How to Overcome an Outdated Apartment Design

One of the perks of buying a place is that you get to personalize it, whether that's with paint on the walls or through a complete renovation. A rental property doesn't afford that same luxury.

As such, many renters find themselves frustrated and uninspired by the interior design — or lack thereof — that they find within their apartments. You shouldn't let an outdated look deter you from putting your personal stamp on the place, though. Instead, look at it as a fun challenge. Can you make the rental feel more modern, even without a massive facelift?

We can help you with that challenge. Here are four of the most common eyesores in an old-school apartment, and how to spruce them up, even as a renter.


1. Mirrored Doors

It's not uncommon for an outdated decor scheme to incorporate mirrored closet doors. You won't have the authority to remove or replace them, but you do have a third option. Simply cover the mirrors with peel-and-stick wallpaper. Many people use this solution on their rental property's walls for a removable pop of color, too. You can do the same, or you can use the material to tone down reflective doors in your bedroom or bathroom.

You can use the same treatment on appliances, although you may want a reflective, stainless steel surface there. Rather than replacing your rental's oven, stove or refrigerator, grab a roll of silvery contact paper. Peel it off and stick it onto your appliances to give them modern flair. It’s easily removable once your lease ends, but there’s every chance your landlord may like the look as well.

2. Dated Cabinets

When it comes to kitchens, some trends never disappear. We're talking the most coveted features in this space — everything from subway tiles to ample storage to white cabinets makes the list. Your rental probably doesn't have all these things, but you can make it more modern by switching up the cupboards.

For one thing, you can try the trick mentioned in the first tip on this list — you can cover your cabinet doors in contact paper to give them a new color or design. This might not work if the doors have lots of etching or detail, though. In that case, try option two: Take the doors off and try open shelving instead. You can slide the cabinet doors under your bed or in a closet until it's time to move out and screw them back into place. For now, though, you can impart a more modern look with door-free cabinets.

3. Bad Lighting

That overhead fluorescent bulb doesn't do much for your rental, so keep the switch turned off. Instead, brighten your place with the right layers of lighting that'll cast the warm glow you would never get from an overhead bulb.

During the day, you can throw back your curtains and let the natural light into your apartment. By night, though, you'll need some lamps to keep it all lit. The bedroom and living room will be easy, as you can easily layer floor and table lamps.

In the kitchen, though, you might have to think outside the box. You might install undercabinet lighting strips, which illuminate countertops for safer cooking prep. If you can fit a table lamp onto your counter, try that, too. You'll be surprised by how much that single lightbulb can transform the entire room.

Some people have also used clamp lights for extra lighting. Don't forget about candles, either. Although they won't give you the bright light you need to cook or clean up your kitchen, they do create a calming ambiance and glow that can make any outdated apartment feel cozier.

4. Ugly Flooring

Everyone has a favorite type of flooring. For many, it's hardwood, while others prefer carpet, especially in the bedroom. When you rent a place, it's up to the landlord to decide the material with which to cover the ground. Unfortunately, it may not be the gorgeous hardwood flooring you have in mind.

Fortunately, you have a great option in area rugs. You can always use them to define separate spaces in an open floor plan. You can also layer them to create an eye-catching pattern on the floor, with or without the hardwoods, tile or carpet of your dreams. As a bonus, throw rugs create a sound barrier between you and your neighbors, and they protect the flooring beneath from stains or scratches, which is great news for when you move out.

Make a City Rental More Modern

Outdated design doesn't have to define your rental property. Instead, with a few easy fixes, you can make the place your own. Get started today and, soon enough, your rental will reflect the fresh, modern style you crave — even if you can't have it at its full capacity right now.

Holly Welles.jpg

 Holly Welles is a real estate blogger covering design, finance and market trends for apartment dwellers. You can find more of her work on her blog, The Estate Update.

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