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Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY

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I love to write about my DIY adventures, many of which focus on the home and how to make it just a little bit prettier. But you know what is different about this blog and many of the others like it?

I rent.

Having just relocated, renting a home while we get settled and learn about the community makes sense for us. Renting can pose some challenges when it comes to DIY adventures for the home. After 10 years of renting everything from a 525 sq. foot apartment in grad school to a spacious HOA-controlled three-story townhouse, I’ve learned a lot about what was worth it and what wasn’t when it came to beautifying my spaces. I’m also not the only one.

Recently, I spied this article from Dwell in the Twittersphere, it made me think about how far some people stretch to make a rental fit for them, and how a little creativity can go a long way. If you can minimize your life a little, all the better. I’ve been inspired by the whimsical beauty of Oh Happy Day’s 500 square foot rented apartment, a rental bedroom upgrade by JWK Style (featured on Little Green Notebook), and pretty much everything pretty on Apartment Therapy’s website. See, renters, we are not alone! It’s time to unite!

Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY | by Painting Sunny

Seriously hard to believe this is in a rental, but I believe her… Source: JWK Style via Little Green Notebook

Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY | by Painting Sunny

Okay, so her landlord sounds ultra-cool, but this is a good example of the power of negotiation. Source: Oh Happy Day

So, those other people’s pics are gorgeous, but what’s actually worked for me?

Yes, you can take it with you. Some stuff, at least. I try to focus on things that can follow me to my next home and which are versatile enough to fit be useful in case my next place has a very different layout or amenities.What’s some stuff I’ve made that changed the look of my home, without being bolted in place? DIY mercury-glass lamps, sewn pretty pillow covers, colorful artwork for the walls, hand-painted paper lanterns, a little red occasional table… the possibilities are endless, and you don’t have to walk away from like you would re-painted kitchen cabinets or built-in shelving.

Illicit spray-painting. In the dark. Sometimes. When you rent, especially in a multi-unit place, it can be hard to find somewhere you can paint stuff without worrying about upsetting the neighbors. I mean, I get it – why should they have to smell the painty-fumes while they’re enjoying dinner just so I can have a coral-colored ceramic hippo? But it can def cramp my style. So, what are your options?

  • It isn’t necessarily a cool move, but you could find a little spot away from other people’s homes and just try to spray paint really quickly at dusk, hoping your landlord doesn’t notice. Honestly, I’ve been there.
  • Find a friend with a big yard who will let you come over and paint in a corner of it. Don’t forget to bring a drop cloth so you don’t color her grass purple. Probably a bottle of wine is a good idea, too, since you’ll be hanging out while the paint dries.
  • See if there is a vented spray-booth in your area. Many fine art studios and art schools have ventilated spray-booths for using paints and adhesives. For a fee, or just out of the goodness of their hearts, they might let you use one.
  • Again, if you have more money than time or ventilated-space of your own, try asking an automotive shop if they will spray it for you. My mother once had an auto-shop use their car-painting equipment to spray a locker for me and it worked out awesomely! They probably have some cool colors, too.
  • Switch to a brush-on paint and use a good drop-cloth. If you choose a low or no VOC option like milk-paint or good latex paints, you can use your kitchen as a studio with no worries! It doesn’t have quite the same effect as spray-paint and can be a longer process but can achieve some even more unique special affects.

Bold and bright distractions! Pop some bright wrapping paper in a frame and make a new focal point in your space. Some quirky kitchen utensils on a counter, a colorful accessory in the living room, a wall full of books you love… these are the things your visitors will remember. A modern and cool environment is great, but I’ve always felt like rented homes need a little extra personality to feel like you put your stamp on them.

Bring it to life. I just posted about my new and lovely little houseplants, and since they found a new home here it’s felt more like one to me, too. I’m not saying you have to live in a jungle or invest stock in Miracle Grow, but having a little something green, leafy, and alive can make the space feel loved and show everyone your nurturing side. Check out this awesome post from A Cup Of Jo on how to buy houseplants “once and for all.”

Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY | by Painting Sunny

Yes, my cat photo-bombs.

What is just not my rented-cup-of-tea?

Really sticky stuff. I haven’t tried out this temporary wallpaper. Or these removable sticky tiles. Yeah, I’m just not sure about that. I need to see someone remove them in real-life before I’ll stop being a scarety-cat. Oh Happy Day tried some out, though, and the removal seemed to have some pros and cons. Maybe see what she thinks?

Taking the kitchen cabinet doors off. I’ve removed closet doors and put them back up, but kitchen’s just have… so many cabinets. When I’m in the process of moving to a new place, getting cabinets back up without dents just doesn’t sound stress-reducing.

Swapping out the wired-lighting.  I love a good spray-paint session with a lamp, so customized lighting is totally my scene. Figuring out how to turn off the electrical, finding a ladder, and getting a chandelier over the dining room table is not. Most overhead lighting in places I’ve rented has been alright and fairly basic looking, so it hasn’t ever been worth it to mess with. I can just turn the lights off, switch on a lamp, and try to ignore that light-fixture-that-looks-like-a-boob. BHG had some good suggestions on lighting in rentals, though.

Check out my Renting It! Pinterest Board for more inspiration, or one of these awesome-possum places:

My Little Apartment

The Borrowed Abode

Better Homes & Garden’s idea round-up

Apartment Therapy

The Handmade Home’s colorful rental ideas

Anyone else renting and still DIYing? Not willing to mess with electrical stuff? Strangely obsessed with houseplants lately?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.

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Author: Dani @ Painting Sunny

Hi there! I'm Dani, and it's lovely to meet you. My little family just moved to the quaint little college-town of Ithaca, NY and are loving it. Come hang out with me and talk about food, books, art, and other odd little things.

2 thoughts on “Tenacious Tenant: Renter-Friendly DIY

  1. Me! I rent and just renewed our lease for another year, I figured I might as well make it feel like home. I’ve been DIYing and styling the mess out of our town home. It’s coming along albeit a little slowly since traditional ways of updating are out (i.e, painting walls, putting tons of holes in the walls to hang pictures.) And lately, I’ve been on a major hunt to add some green in my rooms. Too bad I’m killing off almost every plant I touch. Guess I’m moving on to artificial plants next!

    • So glad I’m not alone! :) I bought a really pretty artificial orchid from World Market and I’ve heard that aloe and any sort of succulent hold up well… But you know, there are always pictures of plants that can add a sense of nature to a space, right? ;) thanks for coming by! xoxo, Dani

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