12 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Rental Home

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By Michele Koh Morollo
These easy, effective ways to improve your rented home can be tackled in less than a day—and are budget-friendly to boot.

You don't need to be a homeowner to make smart design decisions. Even if you're renting, there are still steps you can take to transform your abode into one that reflects your personal style. While major overhauls that involve knocking down walls, rearranging electrical wiring, or redoing floors are out of the question, small changes and additions can make a world of difference.

Here are 12 things to tackle to customize and upgrade your home.

1. Replace the Kitchen Faucet

Perk up an uninspiring kitchen with a brand new faucet. Choose a statement piece such this Vigo Edison pull-down spray kitchen faucet in matte black, and you’ll not only elevate the look of your kitchen, but you'll also have a long-lasting, easy-to-clean faucet that will help expedite your daily chores.

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Replace the kitchen faucet for one that's visually arresting and functionally superior.

Replace the kitchen faucet for one that's visually arresting and functionally superior.

2. Install a Luxe Shower Head

An upscale shower head like the Nebia Shower System can turn routine into a spa-like experience. Requiring just under 20 minutes to install, this shower system produces smaller water droplets at a larger quantity for a soothing, steam shower experience. The Nebia uses up to 70 percent less water than a standard shower head, which will also help lower your utility bills.

A high-end shower head, like the Nebia Shower System, transforms routine into a spa-worthy experience. 

A high-end shower head, like the Nebia Shower System, transforms routine into a spa-worthy experience. 

3. Add Bathroom Accessories 

Don't settle for a ho-hum bathroom vanity; outfit it with design-forward toothbrush and soap holders. Interesting options include the Boxy line of accessories from Kartell by Laufen, designed by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba. Choose from translucent pink, green, and glossy black or white.

Well designed bathroom accessories breathe new life into the space.

Well designed bathroom accessories breathe new life into the space.

4. Invest in Freestanding Shelves

When making new purchases for a rented home, it’s important that you can move these items when you leave and relocate to a new abode. Freestanding shelves—such as this sturdy, whitewashed Douglas fir bookshelf by Umbra Shift, is ideal for keeping your living spaces clutter-free and well-organized.

Make moves towards a clutter-free home with a chic, freestanding bookshelf.

Make moves towards a clutter-free home with a chic, freestanding bookshelf.

5. Choose Stylish Floor and Table Lamps

Removing and reinstalling ceiling or wall light fixtures can be a bit more of an effort when you relocate, but a stylish floor or table lamp is an investment that you can take with you to your next rental or permanent home. This Bell Table Light from Tom Dixon—available in copper, chrome, or brass—will certainly add a good dose of glamor to your living room, study or bedroom.

Layering lighting can be an impactful way to change the feel of your home. Bring in a statement floor or table lamp to shake things up.

Layering lighting can be an impactful way to change the feel of your home. Bring in a statement floor or table lamp to shake things up.

6. Switch Out Cabinet Handles and Pulls

For those wanting a quick fix, swapping out boring cabinet hardware can transform the look of a space in an instant. If you really want to get creative, consider using unusual materials like glass or precious stones for knobs or handles.

New cabinet handles and pulls are a quick, cost-effective way to makeover a space.

New cabinet handles and pulls are a quick, cost-effective way to makeover a space.

7. Upgrade Your Curtain Tiebacks

Bring a hint of elegance to even the simplest of curtains with an elaborate curtain tie. German brand SACHO has a selection of sleek, braided leather tassels or bead tiebacks that will suit different interior concepts.

You may be surprised at the difference a high-quality curtain tieback can make.

You may be surprised at the difference a high-quality curtain tieback can make.

8. Bring In a Study Desk

No matter how small your home is, a study desk is always a useful addition that can follow you when you move. The Nelson Swag Leg Desk by Herman Miller is a compact and versatile work desk that was created with today’s computing systems in mind.

Carve out an office space for yourself with a modern, functional study desk. 

Carve out an office space for yourself with a modern, functional study desk. 

9. Indulge in the Perfect Armchair

An ergonomic and well-made armchair can last for generations, so it’s never a bad idea to invest in one even if you’re renting. An iconic midcentury piece such the Cassina LC2 Armchair, designed in 1928 by the creative teams of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand, can serve as an elegant, timeless focal point.

Splurging on a timeless armchair that will stay in your household through different moves is a smart design investment.

Splurging on a timeless armchair that will stay in your household through different moves is a smart design investment.

10. Add New Cushions to the Mix

You can’t go wrong by adding pattern, color, and texture through new cushions on your bed or couch. We like these soft grid cushions by Anderssen & Voll, which are minimal while still offering depth.

Soft Grid Cushions by Anderssen & Voll, $109

Soft Grid Cushions by Anderssen & Voll, $109

11. Lay Down Vibrant Rugs

Some landlords don’t allow tenants to drill brackets in the walls to hang paintings, but one way that renters can introduce art to their homes is through rugs and carpets with eye-catching designs. Nanimarquina's Formosa rug by Michael Lin lets you bring the vibrancy of a floral garden indoors.

Protect floors from scuffing, and introduce graphic artwork to your room, with a statement-making area rug.

Protect floors from scuffing, and introduce graphic artwork to your room, with a statement-making area rug.

12. Cover Up With Contact Paper

While you may not be able to replace countertops and cabinets, you can conceal less-than-ideal surfaces with contact paper. Try updating weathered wood cabinets with matte white paper, or introducing color into your kitchen with a bright toe kick, as seen below in Oh Joy's Studio by Emily Henderson.

Contact paper is an easy, low-commitment way to update old surfaces.

Contact paper is an easy, low-commitment way to update old surfaces.