Editor’s note: Painting is the first project many of us tackle in a new home – sometimes before we even unpack the first box. And if we can’t paint, or prefer not to, we express ourselves with color through the textiles, furniture, and accessories that fill our homes. Introducing our favorite colors to our home decor helps us make an unfamiliar place begin to feel like it’s truly ours, and a new color scheme can refresh a home we’ve lived in all our lives. Each day this week we’ll share expert tips, designers’ advice, and inspirational images to help you make the most of color in your home.
Living in a rental can put a significant damper on your design options. With unchangeable fixtures and cabinets, blasé paint colors, and the threat of losing your security deposit if you make changes, a lot of renters suppress their personal style and force themselves to live with builder-grade basic.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. By getting creative with your furniture and accessories, you can have a colorful and inviting home without sacrificing your deposit or infuriating your landlord.
Wall to wall
Many homeowners choose painting the walls as a relatively easy way to bring color to a space. But landlords and property managers often forbid changing a rental’s interior paint color.
Think beyond paint and you’ll discover a multitude of ways to dress up your walls without touching a paintbrush. The key is to think big when it comes to finding ways to cover boring walls.
Find oversized large-scale art pieces that speak to your style and feature punchy colors. Collect favorite snapshots in ombre frames of your fave hue instead of traditional black or white, and assemble a gallery wall.
Have an artistic streak? Paint a mural on a large piece of canvas and tack it over an entire wall.
For the less artistically inclined, removable wallpaper or decals in bright shades and eye-catching designs provide an instant pick-me-up.
You can also cover entire walls or awkward spaces with a pretty patterned curtain or piece of fabric for a cozy bohemian vibe.
Punch it up
Rental apartments or homes often come equipped with boring or outdated cabinets, fixtures and flooring that can’t be altered. Beige, brown, and off-white are the norm for these spaces, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it restrict your style.
Add visual interest and draw attention by bringing in splashy pieces of furniture and decor. Look for pieces in your favorite color or choose a theme, like sunny yellow and coral, to drown out the drab.
Vibrant painted wood chairs can give your dining space some zing. Or purchase a couch or chair in a daring tone like emerald or sapphire.
Don’t have a ton of cash to spend? Go DIY. Find furniture with good bones at your local thrift shop or garage sale, and give it a makeover. Use spray paint for smaller decor pieces, and latex or chalk paint for dressers and side tables.
Add extra flair with stenciled details and paint-dipped legs. Line the backs of bookshelves with decorative paper, and temporarily replace boring kitchen and bathroom pulls and knobs with vibrant versions.
Soft goods, bold tones
Textiles in an assortment of rainbow colors will be your best friends when it comes to dressing up your outdated or dull apartment. Start with an inviting rug in a rich jewel tone or a trendy overdyed hue.
Stay away from traditional white and beige curtains, and instead opt for a bright color or lively pattern.
The same goes for bedding. White may be a traditional go-to for duvet covers, but in the case of a blah apartment, pick a print or hue that will make your bedroom an energizing getaway or relaxing retreat.
If you’re looking for a calm vibe, search for a bed set in cool indigo, lavender, or sage.
Want to make it upbeat instead? Try poppy colors like coral, tangerine, or sunflower.
Fun throw pillows and blankets will spice up your bed, couch, lounge chairs and more. Keep the color trend going into the bathroom and kitchen by choosing pretty hand towels and bathmats.
Make it yours
By punching up the walls with custom artwork, bringing in attention-grabbing furniture, and using pretty textiles to boost the style factor, you can have a custom colorful home without ever touching a drop of paint.
The key is moderation and intention. Stick with a few favorite shades and mix it up by using variations of those hues instead of pulling in every color in the rainbow. Choose a few important focal points to infuse with color and let the rest blend in.
You’ll be happier for the design boost and your landlord will be glad you haven’t made any big changes. That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Looking for more design inspiration? Check out Zillow Digs.
- 10 Easy Steps to a Total Rental Makeover
- Peek Inside a Lifelong Collector’s NYC Home
- Putting Your Touch on the New Place
Originally published June 13, 2016.