side tables are all great for getting ready to start your day and head out the door.

This studio apartment is split up by a large bookshelf. Credit: The Spruce

22. Bookshelf Dividing Wall

If you have a studio apartment, you probably want to have some kind of dividing line between the living room and the bedroom. One great way to do that is to get a bookshelf that doubles as a wall. Of course, it also serves as a storage space, as well. Decorate this shelf with books, decor, and bins to add some personality and aesthetics to your space. Just be careful to not make it too cluttered.

Succulents are popular house plants because they do not need a lot of watering. Credit: Shutterstock

21. Add Life With A Few Plants

No matter where you live, you can keep plants. And believe it or not, buying real plants can sometimes cost a whole lot less than fake ones. Some people are afraid to get real plants, especially if they travel a lot, or they have pets. However, succulents are a great plant to keep, because they are easy to take care of. They only need to be watered every couple weeks. So, even if you go on vacation, it won’t be dead by the time you get back.

Make sure you get your landlord’s permission in writing before changing anything major. Credit: Shutterstock

20. Get Your Landlord’s Permission in Writing

If you are going to do something out of the box with your apartment decorations, always ask permission from your landlord. Even if they say yes and assure you that it’s fine, don’t take their word for it. Always get their response in writing, laying out exactly what kinds of changes you are requesting to make. You never know if this will come back to bite you later. Your landlord most likely has a lot going on in their life. They might completely forget that they said yes when it’s time for you to move, or pretend that it never happened. Always take before-and-after photos and videos as well.

Peel-and-stick tile is usually removable. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Peel-and-Stick Could Give The Bathroom Floor a Makeover

Let’s be honest. Most apartment bathrooms are not very attractive as-is. They’re often fitted with the cheapest tile and furnishings the owner could find, and everything is usually in a shade of white or beige. If you want to do something different to the bathroom, you actually can do it without risking the security deposit! They make peel-and-stick floor tiles that you can put down and remove before you move out of the apartment. Check out the video by a YouTuber called The Lone Fox, where he did a $300 apartment bathroom makeover.

These wooden floor mats can also be used in an apartment. Credit: Shutterstock

18. Wooden Floor Mat in the Shower

If you frequent interior design blogs and makeover shows, you might have seen teak shower flooring in luxury homes. Even some tiny homes have been made with a teak pouring because the owners have the ability to start their bathroom from scratch. But did you know that you can buy teak floor mats and lay them on top of your existing shower? These cost between $25 to $50 each, depending on the size. You may need to purchase two if you need to cover the entire floor of the shower. And when it’s time to leave, you can take them with you to the next place.

Layered rugs have become very popular in today’s design. Credit: One Kings Lane

17. Layer Your Rugs

An interior design trend that we see a lot nowadays is layering two rugs on top of one another. The most popular method of doing this is to have a jute rug to serve as a base underneath a rug with a patterned design. Aesthetically, this gives more depth and texture to the space. This works best in somewhere like the dining room, where you’ll have a table holding down the two rugs. Keep in mind that you might accidentally trip over this if it was in the middle of the room.

Open shelving gives you extra storage in your kitchen. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Open Shelving

When you run out of storage space in an apartment, there are very few options for you to get more. It’s not like you can build on an addition like you can with a house. So your only option is to go up, and take advantage of vertical space. This is where open shelving comes in. Having shelves above your kitchen cabinets is a great way to take advantage of the blank walls. When you’re ready to move out, you will most likely need to use a spackle to cover up the holes that were made in the walls.

This coat and boot rack is perfect to leave by an apartment door. Credit: Shutterstock

15. Get a Coat and Boot Rack

One of the biggest goal items that I want in a house is to have those built-in cubbies when you walk through the front door. Obviously, I’m not the only one who feels this way. However, even if you own your own house, a project like this would cost a few thousand dollars to build. Luckily, there are alternatives that can be made using pieces of furniture. All you really need is a coat and boot rack combination. There are also people out there who have done and Ikea Hack for these built-in cubby coat racks as well.

Painting your furniture can help give your apartment a small facelift. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Do DIY Projects to Improve Your Existing Furniture

When you are on a budget, it’s probably not possible for you to buy a completely new set of furniture for your apartment. Or, you might be waiting for your next lease before you splurge on new furniture. That’s why it could be a very good idea to paint or upholster your existing furniture to freshen things up a little bit. Before you get started, you may need to take the furniture out to your balcony or transport it to a friend’s house with a lawn before you do anything like spray painting. If this is not an option, you can still do DIY projects like putting contact paper on top of a table.

This apartment’s curtains go all the way up to the ceiling. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Raise Your Curtains Higher

One of the best ways to give the illusion of space in a small apartment is to use floor-to-ceiling curtains. Sometimes, that’s not enough. If you want to go above and beyond us, hang your curtain rod as close to the ceiling as you possibly can. Measure the space between the curtain rod and the floor. Buy the appropriate sized curtains from the store. The result is stunning. Even without furniture in the room, hanging these high curtains makes a huge difference in a space.

No matter what year your bought your Ikea furniture, there are hacks out there. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Try Ikea Hacks to Build Faux Features

When you’re renting, you can’t do any construction like making a built-in library or going overboard with customized storage. However, if you follow some of the popular Ikea Hacks, a lot of these pieces appear to be built in but they’re actually just pieces of furniture that can be removed. You could always take these pieces apart and move it to your next apartment. Or, if you stay in your rental for several years at a time, it may reach a point where you don’t feel terrible about throwing these pieces away, since Ikea is so affordable in the first place.

Use oil diffusers, spray, and candles to make your home smell great. Credit: Shutterstock

11. Make Everything Smell Great

No matter where you live, the way your home smells makes a huge difference. If you walk into a house that smells like something delicious, you immediately feel like you’re more at home. A scented candle can also make you feel more sensual, awake, or relaxed. When things feel clean, you can breathe better and it just makes the experience more pleasant. On the flip side, if you go into an apartment that smells like body odor and old garbage, you want to run away as fast as you can. Make sure you open your windows for ventilation, or put on fans to get some air flow in the apartment. Clean everything as much as possible, and consider purchasing an air purifier.

This small apartment hallway is just enough room for coats to hang on hooks. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Use Hooks For Extra Storage

When you live in an apartment, you probably can’t have the built-in closet of your dreams or the cubbies near the front of the door. You might have run out of space in your closet for everything that you own. A simple and easy solution to this problem is to hang hooks. These can be placed near your front door for coats, purses, and backpacks. Hooks could also be in your bedroom as an additional closet space. Command hooks are peel-and-stick, and can go on any wall that has a flat surface. And when you’re ready to move out, it should be easy to remove without damaging the wall.

This apartment bedroom has all white walls except for the one green accent wall. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Accent Walls

A lot of renters are afraid to paint for walls in a color that is too dark. This is for good reason. If you paint a wall black for example, you are going to have to use a primer and multiple layers have a lighter color paint in order to get that wall back to a neutral color. This is an expensive and time-consuming process most people are not prepared for. This is why so many people end up losing their security deposit if they paint their apartment too dark. However, if you stick with just one accent wall in a dark color and leave the rest light, it is far easier for you to bring everything back to code before you leave. An accent wall often brings a lot of depth and style to a space, and it could be totally worth the effort.

This mirror helps reflect the surrounding area and make the apartment appear larger. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Mirrors

One of the most commonly known hacks for adding the illusion of space to a small apartment is by hanging a mirror on the wall. This is also true if you have a large body size mirror on the floor leaning against the wall. Not only does this make the room feel bigger, but it also gives you a place to check yourself out before you leave for work or school. However, just make sure your mirror placement follows the rules of Feng Shui so that you aren’t accidentally zapping your energy.

This gallery wall in golden frames really adds a lot of elegance to the space. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Let Art Do All the Work

Sometimes, a really good piece of artwork can do so much for your space. It doesn’t have to be expensive or in a gilded frame to make a difference, either. This could be a beautiful gallery wall, or a framed poster that just compliments the room really well. Instead of trying to put up something overly fancy, ask yourself what the current aesthetic is of the apartment, and find artwork that compliments it. Once you have the right artwork on the walls, it makes all the difference in the world.

This is one large room, but you can clearly see where the living room ends and the kitchen begins. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Create “Zones” In the Apartment

Apartments are typically very small compared to a house. And in a studio apartment, everything is contained in one room. You’re going to have to condense your living situation down to a small amount of square footage. This is why it’s a good idea to split up the apartment into “zones” where one section ends, and the other begins. Once you have proper zones set up in a small apartment, it can help the room to feel bigger, as well. Use area rugs to divide up a room, and use furniture as a faux wall.

Textiles like throw blankets and pillows add a lot of interest to a space. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Buy Cozy Textiles to Make The Space More Comfortable

You might not be able to do a full apartment makeover when you’re renting, but you can buy as many accessories as you want. Layering textiles of throw blankets and throw pillows can add a lot of comfort and coziness into your space. The more welcoming your apartment feels, the less likely you will feel the need to do a total makeover. As long as the space feels like home, that’s all that matters.

Furniture with long legs helps to give the illusion of space in a small apartment. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Do Tricks to Make the Apartment Feel Bigger

Sometimes, all your apartment needs is to feel a bit bigger than it does already in order for you to feel better about the space. There are a lot of optical illusions that you can use in order to trick your eye into believing that the space is bigger than it actually is. Here at Home Addict, we have already come out with an article called How to Create the Illusion of Space in a Small Apartment. Check that out after reading this list!

When planning a makeover, choose a color story to work with. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Choose a color scheme, and stick with it

A lot of people who rent an apartment make the mistake of choosing furniture and accessories that they can afford in the moment. It might be a hodgepodge of things that they have collected over the years. A lot of these things don’t necessarily match the other. Instead of throwing a bunch of random things together, try to decorate your apartment with a color scheme. Make sure the curtains, accessories, and paint all match your color story.

If you make a Pinteret board, you can find inspiration from other apartment dwellers. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Find Your Inspiration From Other Renters

Before you get started on an apartment makeover, figure out what will work in your space. Find photographs of apartments and houses that inspire you, and choose the elements that can be incorporated into your space without losing your security deposit. Pinterest is a great way for you to create a mood board beforehand. Once you know your inspiration, it makes decorating your apartment so much easier.

Even if you can’t do everything you dream of immediately, you can still plan for the future. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Don’t Get Yourself Down if You Can’t Do Everything

Last but not least, don’t get discouraged if you can’t do something you want to do in the apartment without losing your security deposit. Instead of letting it get you down, make it a goal. If you want to be a homeowner someday, start saving for that down payment right now. Make a vision board of all of your goals for this new house, and try to manifest that into reality. Some day, you can look back at the years you spent living in an apartment and feel grateful that you finally get to live in the home of your dreams.