Military Housing: Make it your Own!

Mountain Home AFB housing

via Mountain Home AFB Housing

In this article: 


Military housing and your knack for home decorating don’t have to disagree with each other. Actually, there are a couple of decorating benefits from renting a house on base. Each time you receive a new military home, it should be move-out clean and have a neutral color scheme—think beige walls, white trim, and taupe carpeting. These are builder basics, but they’re guaranteed to make your furniture and personal style pop! 


Take advantage of your clean slate and neutral backdrop with these suggestions for making military housing your own. 

Paint, Please!

If you’re at all contemplating painting, go ahead and get it done ASAP. Two to three years per duty station moves incredibly fast, so you have to get the painting done soon. The hope is to enjoy as many color-filled days as possible. 

mom and daughter painting wall

Image from Canva

Just Do It 

After a tough PCS transition, the last thing most of us want to do is paint, but color makes such a difference. It warms sterile walls and defines spaces instantly. Take a hard look at your move-in schedule: Some lucky families time their moves-ins after a couple of days with access to an empty house. You can tackle paint projects in no time if you don’t have to move furniture. 

You Never Know 

As much as you plan, you can never know exactly what the military has in store. You may think you can ignore a house full of cream color paint for a short time, but what if your PCS unexpectedly extends or you stay put in the house for a few more years? You’ll wish you painted the first week you moved in! 


Of course, before you start any paint project, you’ll need to check with the housing management company’s rules for move-out procedures. Some will let you leave the color you added; others require you to paint it back to its original color. 


For more inspiration, read 3 Big Ideas to Decorate Those Large Blank Walls.

Curtain Rehab

If a paint makeover isn’t feasible, there are other ways to add color to customize a cookie-cutter house. Neutrality begs for color statements in prominent places like the windows. 

blue curtain tied back in pretty bedroom

Image from Canva


First things first! Remove and store the cheap white plastic blinds. You’ll need to re-hang them right before move-out day. If you’re like many other military families and travel with various curtain sets from previous homes, it's time to dig in and make them work in your new house


Try these ideas to repurpose curtains:


  • Recreate their look by shortening hems to reach waist height window sills. A dry cleaner can easily do this if you don’t sew. 
  • Dye light curtains for a richer color. It's a fast and inexpensive DIY project
  • Add a swath of about one to two feet of contrasting fabric to existing short curtains to create a dramatic look. Make this a no-sew project by using fusible bonding web that permanently glues fabric together with the steam of an iron.
  • If you’re responsible for filling in a drill or nail holes when you leave, use tension rods in the interior window casings instead of traditional curtain hardware. 

If your traveling curtain box doesn’t have a set of bold window coverings, hunt for an inexpensive pair that makes a statement. If you have low ceilings, find a colorful graphic or floral print to hang several inches above the window to extend to the floor to make the room feel bigger. In some rooms, small windows can become a focal point by using one pair of curtains to frame multiple little windows, visually equating them to one large window.

Rug Rescue

Renters often overlook rugs because they can be expensive and challenging to move, or some renters deem them unnecessary if the house has wall-to-wall carpet. But, you shouldn’t ignore rugs. They make a significant impact on a neutral space. Don’t worry; you don’t have to spend thousands to get a stylish update. And, if your home is newer with high ceilings, a rug acts as an anchor pulling the space together to exude coziness.

large area rug in military housing living area

Image from Canva

Reasons You Need Rugs 

Unless the home is brand new, shampooing can only resurrect so much from cheap military housing grade carpet. Adding room rugs will put another barrier between your family and another family’s leftover messes. If the carpet happens to be new, area rugs help block harmful chemicals from your family’s skin.  


Rugs also add much-needed color and decorating updates if the walls and existing carpet are overwhelmingly beige. Patterns camouflage stains and spills and add visual interest and give you a couple of extra days between vacuuming sessions. Finally, don’t forget rug pads designed for either carpet to carpet protection or as a carpet to hard flooring anti-skid measure. 

Add Charming Accessories


decorative_grouping on wall in base housing

Image from Canva

Accessories add charm to a look-alike house inexpensively, and they’re easy to pack and unpack often.   

  • Have you ever thought about trading white plastic light switch plates for painted or antique versions?  You can purchase them inexpensively and change them to complement the room you’re updating. 
  • Find a way to insert your family’s initials or a monogram. Pillows are a quick way to add your family’s stamp to the house. Comfy couch throw blankets achieve the same effect.
  • Removable vinyl has come a long way and can be tasteful and creative projects ranging from shelving inserts to decorations for a child’s room. 
  • Framed photographs of favorite people or favorite places are musts. These reflect the stories of your family. Group them strategically to form a gallery wall.
  • Arrange personal collections wisely and watch how they make an out-of-a-box shelving unit look like a museum display. Mix up family heirlooms and stylish garage sale finds for a style that’s uniquely yours. 
  • Construction companies often neglect overhead lighting to save money when building military homes on a budget. Keep table lamps at the ready to brighten dark rooms and corners. A quick Pinterest or Etsy search will reveal hundreds of ways to customize lamp shades. 

Love the color green? Try using it in your military home: Easy Ways to Decorate with Green...Without Painting!

Curb Appeal

Treat your front and back porches as extensions of the interior of your house. You shouldn’t have any trouble sourcing pretty outdoor furniture and potted plants to spruce up the space. 

It's more popular than ever to dress up your outdoor spaces with everything from overhead lighting and water features to outdoor flooring. 


front door and porch of military housing with American flag


Image from Canva


Of course, a thorough review of your housing lease and even a quick phone call to double-check the rules for augmenting the house is imperative before beginning any house love project. After getting the "all clear," take your inspiration and make this temporary housing your own.


Don’t let military housing blandness get in your way! Instead, use it to showcase your style and unique items you’ve probably collected while in the military. If you love the way your home looks and want to snuggle in and cozy up each night, it's easier to accept the more minor inconveniences of living on base. 


By Dawn M. Smith






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