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A living room apartment features a white couch with open shelving behind it, a white spindly side table, and windows with breezy white curtains on the right.
Sheer curtain panels ($16.95 for two) add a breezy, sophisticated look to rental windows.

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16 easy, affordable ways to upgrade your rental

Landlord-friendly ways to make a rental feel more like home

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Oh, the joys of renting! Nothing says welcome to adulthood quite like navigating the world of expensive deposits, mercurial landlords, and a sea of beige and white interiors. And once you’ve moved in, you start to notice all the less-than-ideal problems: faded tile, bad lighting, and a showerhead that trickles instead of showers.

You may not be able to go full HGTV renovation on a rental—sorry y’all, those walls have to stay—but that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless. A few strategic moves can transform a drab room into something warm and inviting; it just takes the right tools.

We’ve rounded up some of the best budget-friendly products to help any rental shine. From new light fixtures to affordable window coverings, here are 16 ways to make your rental feel a bit more like home.

Enhance your lighting

Bad lighting can ruin a good apartment or house, but switching out light fixtures is relatively easy. If you have the dreaded “boob lights” in your rental, opt for an affordable flush light fixture like the one below. Other easy upgrades include giving dining room fixtures some color, adding smart light bulbs that connect to a Google Home or Amazon Echo, and installing a few stick-on motion sensor lights to mitigate dark closets.

Spruce up the bathroom

Let’s face it: Many rentals have bathrooms that are mediocre at best. The first thing to tackle is your showerhead; swap in something with a bit of glam and your morning suds will be infinitely better. You can also upgrade your towel bars or spoil your tush with a new toilet seat.

Rethink window coverings

Rental window coverings can leave a lot to be desired. If you have blinds and need to make things look fresh, sheer white curtain panels do the trick. Blocking out city lights can also be tough, which is why we turn to Ikea for affordable—yet effective—black-out curtains. And while painting a rental wall can be an easy DIY project, not all landlords allow it. If that’s the case, try adding colorful curtains to combat white or beige wall overload.

Replace knobs and handles

Looking to add a bit of whimsy or color to a bland rental? Switch out kitchen or bathroom knobs and handles with more stylish alternatives. Just be sure to keep the original hardware in a bag or drawer so you can put the old ones back on when you move.

Peel and stick is your friend

You may not be able to retile a bathroom or get the landlord to put in new kitchen cabinets, but you can achieve a similar look thanks to peel-and-stick products. A bit of repositionable wallpaper can add color or pattern to any room, as can stick-on tile. And don’t overlook the power of contact paper; the self-adhesive film can be applied to cabinets, cupboards, shelves, and stair risers.