Decorate Your Rental Without Losing Your Deposit


The post-recession years have put a new spin on the housing market. The monumental increase of renters has sky rocketed from the mid-2000s. About 36% percent, or 110 million people, rent their homes, and the trend looks to continue. 

Military members are all too familiar with the crunch of affordable rentals meeting their BAH or, less frequently, falling under the monthly allowance. An option might be to live in military housing, but long waitlists and lack of desirable public education are pitfalls that are often unavoidable. 

This sounds very doom and gloom like for military renters, and at times it can be very disheartening. Trying to make a rental house feel like a home on limited means or within the confines of a lease agreement doesn’t make settling in any easier. But here’s the almost silver lining:new trends always bring with them an industry to take advantage of the movement. 

In this case, the exploding rental scene has businesses scrambling to accommodate tenants with more inventive and fashion forward (but temporary) decorating and furnishing options than ever before. To complement these new inventions, the imaginations and creativity displayed on home blogs or Pinterest are a force to be reckoned with come time to dominate an ugly wall of paneling. 

Prepare for Rental Updates 

If your rental or military house has got you down, don’t worry, there will be at least one project on this list that will boost your decorating spirits, even for those who don’t have a design friendly bone in their body. Labeled So Simple, Very Easy, and Easy, these projects will add comfort and personality to your home. 

First, the adult portion of preparing to decorate a rental—you must be familiar with your military housing agreement regarding alterations to the house, and understand what is required of you to receive your deposit in full.

The same is true of a traditional landlord. Don’t try to hide any changes, even if they are improvements. Be prepared to pay for any decorating upgrades out of your own pocket, but refer to MilitaryByOwner’s blog 3 Ways to Convince Your Landlord to Let You Upgrade for tips on how to work with the homeowner to get some improvements made.

So Simple Decorating

These projects can’t get any simpler, or less expensive, so incorporate them all into the rental!

Tension Rods. These handy tools have so many uses and they’re cost effective, so buy multiple sizes and styles. When it’s time to PCS, pack them because they’re transferable and lightweight. 

  • Without using a drill, hang curtains inside window frames.
  • Add a curtain of fabric across an awkward space like closets-turned-home-office or to disguise storage space under cabinet.
  • A strong rod across a window will hold small potted plants with hooks.
  • Organizational uses are endless: playrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Switch plates. Simply remove the existing pieces and store for later. Buy or create ones you prefer. Antique plates are plentiful, and spray painted plates are quick upgrades.

Hang mirrors. Everyone wants more light in their home. Light and bright are some of the most used adjectives referred to in property descriptions. Strategic placement of large and small mirrors will bounce not only light, but trick the eye into seeing the space as larger than it is. Start with a sizable framed mirror near a doorway to make the best use of natural light. 

Privacy film. This bit of plastic sheeting is a huge bang for your buck. The updated patterns are adorable, and they alleviate the need for heavy and expensive window coverings. 

Seasonal decorating. Rentals often have boring paint colors and carpeting because it’s affordable for owners. Adding your own colorful vignettes of seasonal decorating adds character and interest to every corner of the room. A mantel is a great place to decorate for the season, but if one isn’t in your home, bookshelves and large furniture like sideboards substitute easily. 

Very Easy Decorating

Just a touch more effort reveals big decorating results!

Slipcovers and rugs. Both provide huge impact in a room, especially if a color scheme is chosen. But if you find a great deal on either in neutral colors, grab more than one, because they can be reused over and over again in future homes. 

Collection arrangement. As a military family, you’ve had to be picky on what home accessories and important mementos travel with you each move. Don’t keep those boxed away. Display collectibles such as pottery, linens, or photography. Artfully displayed, they show personality and interest on a bookcase, coffee table, and on stairwell walls.

Adhesive hooks. Possibly the best invention of all time for renters hoping to have their full deposit returned! Originally used to hang simple items and wall pictures, their uses have morphed into more sophisticated projects.

  • Window coverings
  • Storage and organizational uses for closets and pantries
  • Party and seasonal decorating

Paint or wallpaper something small. Painting a room is a lot of work, and often not allowed in rentals. Choose the inside of your bookshelves or backside of an interior door to add color and a bit of style. 

Recessed lighting covers. Look for the gorgeous shade covers for the old and ugly recessed lighting pots regularly found in military housing. They’re magnetic and dress up the space where installed. Affordable and transferable, the investment pays off for years to come. 

Easy Decorating

Sophisticated and quality versions of temporary stickers for every room are updates that require little time. 

Temporary wallpaper. Reputable companies like Benjamin Moore have engineered removable wallpaper in desirable patterns. The hard part is to choose the pattern you like the most. 

Wallpaper lining. Because it’s removable, think of this as a protector of the original surface, with your choice of wallpaper on top. 

Faux tile. Because bathroom and kitchens become outdated faster than other rooms, peel and stick tile is all the rage. Several versions of this exist, from the colorful and pattern heavy Moon Wall Stickers to the sheets of backsplash from the company Smart Tiles. They are cleanable and simple to remove. 

See? Simple, easy, and geared toward getting your deposit back in full!

If, after attempting several of these rental home projects, you still feel you could use a bit more help, consider hiring a military spouse who has interior decorating or design experience. He or she will have pro tips for making the most of your rental property with suggestions for furniture placement and color schemes. 

By Dawn M. Smith

Photo from Wikimedia Commons