How To Decorate Your Rental Apartment Without Voiding Your Contract

21 October 2022 | BY

Getting around the strict rental deco rules is a pretty daunting task, so here are some tips to avoid risking eviction.

You’ve seen it on social media – homeowners shelling out thousands to transform bare apartment units into something they love and cherish for life. It’s worth every cent, especially when your home is almost like an extension of yourself.

Then you remember you can only afford a rental and proceed to get a serious case of house envy. No drilling of holes, no painting, no permanent fixtures… the list goes on. If your landlord has a bajillion rules for what you can’t do to your rental, here are nine non-invasive ways to spruce up your rental apartment without risking eviction.

Peel-and-stick tiles for bathrooms or backsplashes

peel and stick tiles before and after
Image credit: ChrislovesJulia

For the average tenant, peel-and-stick tiles are lifesavers. These vinyl tiles offer an affordable and time-saving alternative to the traditional flooring of most homes, and best of all, are non-permanent. 

Vinyl is waterproof, so no need to worry about its exposure to water. The average lifespan of peel-and-stick tiles is usually anywhere from 5-10 years, which is more than enough to think about upgrading. These tiles are also extremely easy to install, just, like their name suggests, peel off the adhesive backing and stick them wherever you want. 

Depending on where you get them, peel-and-stick tiles can cost anywhere from $7 to upwards of $50. 

Buy peel-and-stick tiles on Etsy, Lazada and Shopee.

Contact paper on countertops & cabinets

contact paper
Image credit: Amazon

Despite being commonly used as a quick way to spruce up boring rental countertops, the versatility of contact paper means it can also be used as a protective lining for cupboards, drawers and shelves. Best of all, they are extremely easy to install and remove, which is definitely ideal for a rental home. 

Before installing your contact paper, however, make sure to thoroughly measure your countertops and cut an extra three inches – at least – for safety. Then, start by sticking the paper to an edge and slowly unroll until it reaches the other edge. Smooth out any air bubbles with a smoothing tool. 

To remove, simply hold a hairdryer set to medium heat over the paper for a few minutes. This melts the adhesive, and the contact paper can be pulled off the countertop easily after that. Depending on the quality, a roll of contact paper can cost anywhere from $12 to around $40. 

Buy contact paper from Lazada, Shopee or Etsy. Alternatively, you can also find them at Spotlight.

Wallpaper or DIY fluted wall panels

Image credit: Etsy

Plain walls can be a real eyesore, especially when the rest of your home looks immaculate and it’s just there ruining the whole vibe. In order to add some excitement to your home, consider creating an accent wall.

fluted panels
Image credit: Etsy

Common products and materials used for accent walls include wallpaper and fluted wall panels. In particular, self-adhesive wallpaper and wall panels have been pretty popular for their efficient setup, leaving you with a gorgeous wall in almost no time. 

Depending on where you get them, better quality wall panels can cost anywhere from $40 to $80, while self-adhesive wallpaper can cost upwards of $33 at retailers like Amazon. If your tastes favour the more artistic, check out HelloCircus for themed collections and Etsy shops such as Scandinavian Workshop and Street Workshop.

Dress up walls with 3M hooks & strips

Now, if there’s one thing rental homes are known for, it would probably be the “no drilling holes in the wall” rule. So if you did have plans for a gallery or wanted to spruce up your walls with mirrors and various decorative items, you might be out of luck.

accent wall
Image credit: Apartment Therapy

Thankfully though, 3M Command offers products with a range of support for various products like pictures, keys, bags and cooking utensils. They can even be used to organise those pesky wires around your desk. Their hooks can hold up to 3.6kg of weight, while their strips can hold up to a whopping 7.2kg. This makes it ideal for other decorative items like cork boards, which is an easy way to personalise your space by hanging up multiple drawings and polaroids.

Depending on the hook and strip’s supported weight, they can cost anywhere from $5-$25. Available at most DIY and home and living stores, as well as online retailers such as Amazon and Home n Office.

Pick furniture with character to create a vibe

If decorating has started tiring you out, why not invest in a bold piece of furniture? Statement pieces, as its name suggests, create a statement and thus easily reduce the need to decorate the area. 

For rattan items to imbue a Jungalow aesthetic at home, there’s Island Living. You can also hit up the furniture treasure trove that is Tan Boon Liat building, otherwise for those with a tighter budget, IKEA is also a great starting point to furnish your home without burning too big a hole in your wallet. 

Image credit: Island Living

If your rental unit falls somewhere in the space deficient department, you might want to consider getting an open book shelf as a 2-in-1 storage and display space. Typically made of wood or stainless steel, these sturdy frames can hold anything from your Lord of the Rings trilogy to a small potted plant. 

Places like FortyTwo sell basic shelves for around $55. However, if you enjoy the finer things in life, do be prepared to fork out $150 or more. Quality does not come cheap, after all. 

display shelf
Image credit: Castlery

Motion-sensor wireless indoor & outdoor ambient lighting

Lighting can really make or break the ambience of a home, as many homeowners would tell you. After all, stylish decor is best enjoyed with ample lighting. 

However, as you would be familiar with, landlord’s rules state that invasive renovations to install track or embedded lighting are not allowed. Enter wireless, stick-on ambient lighting, the simplest and most cost-effective solution to your lighting woes.

Available for less than $35 on sites such as Amazon, these lights are portable and USB-chargeable. The long-lasting LED bulb also ensures that you get 8-10 straight hours of uninterrupted illumination, perfect for those long hours of burning that midnight oil on your balcony. Best of all, these lights are motion-sensitive, meaning that you will never have the sudden horrifying realisation at work that you forgot to turn your light off.

motion-sensored lights
Image credit: Amazon

If white and yellow lights are boring to you, perhaps LED strip lights might interest you? Popularised by TikTok during lockdown as a way to get the clubbing “feel” in the comfort of your own home, strip lights have evolved into a wallet-friendly alternative to those Etsy mood lamps. Extremely easy to install and offering over 10 colours controlled by a remote, these strip lights set the mood for everything from a family dinner to a homemade rave.

multicoloured strip lights
Image credit: Love Property

Add plants sparingly

Experts love recommending plants for your home, and not without reason. There are many benefits to having some flora in your home, such as creating a mood and bringing life – literally – into your home. They even have feng shui benefits. Besides, plants are also good for the eyes, especially when you need a break from the screens. 

Green-thumbed homeowners recommend using light greens – like dracaenas – for casual and versatile looks, and dark greens – such as aglaonema – for more sophisticated, mature looks.

Image credit: @ourgreennook

For those worried that their lack of experience with greenery might result in untimely plant death, there are other options out there. For example, a succulent or cactus: needs minimal watering, low maintenance and is still a gorgeous addition to your shelves or desk. 

Take your pick from your nearest plant store, or online at sites such as Tumbleweed and Pottaplantta, although prices may vary based on the type of plant you decide on. 

Swap out old hardware fixtures for sleek new ones

hardware fixtures
Image credit: Rejuvenation

For older or ill-kept rental units, the creaky door handles and flickering light fixtures may look like something straight out of The Conjuring. So if you aren’t keen on the haunted house look, why not swap those old hardware fixtures out for newer, shinier ones? Common changes include leather pulls, brass bow handles and classic knobs, which give your home a facelift and more modern vibe for the whole move-in experience.

door handles and fixtures
Image credit: YesterHomeUK

Furniture and DIY stores like Mr DIY, IKEA and Lights&Co carry all these individual fixtures at pretty affordable prices, as do online retailers like YesterHome and Rowzec.

Create a hygge home with soft furnishings

So you have your lighting, walls and tiling done and dusted, what now? Bare furniture can look plain and unattractive, so spruce up your home with soft furnishings that’ll make your hygge home dreams come to life. 

Adding day and night curtains to a room or rugs and throws work wonders to soften and add personality and colour to a room. And if your current windows are bare, you can even get around the strict no-drilling rules by fixing a no-screw curtain rod from retailers such as Mr DIY or IKEA.

Image credit: Everyday Curtains

If you still think your home’s missing something, consider filling extra space up with a beanbag or a cushion or two. These pieces of furniture are extremely easy to move around and pack, which is ideal if you have a habit of moving houses a lot. Couple them with a few bookshelves and you have yourself a small reading corner.  

Beanbag chair - how to decorate your rental apartment without voiding your contract
Image credit: Urban Outfitters

How To Decorate Your Rental Apartment Without Voiding Your Contract

It is no small feat trying to redecorate your rental unit to your tastes, especially with all the strict rules to follow. However, if you are willing to go the extra mile to transform a house into your home, then you will be in for a pleasant surprise.

For more house decor tips, check out:

Cover image adapted from: Etsy, Apartment Therapy, Amazon

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