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5 Things You Can Change in a Rental & 5 Things You Shouldn’t Touch

As a renter, you’re not as powerless to modify your home or apartment design as you might think. Here’s what you can customize, as well as what should stay true to its original form

Kathryn O'Shea-Evans

1 / 10

Paint Your Way Home

The easiest (and likely most affordable) way to make a weighty change in a room is to paint it—and don’t feel pressured to stick to 50 shades of greige. A rental means you can go big: We’ve seen black in intimate spaces that enriched them beyond measure. Just check your lease; you may have to restore it all to white upon vacating.
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2 / 10

Try Removable Wallpaper

If the idea of hanging actual wallpaper makes your head pound and your arms break out in stress hives, we don’t blame you. The new removable options (Wayfair and Chasing Paper have a ton) are every bit as impactful, but won’t stop your heart (or cause any glue spills). Bonus: They’re seriously fun to remove.
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3 / 10

Beautify Your Backsplash

Yeah, there’s some truly cringe-inducing tile out there, especially because it’s so expensive to replace. To get a custom look without having to beg your landlord to do it, pop for some peel-and-stick tiles to cover over what you’ve got (Lowe’s sells plenty).
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4 / 10

Swap out the Knobs

Things you touch every single day should be beautiful—so if you’re living with knobs that would be right at home at your Aunt Edna’s, by all means, trade ‘em out. They’re simple enough to change (just a matter of twisting them on with a screwdriver). Anthropologie’s quirky options are a design-industry go-to.
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5 / 10

Install a Showerhead You Actually Love

You probably can’t do much about your apartment’s water pressure, but the showerhead itself? Pick your pleasure! They’re not difficult to place, which means if you’ve always longed for a rain showerhead or one that pulses with club-kid lights, now’s your chance (simply replace it with the original when you move).
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6 / 10

Don’t Touch: The Floors

So maybe your underfoot style is currently meh. It’s not worth ripping up rugs or painting lackluster floorboards, not when you may be moving out in a matter of months. Area rugs work wonders (and can be hauled out when you leave).
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7 / 10

Don’t Touch: The Layout

That scene in Girls when Marnie’s boyfriend/husband/whatever started adding walls to their rental apartment? That made every landlord watching it (not to mention Marnie herself) cringe in horror. Leave structural changes up to the experts—the experts with city-issued permits.
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8 / 10

Don’t Touch: The Wiring

If you’re experiencing electrical issues, call your super or landlord immediately. But anything you just covet—like more plugs here, or more sconces there—isn’t worth the headache of getting approval. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time searching for beautiful plug-in lamps than an electrician anyway?
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9 / 10

Don’t Touch: The Appliances

We know, we know...you’re dreaming of a stainless-steel Italian fridge and a French stove that would sate Julia Child. But you know what? It’s simply not worth the effort in a rental, unless you happen to have a deal that rivals Monica Geller’s rent-controlled pad on Friends.
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10 / 10

Don’t Touch: The Pipes

Just as with electrical, plumbing is something best left to professionals—even if you’re desperate for a bar sink. Bide your time until you’re a homeowner, and start pinning your favorite options now. It may happen for you sooner than you think.
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