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rental renovating: the returnmore tips for rental living bliss by Sara Goldstein| 1 2
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Step Two: Find some nice furniture
Nice furniture will immediately make any rental feel like a nicer place to live. One fabulous piece -- a beautiful timber dining table, a vintage velvet couch, a handsome chest of drawers -- can make all the difference. Personality-packed furniture draws the eye away from those architectural quirks you’re trying to disguise, and it’s a pleasure to use as well.

No one starts out with these pieces though. The furniture in my very first place was pretty typical for a student: family hand-me-downs with a few milk crates to fill in the gaps… not the most inspiring collection. A couple of years later, I moved across the country to take my first job and bought a matching set of all the stuff I needed at IKEA. When the novelty of having new things that were all mine wore off, I realised that all my newly working friends had the same collection -- and none of our homes had much personality.

If you want to find those special pieces you need to work a little harder, especially if you’re doing it on a tight budget. I’ve found nice things in thrift stores, yard sales, auctions, small furniture shops and outlet warehouses. If you can manage to buy your new (to you) furniture one piece at a time, the cost stays pretty manageable. Moreover, the end result is 100% you in a way that ubiquitous flat-packed pieces never are.

Step Three: Add house plants
I love plants. All homes look better with plants in them, and they’re one more way to bring your personality into a drab rental apartment: flowering plants for girly girls, sculptural agave for sophisticates or cacti for prickly types. There’s something to suit just about every personality and gardening ability, and all sorts of ways to bring some lovely green things into your nest without breaking the bank. For some more tips on gardening cheaply in tiny spaces, take a look at my other article, Banishing the Balcony Blues.

Step Four: Fix the lighting
Good lighting makes both the room and its occupants look prettier, and let’s face it, we can all use a hand sometimes. Very few cheap rental places come with good lighting; in fact, I’ve never lived anywhere with anything better than a light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

Fixing lighting is easy to do, but it helps to know what you need. Changing the light bulb and shade that are already there will be a big improvement, providing a more generally flattering light for getting around the room. To have really great lighting though, you need more than an all-purpose overhead light: you also need task lighting and mood lighting.

The task lighting you probably already have includes your desk lamp, reading lamp and bedside lamp. A lot of rentals also benefit from an extra work light in the kitchen to keep your fingers safe in dim corners. For makeup-wearers, some extra light by the bathroom mirror is great too.

As for mood lighting, candles are fabulous, cheap, and the dim light they cast hides all manner of ugliness. They’re not just for romantic dates either: all dinners are nicer by candlelight -- just remember to leave a lamp on in the corner if you need a little more light to see what you’re eating.

Step Five: Hide the rest
The final step in turning your rented abode into a cosy, inviting home is to hide anything you still can’t stand. Digs’ first rental renovating article has some great tips for doing exactly that, so if you haven’t already checked it out, make sure you do!


Sara Goldstein is based in Sydney, Australia and designs computer systems for money. She also writes at The Bargain Queen, a blog about living la dolce vita on not-so-much cash. She has had much practise at doing exactly that!

check out these related articles:
rental renovating | | minor makeover miracles: kitchen  | minor makeover miracles: bathroom | better your bedroom

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