While homeowners have virtually unlimited freedom to paint walls, upgrade fixtures and alter their living spaces, renters generally have to toe a tighter decorating line. But renters may have a lot more options than they realize.
Kate Crowston, owner of Kate Crowston Interiors in Medford, says color can be added with pillows, wall hangings, rugs and slipcovers to dress up furniture and jazz up the plainest of rooms.
"You can make a room special by adding an accent color that really works," says Crowston. "The big obvious is slipcovers for furniture."
Chairs, sofas, love seats, even dining-room chairs — all can be slipcovered, not just according to the room but the season.
Renters also can personalize their spaces by putting pictures on the walls — and not merely photographs, says Crowston. "It can be children's drawings or collected items like leaves or arrowheads or women's handkerchiefs or Grandpa's medals."
When purchasing items to decorate a room, avoid buying too many small items, she counsels.
"People tend to buy little pieces because they're more affordable — small vases, small pictures, small frames, small flower arrangements — but they make less of an impact, and they make your house look like a messy Barbie-doll house," says Crowston.
"As cute as they are ... they're going to disappear, and nobody is going to notice them. In order to make a statement ... buy one larger item that will fill a space more appropriately."
Other tips include:
If space is an issue in bedrooms, remove closet doors (safely store them in a clean corner of a garage or storage closet) and hang decorative curtains, adding color and making the room feel less closed-in.
A quick and easy approach is to hang mirrors to make the house feel more open. A decorative frame can make a mirror stand out.
Nonpermanent wall decor
New wall stickers offer a range of easily reversible design options for renters.
Peel-and-stick designs, such as large murals (applied in sections) and smaller accent pieces or borders, will stick onto most flat surfaces, including glass, wood, Formica and painted walls. A similar product allows windows to be tinted or decked in stained-glass patterns.
"Peel-and-stick wallpaper is a fabulous thing for renters, dorm rooms, assisted-living facilities, basically any place where they won't allow you to put up anything permanent, and you don't want white walls," says Loretta Nault, manager at Burmiester's in Medford.
While painting is typically a big no-no for renters, consider painting wood furniture in a strong, contrasting color to tie a room together and dress things up.
Black, for example, is a sophisticated neutral and goes with all kinds of metal finishes and shows less wear and tear than wood, says Crowston.
If room color is a deal-breaker, ask the property owner or manager if painting is allowed. Some property owners will give the OK if tenants choose neutral colors or promise to repaint when they leave.