The Goods

Renting but feeling boxed in? How to bring life into your space without breaking the bank

Designer Steven Sabados and frugalista Amrita Singh join forces to help renters decorate in style.

Designer Steven Sabados and frugalista Amrita Singh join forces to help renters decorate in style.

Today's real estate market is a roller-coaster, to say the least. Unpredictability and rising prices mean that a lot more people are looking to rent, but when you're a renter it can be difficult to justify spending a ton on decor and design — especially if you're on a budget. Of course, you should always strive to make any house feel like a home, though. So frugalista Amrita Singh joined forces with designer Steven Sabados to share some tips on how to decorate as a renter without breaking the bank.


Commit to making it feel like home

It's easy to get stuck in the mindset that everything is temporary and not truly 'yours' when you're renting. This can mean that you don't bother taking the time to decorate and make it feel like home, but there are so many benefits to creating a sanctuary for yourself. If you're fortunate to have your own space, why not allow it to offer you comfort and a place to truly feel at ease? Steven and Amrita believe that the earlier you make that commitment to yourself upon moving in, the sooner you'll fall in love with your new space.

Engage your landlord

A lot of people are afraid to do this, but you shouldn't hesitate to ask your landlord for help with small repairs. If they are conscientious and responsible they will actually want to cover the cost of repairs so you feel at home and want to stay longer. If you're a good renter, they'd love to keep you!

If you're lucky, your landlord might even agree to cover the cost of painting. Paint is the cheapest way to refresh your new space and acts as an instant transformation. Keep in mind that most renters don't have rollers, drop cloth, painters tape, brushes, so painting isn't necessarily a cheap decorating solution without help from your landlord. You might not get the response you were hoping for, but it doesn't hurt to ask!

Upgrade your lighting

Renters usually spend the least amount on lighting, but the right lighting can totally change the feel of your space immediately. These side table lamps were $70 each and are so worth the investment because they'll easily transition into a new space. Plus, they make the room feel cozy at night, and help get rid of that impersonal 'rental' feeling.

Avoid investment pieces and permanent additions

As a general renter's rule of thumb, don't invest a lot of money in larger pieces because they may not work in the next space you move to. For example, spending a lot on a unique couch that fits perfectly in a specific corner might not be such a good investment, or fit for your next apartment. Steven and Amrita say to keep in mind that you can't do anything permanent in the space because landlords expect things to be in the same move-in condition when you leave. You may be dreaming about crown moulding, but it'll need to be put on hold for a while!

Invest in versatile pieces

Opt for the furniture that you need in order to be comfortable, but always keep budget and versatility in mind. Pre-owned finds can make for great upcycling projects. With that in mind, Amrita found an inexpensive set of table and chairs online for only $70. It needed a little TLC, so based on Steven's advice, she painted the chairs black and the table a soft light grey to make this addition far more polished and refined. Quick fixes like this are also great for extra seating when guests are over or as a workspace that's away from the couch.

Improve window coverings

Investing in drapery may feel like a waste of money as a renter. Most times you have to drill into concrete to put up a curtain rod, so it's also not very convenient for your landlord. Instead, Amrita spent $70 on small panels that offer softness and round out the corners of the apartment. These mini-curtains don't fully cover the window but still worked out to be the best frugal option. In instances like this, just make sure your panels go all the way to the floor. Steven suggests using solar shades to cover the rest of the window. They're perfect for privacy and also let in light, but can be a big splurge — so again, it never hurts to ask your landlord.

Incorporate texture

Add texture to your couch for a luxe look on a budget. Amrita found some fabric and had a friend sew cushion covers, then used the old cushions as inserts. She also tucked a duvet into the bottom cushions to create a more custom look for the couch. The rug found at a discount store adds some extra comfort and dimension to the room.

Put your art on display

Renters are often hesitant to invest in art because it's hard to move, and most of it is fairly pricey. Putting holes into walls means having to potentially do some patch jobs before moving out, so instead of filling your walls with impersonal big-box art, enlist your friends and family to lend a hand! Ask your artistic friends and relatives if they'd be willing to lend their talents to your home, and you'll get fabulous art on a budget made by the ones you love.

Their final words of wisdom? Always keep in mind that decorating rentals can be a gift. It lets you create a new surrounding without breaking the bank. Most importantly, keeping these tips and tricks in mind means you'll have zero worry about your landlord saying that things need to be returned to their original state. Happy decorating!

Resource guide:



  • Pillows (purple)
  • Speaker
  • Vase
  • Table lamps
  • Decorative poufs

Drapery King

  • Roller shade
  • Drapery hardware

Home Depot

  • Floor lamp


  • Picture frames (large and small) 


Designer Fabrics

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