The Counterintuitive Way to Instantly Improve Your Rental

When we think about adding style and function to our rental spaces, we usually jump to what we can buy —what rugs, decor and plants will spruce up the space and make it feel more like home? Before you start shopping, consider this: the best (and free!) way to improve a home is to first take away what’s not working: fussy lighting, unnecessary doors and weird fixtures. Temporarily remove what you don’t want and stash it out of sight: landlords will never even know they were gone.

There were a lot of things that Brittni Mehlhoff didn’t like about her rental bathroom, but the random placement of fixtures was her least favorite. During a recent makeover, she removed all of the towel holders that were in awkward spots on the wall, leaving just the ones that made sense. All the others were put in a big bag under the sink, and will be put back up down the road.

Removing your outdated kitchen cabinet doors (and even lining the insides with some vibrant paper, and putting some colorful dishes on display) can make your kitchen feel more personal and alive. Emily opened up two of her cabinets in her small Houston home, and they add a lot of color and energy to the space. Be sure to save the doors and the screws, though, so that you can replace them when it’s time to move out.

Lots of older, quirky houses tend to have doors in odd places, like in a hallway. And if you change the function of a certain room — say change a bedroom into a den — you just might not need a door or any visual covering at all. Your space will flow easier and seem more open and airy as a result.

Dirt and mold count too. One of the most significant things I did when I made over Joseph’s rental bathroom was take care of all his disgusting grout. There’s nothing like getting rid of other people’s grime to make a place feel more like yours. Do this first!

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