Decorating Tips for Rental Spaces and Dorms

Mom and I learned some great decorating tips at the Haven conference last week, and we are excited to share them with our readers.  Today we will pass along the hints we learned to do when you are living in a rental space.  With college about to start, we know there are lots of people out there who want their surroundings to be perfect, but their budgets are far from perfect.







 If your landlord allows you to paint, this is an easy place to start.  Maybe a room is too bright for you.  Let’s say it’s yellow, and you are more comfortable with a neutral or white.  Tone it down.  Or it could be just the opposite.  Maybe it’s white, and you crave loud colors.  Punch it up with just a gallon of paint.  Just remember that your landlord will probably ask you to return it to its original color before you move out.



Plates on wall

Art can be pricey, but it can also be reasonable.  For instance, plates can add color to a room.  You can easily pick them up for a few dollars at a thrift store, a garage sale, or even your mother’s kitchen, but you might want to ask her first.  You might want to paint some old plates with chalkboard paint and then write messages on them.  I did this, and I change the message all the time.  My husband never knows what he is going to see.





If you took a stroll in the country or on a nature trail right now, you will find several interesting plants that would look good framed.  All you need to do is cut them, dry them, and then frame them.  A good way to dry them is to put the flowers between paper towels, and then put some books on them.  In a week or two, they will be pressed and dried.  Then you can put them in some used frames that you bought.  If you decide to change the color of the frames, be sure to paint them before you add the dried plant material.  An added touch would be to write the plants’ scientific names on the background paper.  You can also add mats for another layer.







Framing a magazine cover is a great way to add your interests and personality to a space.  For instance, if you are a sports nut, frame some sports magazine covers.  If you are into fashion, frame some vintage Vogue covers.  If you want to go the vintage route, they are available on ebay and/or etsy.  My mom made this great work of art with magazines, also.  She simply cut out a gazillion pieces and then glued them to a foam board.  Next she used Mod Podge to seal them in.  Since she had everything on hand, including the frame, it was free.






One of the decorators who conducted this workshop shared this photo of her rental, and said she uses wrapping paper to cover rough walls.  You can hang it with double-sided tape or poster putty.  We thought that was a great idea for a college rental and very cheapo.  You can even frame gift wrap and create a gallery wall with different patterns that coordinate.




DIY Painted Curtains

Don’t overlook the windows.  Lots of rentals have those less than attractive plastic louvered shades.  You can hide them or at least distract your main focus from them by adding curtains.  And the good thing is, you can take those curtains with you when you move.  You can buy plain white curtains at almost any big box store, and then make them your own by adding a stripe (like the ones I did above) or adding a stencil (like these).  Other ways to dress those windows is by draping place mats, napkins, dish towels, or table cloths over a tension rod, or you can use rings that have clips on them.  I even saw a photo where someone hung mason jars from hooks that were above the windows.





If you need a bed or a new sofa, invest in one because after all, you will be taking it with you.  A day bed that converts to a king bed can add a space for overnight guests to sleep.  A day bed with added storage is even better yet.  If you are stuck with a sofa with a pattern you can’t stand, throw a king or queen sheet, a guilt, or some discount fabric over it, and tuck it in as much as possible.  Then you can wash it when needed.  And remember that rugs can make a major statement in a room, and they will go with you when you move, also.  We did some great tricks with rugs here and here.


The ladies who write Not Just a Housewife and The Shabby Nest were in charge of the session on decorating challenges.  They passed along a lot more information that we will be passing along to you very soon.  Keep coming back for more.




  1. says

    Great advice:0 I loved meeting both of you at Haven, I’m slowly, slowly making my way through all my new-to-me blog friends and following along. But I had an immediate desire for stella and dot bag so you are at the top of my mind!


  2. says

    Perfect timing! I’m finally getting the energy to tackle some rental house decorating. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂