Here's how to make your tiny rental apartment feel like home

It's more than possible

Open plan living room/bedroom with wood floors, large windows, white furniture and lots of houseplants
(Image credit: Amy Theresa)

Let’s face it, home is where the heart is. The key to making a small rental feel like a home is not based on your budget or the number of square feet your living space is, but about putting your creative juices to work. 

Depending on the landlord, small apartments and rentals may come with a package of rules, which also prevent tenants from creating their dream homes. Interior designer Amy Theresa of DesignTonik provided us with her take on how to make your small rental feel like the home your heart desires.

1. Create a mood with good lighting

Wooden dining table with chair and cushion in corner of lofty apartment with lots of houseplants

(Image credit: Amy Theresa)

According to Theresa, overhead lighting is not a mood. It serves a purpose, but unless it’s on a dimmer, it is either too bright or just plain ugly. There are plenty of inexpensive tricks to bring a little mood to your rental, such as: changing the light bulbs to a warmer light, adding floor lamps with a three-way light, using LIFX beam or sun lamps, or placing a rice paper shade over a table lamp for a soft glow.

2. Add a focal point to your main wall

Theresa mentioned this can be done when finding the main wall in your space and bringing it to life. When you enter most homes, there is usually a wall that feels like a blank canvas and could easily command attention with the right decor. With that said, your main wall could be brought to life by incorporating large pieces of art, framing pictures, adding mirrors to your wall for expansion, and using rental-friendly wall coverings for a pop of color. 

3. Bring some life into your living room

When plants are brought into the mix, your rental receives more than beauty. Adding live plants to your indoor garden also has a variety of health benefits! Theresa suggests investing in succulents, cacti, and ferns if you aren’t as knowledgeable about plant care. If there isn’t a ton of surface space for smaller plants, she mentioned a sweet lemon tree would be a great option, as it adds life and color to your living room space. Lastly, if you aren’t about keeping leafy friends alive, she says that faux plants also work well. 

4. Consider different textures from rugs and textiles

Open plan living room/bedroom with wood floors, large windows, white furniture and lots of houseplants

(Image credit: Amy Theresa)

According to Theresa, if you find a rental with gorgeous wooden floors, then you’re extremely fortunate! If not, it’s not the end of the world, it's simply time to up your rug game. Per her suggestions, you could include carpets by doing the following: finding a carpet remnant store that will edge the remnant for you to cover the entire space, placing a rug over your carpet, or hanging up some tapestries on your walls or some vibrant and textured pillows to provide depth and character. 

5. Make the space for you — your home is your sanctuary

No matter where we are in life, it is important to have that one space we can retreat to and become one with ourselves, says Theresa. Finding time to unwind and breathe is a necessary part of your day. With this in mind, she states that adding a small cushion and tiny table in your bedroom for meditation and journaling purposes is ideal. For the bathroom, she feels adding shelves for placing candles and a very soft rug is perfect for building a soothing escape since bathrooms are a great location to wash off the day. When it comes to the living room, Theresa suggests adding some extra floor cushions to feel grounded.

6. Spruce up the corners of your rooms

Open plan living room/bedroom with wood floors, large windows, white furniture and lots of houseplants

(Image credit: Amy Theresa)

Corners offer so many opportunities to be creative. Theresa suggests incorporating the following to give your corners some life: add a small planter and a learning mirror, place a lamp in the corner over an armchair to create a cozy reading nook, stack a couple of vintage books, or add a cordless lamp for a minor glow. You could also find a vintage chair and paint it in a vibrant color.

7. Let architecture be your friend

"The majority of the time, the rental might not feel like 'you,' however, it checks off all the other boxes on your list,” says Amy. She feels exploring your rental’s architecture is key and there are many ways you can get creative with it. Try modernizing a small space by replacing cabinet knobs, painting the walls, investing in new furniture, or adding fresh pieces in a high gloss finish for a modern clean edge. You could also install window coverings to assist with elevating your room and add colors through plants, a faux backsplash, or new hardware knobs and pulls. If there’s room in your kitchen, Amy suggests incorporating a small island with a few modern stools.

8. Art is everything

“You don’t have to be an avid art collector, just choose what speaks to you," says Theresa. To incorporate art into your small rental, grab some vintage frames from an antique store and fill them with art you've purchased online or elsewhere. You could also source weathered wood and architectural salvage to hang near entryways or in different rooms for extra character. Thinking outside the box comes in handy too. For instance, a rug could be used as a wall hanging instead.

Aida M. Toro
Freelance Writer

About Me:

Hello! My name is Aida M. Toro and I am a freelance writer that loves cultivating stories about amazing people, fashion, interiors, art, and food. I currently write for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, The House Magazine, Hobnob Magazine, The C-Word, and Real Homes. I live in West New York, New Jersey, which is literally a 10-minute ferry ride or 20-minute bus ride away from New York City. Although I was born and raised in West New York, I consider NYC my home, as I believe it to be the place where all dreams come to fruition, and of course, spend most of my time in. When I’m not writing, I love perusing the city streets and taking snaps with my iPhone of street art along with random things, scoping out new restaurants as well as their spaces, shopping at some of my favorite stores, spending time with family and friends, walking my cockapoodle Benji, and working out at Lifetime or DOGPOUND, which are some of the top fitness spaces in Manhattan and overall the U.S.