8 Affordable
Rental Upgrades

Easy fixes to improve your place
(that your landlord doesn't need to know about)

Affordable rental apartment upgrades that won't make you lose your security deposit
Affordable rental apartment upgrades that won't make you lose your security deposit

It's not cheating. It's not breaking the rules. When it comes to renter-landlord relations, our motto is "keep things to yourself and put it all back when you leave." In other words, you can do plenty to your apartment, so long as you return the space to that bland, empty box it was when you moved it. After all, what landlords don't know won't hurt them. There are some changes that are so simple, so quick and so life-altering, that you'd be crazy not to do them. What's more, most of them will cost you less than a good dinner out and provide years of comfort and good style. Here are a few of our tried-and-true favorites.

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Why you should paint your apartment

Paint

Dollar for dollar, painting is the most cost-effective way to update your place. But if you're nervous about the effort or cost of painting a whole room, just paint one wall (like along a hallway or behind your bed). Instead of $70 for two cans of paint, you can buy a quart (which covers up to 100 sq. ft.) or a 2.5 liter can (which covers up to 260 sq. ft.). Just enough to change a single wall, which will make a bold impact in any room. Smaller rooms like a bathroom or kitchen can be transformed with the addition of a little color on the walls.

Why you should remove your kitchen cabinet doors

Remove a Cabinet Door
(or Two)

If you rental has ugly cabinet doors and you happen to own some cool kitchenware that needs to be displayed, then go ahead and remove the doors. You could take them all down for an open-shelving look, or simply remove one or two to break up the look of heavy wood panels. Consider the space above the refrigerator. Take those doors off and stack cookbooks or serving dishes in there.

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Update Your Hardware

CB2 Amp Hardware
CB2 Amp Hardware

If you can't paint your cabinets, swapping out the hardware can make a big difference in your kitchen or bathroom. Not only in the overall look of the room but also in the feel every time you go to open a cabinet or drawer. These are the small, psychological changes that make a place feel special, unique and tailored to your individual tastes. Just make sure you store all the old knobs with all the screws so you can easily put them back on when you leave.

CB2 Amp Hardware

Amp handles, $14.95 and knobs, $5.95 by CB2

Pfister Polished Chrome Shower Head

Replace Bathroom Fixtures

One change that makes a huge difference everyday, but is often overlooked, is the shower head. Trust us, this is one of those upgrades that once you do it, you'll wonder why you hadn't done it sooner. It's worth spending a little extra money. The same goes for an old, creaky toilet seat. They're not expensive. Spring for a sleek new soft-close style and enjoy the subtle upgrade. After all, when you're ready to move, you simply reattach the old ones and take the ones you love to your next place.

Polished chrome shower head, $19.98 by Pfister

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Philips Hue App-Connected LED Bulbs

Dim the Lights

You could install dimmer switches, but even the laziest among us can replace a light bulb instead. Swap your standard bulbs for some Smart LED units and any light fixture or table lamp can be dimmed from a simple app—they even work with Alexa and Apple's HomeKit. You can control the light to create the perfect illumination for reading or working or romance.

Hue app-connected LED bulbs, 41.99 (for a four-pack) by Philips

Blinds.com Custom-Sized Woven Wood Shades

Ditch (or Hide)
the Bad Blinds

Dull, run-of-the-mill blinds have the power to make any room feel like a cheap motel. You can remove them (store them under your bed) and then put up some drapes, which add a bold pop of pattern or texture and look a whole lot more sophisticated. If you have to leave them up, consider some outside mount roman shades. Pull your blinds all the way up and install the bamboo shades over the window trim. Those old, busted blinds will be hidden in plain sight.

Custom-sized woven wood shades, from $34.99 / $27.99 by Blinds.com

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Lowes Stamped Steel Wall Plate

Switch Out
Switch Plates

Another tiny detail, but one you interact with everyday. When they're dull or cracked, they're a daily reminder that your place is less than ideal. Spend a few bucks and get ones that will complement the style of your room. They can be metal for a more industrial feel or matte black for a modern vibe or simply new, fresh and white.

Stamped steel wall plate (available in five finishes), $2.97 at Lowes

Ikea Walnut Veneer Stockholm Mirror

Get an
Oversized Mirror

Interior designers use this trick to make spaces look bigger. A mirror provides something of an optical illusion—giving depth to walls and making it look like there's more space. A mirror also bounces light, which helps visually open up a room. Plus, you can find a lot of good looking styles these days so they serve as a kind of practical piece of art.

Walnut veneer Stockholm mirror, $99.99 at Ikea

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