Rethink Your Rental

Make a rental space your own on a modest budget by creatively updating your current wares and adding a few new items to the bunch. Check our tips and inspiration below.

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Think of your apartment as your own -- ask your landlord for permission to paint (offer to repaint when you leave), hang plenty of art, and install draperies. If wall color is off-limits, rethink the furnishings. Use large pieces, even in small spaces, to create interest in place of paint. Trying changing the shape of the room by placing a room divider in a corner -- it allows the eye to flow evenly across the room rather than interrupt it with abrupt corners.

Apple green is stylish without being too trendy. Pair it with a neutral brown sofa -- this custom design boasts clean lines and didn't cost much more than a retail sofa. A $99 IKEA coffee table makes a modern statement (and adds precious storage) in the small space.

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It's the little things that make a white-box rental a home, such as adding graphic accent pillows for the couch and a rug to cover up standard apartment flooring. Even something as simple as placing a table lamp on top of a stack of books sends the message that the space belongs to you, not your landlord.

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If your living room must double as a home office, don't let the work space overpower the room. Opt for spacious filing cabinets topped with an inexpensive sheet of melamine for lots of storage space and minimal impact on the rest of the room. The lamp is a $10.95 thrift store find with a new shade.

Looking for another deal? These floor-to-ceiling drapery panels are sewn from silk shantung found online for only $11 a yard.

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Keep office supplies from taking over your work area by storing them on a vintage tray. Adding personal trinkets affords you a moment's distraction while checking e-mail or paying bills.

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Maybe you can't afford to update your entire dining set, but purchasing a few new chairs can shake your look up without emptying your wallet. If you're really bold, try mixing two different styles as shown here. Naturalistic, homespun bamboo paired with curvy white plastic? It works because it's so offbeat.

When shopping for new items to refresh your home, avoid shopper's remorse by following the rule of three: if you can picture it in three places, buy it.

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Beneath the striped fabric of this sideboard is a set of steel filing cabinets. In a small-space apartment (or even a house), skirting furniture is a quick way to cover up storage space and add style all in one blow. Measure your fabric to be the length and width you need for whatever you're covering, then use hook-and-loop tape to attach the two pieces.

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A built-in corner unit provides a showcase for collections. Try applying wallpaper remnants or pretty gift wrap to the backs of the shelves with double-sided tape for an easily removable style update.

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Take stock of unusual display areas -- anything with a flat surface is fair game, such as this built-in cornice co-opted to show off vintage plates.

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Your bedroom is your most personal space, so fill it with what you love, whether that's your favorite colors, fabrics, patterns, or objects. Here, an obsession with toile was the starting point, inspiring the soothing blue wall color. A Pucci scarf-turned-pillow adds a touch of modern flair.

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This inexpensive bench stands in for the bed's footboard. No, it wasn't a high-priced custom piece -- it was simply given a coat of white paint and leftover curtain fabric was stapled over the existing cushion.

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This vintage bed was a bargain at an antique store. White paint was all it needed to fit in with the existing furniture and accessories.

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An Hermes scarf tacked to the ceiling hides a plain dish light fixture.

Resources

Like what you see in this story? As of 2006, the items featured in this story were available from these manufacturers.

Coffee table -- IKEA; in the United States: 877-345-4532; in Canada: 888-932-4532; www.ikea.com. Desk filing cabinets -- Pottery Barn; 800-922-5507; www.potterybarn.com (product line varies). Melamine -- Home Depot USA, Inc.; www.homedepot.com (product line varies). Bed linens Hotel collection -- Bed Bath & Beyond; 800-462-3966; www.bedbathandbeyond.com (product line varies).

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