Renters are at the mercy of their landlord’s unusual design decisions for the rental property. But there are 10 renter-friendly upgrades tenants can DIY to improve their space.

Why would anyone want a faux wood wall? Why is this carpet the color of human waste? Who puts a showerhead up that high?

We renters ask these questions as we move into our new place. And I don’t have any answers that will make your unattractive carpet disappear — sorry. But I do have some renter-friendly upgrades to recommend. These upgrades won’t damage the home and are easy to undo. With these clever ideas, I’ve transformed the most ghastly rentals into lovely homes.

Removable Wallpaper

Most landlords aren’t keen on tenants plastering wallpaper all over the place. In case you aren’t familiar with wallpaper, it’s incredibly troublesome to remove. I consider myself a handy person with excellent attention to detail. So, I gave removable wallpaper a go, which turned out fabulous. Even doing just one accent wall can transcend a room and make it feel exponentially homier.

I recommend researching different removable wallpaper brands before committing to one. This is not something you want to skimp on. Furthermore, this can’t be a rush job. Set aside an entire day — better yet, a whole weekend — and take your time smoothing the paper and managing air bubbles.

Modern Light Fixtures

Every single rental I’ve ever lived in had the most outdated and ugly light fixtures. From plastic kitchen light covers to weird nipple dome lights, I’ve seen every abhorrent light fixture you can imagine. Luckily, we renters don’t usually have to live with these fixtures. Renters can remove the light covers and domes and replace them with something more tasteful.

I like to opt for simple, clean-looking light replacements or distinct ones with attractive colors. A pretty pink-colored light dome can elevate a room in an instant. This renter-friendly upgrade intimidates tenants for some reason, but I promise, it’s easier than you think. When you move out, take your fixtures with you or offer to sell them to the landlord (if they’re nice).

Peel-and-Stick Backsplashes

Similar to removable wallpaper, renters can use peel-and-stick backsplashes to transform their kitchen or bathroom. Of the seven rentals I lived in, only one had an appealing kitchen backsplash. We may not be able to change the kitchen floors or the bathroom sink, but we can add some stylish flair with a backsplash.

Some peel-and-stick backsplashes are individual tiles you can stick individually and experiment with different patterns. Some also work more like wallpaper, as one long piece. You can have whatever you want, from Moroccan-style backsplashes to faux stone to trendy subway tiles.

Stylish Window Treatments

As a renter, I can tell you that curtains, shades, drapes, and blinds are your best friends. Rentals often have white plastic shades or nothing at all. Either way, I recommend adding your own window treatments to spruce up the space, create shade, and improve privacy.

Consider blackout drapes for bedrooms. For kitchens, get chic valances. You can even buy window cling films that create privacy and look modern. These can also alter the appearance of light, creating enchanting rainbows in your home. Lightweight curtain rods and no-damage brackets that don’t require drilling are ideal and renter-friendly.

Luxury Plumbing Fixtures

Like light fixtures, renters are often hesitant to update their bathroom fixtures. I get it; it seems like a huge renovation that could result in a lost security deposit. But I’m not talking about a new toilet or tub. These renter-friendly upgrades are much simpler.

I recommend swapping out your faucets, sink knobs, showerheads, and tub faucets if they’re easily removable. Replace them with more modern fixtures that reflect your taste. When you move, you can easily take everything with you and install it at the next place. I also like to upgrade my drains in any way I can. Sometimes, I can unscrew them and put them in a different one. Other times, I simply enhance them with a hair catcher.

Elegant Dividers

I know open floor plans are all the rage right now, but a home layout can feel too open. When I want to separate spaces in my home, I turn to good old dividers. Dividers can turn a huge living room into a medium-sized living room and medium-sized office space. They can cut off the hectic kitchen from the classy dining area. Or, they can offer more privacy in the bathroom.

Bamboo dividers have an organic vibe, while metal ones feel more industrial. Wooden dividers are timeless, but glass dividers are wonderful contemporary options. My favorite dividers are basically works of art. I enjoy a hand-painted divider or patterned one that doubles as beautiful decor.

Unique Door Knobs

No one ever thinks about the potential of doorknobs! We use them every day, multiple times a day, so why aren’t they prettier? Compared to changing light fixtures and plumbing fixtures, swapping out door knobs is a piece of cake.

Unlike light and plumbing fixtures, I get my distinct door knobs from thrift stores and flea markets. Not only are they amazingly cheap, but it’s easy to find one-of-a-kind, high-quality knobs at these places.

My favorite finds include an iridescent crystal knob, a floral-themed hand-painted wood knob, and a green jade glass knob. I enjoy the eccentric and artistic vibe of mismatched door knobs throughout my house. If you don’t, maybe you should buy a set of knobs from Amazon or Home Depot.

Cozy or Artistic Rugs

It took me a while to realize the power of a good rug. I also thought placing a rug over a carpet was a sin, but sometimes, it’s necessary. Why do landlords always choose the most hideous shade of brown in existence? If your carpet is the color of a wet cardboard box (like mine), hide it with a chic rug.

While there are decent, cheap rugs, it’s worthwhile to spend more on a top-quality rug that will last years. I’m partial to Persian and Victorian-style rugs in rich, dark colors. But the options are endless. Solid-colored rugs, modern patterns, and interesting textures can also elevate a rental home.

Closet and Pantry Shelving

It’s disappointing when a rental home has unoptimized storage spaces. Closets without shelves, hooks, or rods are essentially only useful for storing inflated air mattresses. Personally, I deflate my air mattresses for storage, so unoptimized closets are completely useless to me.

To make barren pantries and closets helpful, I install no-damage shelves, horizontal poles, or Command hooks. Often, I do all three in one space! Metal wire racks and hanging baskets are also wonderful options. I refuse to be a victim of a shelf-less home. I urge fellow renters not to settle for illogical closet designs when clever products can upgrade these storage spaces.

Impactful Mirrors

Ask any interior designer, and they’ll tell you that mirrors are a brilliant way to make any space feel larger. However, they have even more benefits than that. As someone who lived in shockingly tiny Boston apartments, I can attest to the effectiveness of a good mirror. From slender body mirrors to dramatic accent mirrors, all kinds of mirrors will open up a small space.

To make my current home’s windowless hallway feel less confining, I have a floor-to-ceiling mirror at the end of it. Due to my massive street-facing window, I mostly keep the blinds closed for privacy. But I’ve added mirrors to that front room, as they bounce light around the space! Beyond these fun tricks, mirrors can also be captivating focal points. Long story short: if your home feels stuffy, dim, or plain, add a mirror or two.

Live Your Aesthetic

Yes, these renter-friendly upgrades take some effort and cost money. However, I think it’s all worth it to make the place you live feel like your home. It’s magnificent how cool door knobs and some peel-and-stick tiles can turn to make you feel in your element.

Rather than live in an unsightly place, I transform my residences to match my aesthetic as much as possible. I highly recommend all renters do the same!


  • Krissie Apatow

    Krissie Apatow is a budding wordsmith, weaving stories that leave readers interested and eager for more. Armed with her pen and imagination, she's on a mission to craft narratives that spark thought and ignite imagination.