Renter-Friendly DIY Home Improvement Projects

by Kaitlyn De Leonardis

While renting an apartment or a house, it can be challenging to create a space that feels like it’s your own. For obvious reasons; it’s frivolous to spend money on a property you don’t own and upon moving out, you’re expected to return the dwelling in the same condition. Fear not, there are some non-permanent but personal touches you can add and still get your security deposit back. Even if you’re not renting, these DIY projects are budget-friendly and an easy way to breathe new life into any space. So dig out your measuring tape, because it’s about to be your new best friend.

Gallery Wall

Gallery walls can be intimidating at first, but they don’t have to be. You may even have some unused frames laying around. If you don’t like the color of the frames, that’s nothing a can of spray paint can’t fix. First, ask yourself what style you’re going for. Do you prefer a minimalist uniform display or an eclectic explosion?

After you’ve selected the pieces you want to incorporate, lay them out on the floor and arrange to your liking. Take pictures of each arrangement for comparison. Another trick of the trade is to cut out poster boards to the exact size of each frame, tape them to the wall to get your placements just right and mark with a pencil. Keep this project extra renter-friendly by using Command strips to hang the frames, leaving you an intact wall for your future move-out.

Photo by Joyce McCown

Pro tip: When removing the Command strips, peel off slowly to avoid chipping the paint and use a Magic Eraser to clean the markings left by the glue.

Wallpaper Accent Wall

Start by finding the square footage of the wall. Most professionals recommend ordering an extra role for mishaps and repairs, which can be returned if not needed. When installing, pay attention to the pattern and overlap each panel by ½ inch because wallpaper tends to shrink. As you peel, use the smoother to remove any air bubbles–a downward motion works pretty well. An extra set of eyes and hands is helpful to get flawless panel placements. Work slow and in small sections when applying or removing. The adhesive may damage the paint, so be prepared for the possibility of having to repaint before moving out.

Check out these simple step-by-step instructions from RoomMates.

Contact Paper Countertops

Guess what, you can have the countertops you’ve always longed for in a rental kitchen. That’s the beauty of contact paper. Sure, it’s not real marble or granite, but it looks like it. Since counter space has a relatively small surface area this is a quick and low budget project. Thoroughly clean and measure before application. Cut your pieces at least 1-inch larger on each perimeter. Use the smoother to remove air bubbles as you go and a razor to cut excess off the edges. Try to bunch some extra paper in the corners for easy removal in the future. When it comes time to remove the paper, you may need a scrapper. It also helps to have an abrasive cleaner on hand to remove any residue. Remove slowly and carefully as you don’t want to damage the original countertops.

Makeover Your Cabinets

Rarely does any renter love their kitchen cabinets, and if you do, you’re among the lucky few. However, there are small changes you can make, such as switching out the hardware or removing the doors and hinges for an open concept. Be sure to save all original hardware and the doors. Take it a step further and line the inside of your cabinets with contact paper or wallpaper. Create your own backsplash with stick-on tiles. They have the appearance of real tiles so they’re easy to clean, easy to install and remove. The keyword here is easy.

Photo by Annie Spratt

Go Stick-On Tile Crazy

Since we’re on the subject, you can use stick-on tiles in other unique ways. Create your own tile border around the bathroom, or use them on the floor and ceilings. Wayfair has a wide variety of styles. For renters in a studio, this is the perfect way to separate the kitchen from the rest of the apartment without utilizing any floor space. Map out your placements and what pieces you’ll have to cut to size. For safety reasons, you should never install a ceiling facade alone, especially since the majority of this job is done on a ladder.

Replace Your Medicine Cabinet/Bathroom Mirror

Does your current bathroom mirror/medicine cabinet fit the aesthetic of a college dorm? The good news is this is an easy fix. Add your personal touch by replacing it. Just remember to keep the original. Home Depot has a large selection of cabinets starting at $30. Another great option is an elegant vintage mirror or a round hanging mirror, both of these trends are having a moment in home decor right now. Replacing this single feature will bring a whole new feel to the bathroom.

Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner

Give Old Furniture a Facelift

Everyone has a piece of furniture that they just wished looked different. Depending on the material you can stain, paint or spray paint it. Break out that handy-dandy face mask because these fumes can be toxic. It is best to do this outside if you can, or in a well-ventilated area if you can’t. Painting or staining involves a lot of sanding, priming, time to dry and multiple coats, for more in-depth instructions check out this article from Country Living. If you’re looking for a faster fix, use contact paper to cover a tabletop and spray paint the legs. Hand-paint trims on your bedroom furniture or add funky knobs. Get creative when it comes to furniture makeovers.

About the Author/s

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A writer and astrologer, sustained by iced coffee, sunsets and decorating her home. For more on her services and where her insights can be found, visit

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