How can you make a rental feel like home? 6 expert decorating tips from interior designers

These simple decor ideas will give your rental a cozy feel in no time

apartment decor schemes
(Image credit: Cathy Nordstrom/Photography Fanny Radvik, Studio Atkinson, Hyphen)

Making a rental feel like home can often require slightly more creativity and thought when decorating, but putting in the time to make the most of these spaces is always worth it. 

Often a more temporary living situation than owned homes, upgrading the existing decor of rentals is often overlooked once effort, cost, and time are factored in; but making them feel personal and cozy may be simpler than you think. 

More than ever we're seeing so many creative home decor ideas for rentals, ensuring they feel personal and design-led – regardless of how long you plan to live in them.

6 decor ideas to make a rental feel like home

Generally speaking, rentals don't allow you to make any major, permanent design changes, but that doesn't mean they can't feel just as comfortable and welcoming as an owned home. 

To learn the best rental decorating tricks, we spoke to interior designers to get their advice. Below, we've rounded up six of their ideas to help you on your rental decorating journey. 

'You may have to hold off on projects like big renovations, but in terms of making the place feel like home, there are so many options,' says interior designer Kathy Kuo.

Read on to hear what the experts have to say. 

1. Decorate the walls

colorful bedroom with stripe wallpaper and upholstered headboard and blind

(Image credit: Cathy Nordstrom / Photography Fanny Radvik)

While this crucially depends on the rules of your own rental, decorating the walls, if allowed, is one of the most effective ways to transform its look and achieve a more personalized feel. 

From paint ideas to decorating with wallpaper, starting with the walls can elevate the space with color and pattern and allows your interior style to show. 

Interior designer Soledad Alzaga recommends using peel-and-stick wallpaper in a rental, explaining: 'You can add temporary wallpaper to give the walls some personality without damaging them.'

Alternatively, painting the walls can be just as effective. Whether you agree on a color your landlord is happy with or arrange to re-paint once your tenancy ends, adding color to the walls can transform the feel of your space. 

Illinois-based interior designer Kate Marker advises decorating with neutrals in a rental since they create a more spacious feel; something that's especially important if square footage is limited: 'Opt for neutral wall colors that serve as a versatile backdrop. Neutrals create a sense of spaciousness.'

2. Opt for statement furniture (and consider its layout)

Small living room lighting ideas with white walls, white and wood mid-century modern armchair, blue rug and black floor reading lamp

(Image credit: Lisa Staton Interior Design/Haris Kenjar)

In a rental, choosing the right furniture is key. Furniture can do a lot of the heavy lifting in adding design interest, especially if you're restricted with your wall decor

Embracing slightly playful, statement furniture can add character to your home and make the space feel far more personalized and design-led. You can channel whatever furniture style you align with most, but decorating with vintage is one of the best ways to add character to your space. 

'Adding statement furniture pieces, like an accent chair or a unique coffee table can really anchor the room and make it feel more like yours,' says Soledad. 

Beyond the style of furniture, it's also important to consider its layout, as Kate suggests: 'Arrange furniture in a way that maximizes space flow and functionality.' For example, use the furniture to zone areas, such as a defined dining area in an open-plan living space.

3. Enhance comfort with soft furnishings

Bedroom with double bed with brown and white bedding beside sash window with grey blinds, wooden flooring.

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Soft furnishings can go a long way in making your rental feel cozy, and it's one of the simplest, rental-friendly decor changes you can make.

'Add area rugs and soft accents like throw pillows and blankets in colors and patterns that reflect your style to make a rental feel like home and cozy,' suggests Soledad. 

From the living room to the bedroom, layering cozy soft furnishings will soon add warmth to your space and allow you to show your interior style. When choosing the best soft furnishings for your rental, Kate recommends choosing 'fabrics in tactile textures like cotton, wool, or faux fur for a luxurious feel.'

4. Create ambient lighting

Kitchen side lamp

(Image credit: Original BTC)

The right lighting is a hugely important part of creating a warm and cozy feel in a rental property and is a fairly simple change to implement. Make sure to swap out any cool-toned, harsh light bulbs with softer LEDs, like these Amazon dimmable light bulbs, and then layer additional lighting through floor lamps and table lamps to create a calm and cozy atmosphere.

'Create ambiance and coziness with soft, diffused lighting sources such as table lamps, floor lamps, and string lights', says Kate. 'Dimmer switches can also allow renters to adjust the lighting according to their mood and activities.'

5. Make it personal

gallery wall in a living room with a corner couch

(Image credit: Studio Atkinson)

Just as you would if you owned the property, don't shy away from adding personal touches throughout a rental. Whether that's displaying photographs, decorating with art, or styling sentimental decorative items, there's all the more reason to do so in a rental to make it feel like yours.

'Add some personal touches like family photos, books, and things that have meaning to you to make the space feel truly yours,' adds Soledad. 

6. Bring the outdoors in

sofa arranging mistakes, white apartment living room with two matching couches, rug, retro coffee table, retro sideboard, art, floor lamp, plants

(Image credit: Hyphen)

Incorporating plants and natural elements is another simple decorating idea that will soon make your rental property feel more lived-in and homely. 'Bring the outdoors in with houseplants and fresh flowers to add a pop of color and vitality to the space,' suggests Kate.

The interior designer adds that other 'natural elements like wooden furniture and woven baskets add visual interest and a sense of connection to nature', such as the decor items you can shop below. 

Decorating a rental can come with its fair share of challenges, but with these expert ideas, there's no reason your rental shouldn't feel like home. Just make sure you're aware of the parameters that come with your rental before making any permanent design changes. 

Emily Moorman
News Writer

Emily Moorman is a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, working across a range of topics spanning interiors, celebrity and emerging trends. With a background in the fashion industry, Emily is well-versed in the world of design and trend cycles. Her undergraduate degree was in Fashion Communication and Promotion which she studied at Norwich University of The Arts, specialising in writing and digital communications.