4 Ways You Can Upgrade Your Rental Without Leaving a Mark

vinyl records on a wall in an appartment

Between previous renters and a looming landlord, it can be difficult to make your rental feel like home, but personalizing your rented space doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. There are ways to upgrade your home without leaving a mark, ensuring your deposit will eventually come back to you in full.

As a word of caution, before you don your DIY cap and go full Chip and Joanna, make sure to read your rental agreement or contract. While small cosmetic tweaks that leave no mark are often perfectly okay, some landlords or property owners have stricter rules than others. Similarly, if you’re feeling the urge to paint or knock down a wall (which some landlords allow), check your contract and ask the landlord first. Before you make any major moves, it’s always best to get a green light.

Tip One: V is for Vinyl

Vinyl is a renters best friend. From marble contact paper from Amazon to vinyl backsplash tiles, there are dozens of ways you can use vinyl around the home to give any room an upgrade. Take a roll of vinyl wallpaper and cover your fridge with a fun new pattern or a soothing neutral color. Cover your counters with vinyl contact paper and turn formica into marble in an afternoon. Even wallpaper an entire room to add a splash of color or cover the mauve paint the rental came with.

When using vinyl to cover large surfaces, make sure to go slow and cut precisely, and recruit a friend when hanging the paper on your walls. Vinyl can be expensive, so measure two or three times before you cut.

Pro tip: It’s best to go slow and work out any bubbles as they pop up, but if you get stuck with bubbles you can't smooth out with a credit card or the edge of a book, use a small tipped needle to poke holes in the bubbles in the vinyl to push them out. No expensive tools needed.

Vinyl can also be used to create temporary wall decals around the home with favorite symbols or phrases. This technique is often referred to as vinyl lettering. You'll need access to precut vinyl or a Cricut machine to give this a try. Vinyl cutouts can also be used to make the outline of a calendar on the fridge or a whiteboard, or to make a permanent chore chart to keep the kids on task.

When you’re ready to move or change the design, simply find a loose corner and pull gently. Depending on how long it's has been on the wall, the vinyl make come off in a few large chunks.

And don't forget the most basic vinyl ingredient of all: records! They make a tasteful, classic wall ornament, and with their built in hole, they're easy to hang.

command strips in packaging

Tip Two: C is for Command

Command strips are a renter's best friend, for more reasons than one. When you're shopping for rental upgrades, throw a few packs of strips and hooks in your cart. These handy stick-ons can be used to hang picture frames and other artwork on the walls. While lighter items like a poster only need a little bit of ticky tack, heavy frames need the strength of a full command strip or two.

Command hooks, or similar products, can be painted, decorated, and hung anywhere around the home. Walls with a lot of texture, like the back deck of a stucco house in Arizona, won't hold command strips very well. For most other walls and hard surfaces, Command products tend to stick firmly.

So whether it’s securing a rug on the floor, hanging photos, or creating a coat rack, there are endless Command DIY upgrades.

Tip Three: K is for Knobs

Knobs are a simple upgrade that you can easily switch back. Drop in from time to time on your local craft store and watch for a sale on knobs. When a bargain comes around, pick up all the knobs you need at a good price. As you take old knobs out and replace them with new ones, place the old knobs and screws in a bag or other container and label them so you can remember where they came from.

As long as you keep the original hardware, you should feel free to swap the knobs on kitchen drawers, bathroom cabinets, and any other furniture items.

ornate doorknob on a wooden door

Tip Four: D is for Decorations

Adding a few personalized decorations go a long way toward making a space your own. Using picture frames, travel keepsakes, old records, family heirlooms, and other simple decor items can help your new space feel like home. Take a look around and see what you already have that you could put in a new spot, or what you could reinvent with an upcycle to work better in the new spot.

Plants also make excellent decor (with air purifying benefits). Make a removable window box and fill it with flowers in your kitchen, or add a few potted plants to a bathroom or kitchen counter. The green will spruce up the room while protecting the green in your wallet.

Another easy wallet-friendly decor upgrade that your landlord won’t notice is fun thrift store finds. Display cool old books, vinyl recordings, or retro artwork in classic frames around the home. All of these simple decor items can be thrifted for just a few dollars and won’t leave a mark.

Renter-friendly upgrades don't have to be crazy or expensive. A few little tweaks and you'll feel right at home in no time, and your landlord will be none the wiser when you go.