6 Ways to Liven Up Your Rental Space

Interior stylist Janette Ewen reveals how you can add character to any home with eye-catching accessories, unique wall art, new light fixtures + more

You don’t need to own your home to get creative with your living space

Given the limitations, it’s not rare to feel uninspired with your rental space. However, there are actually some advantages to decorating a home that you don’t officially own.

“You feel less committed to it, so you can really have fun with the space,” says Janette Ewen, interior stylist and owner of creative studio, Parker Barrow. “Try to think of it as a television or magazine set. These are often spaces you style temporarily, but they always look great at the finish.”

Click through for Janette’s top tips for jazzing up your rental space, and prepare to hear more styling tricks from the designer at this year’s Vancouver Home + Design Show, October 22 to 25.

Shake Up Your Walls

“A big challenge for renters is this so-called ‘don’t touch the wall’ policy,” notes Ewen. “But really, the walls are the envelope of your home. It’s where your personality comes across most!”

She suggests peel-and-stick wallpaper—which can be easily removed without damaging walls—to add some instant oomph to your space.

As for painting, don’t be afraid to approach your landlord for approval. “Try to opt for more neutral colours—soft lavenders or a light grey,” Ewen suggests. “A lot of the time, landlords will say ‘yes.’”

Splurge On Accessories

“The great thing about renting is that you potentially have more money to put towards decor and accessories,” says Ewen. “Your pieces become more like investments, since they’ll be able to move with you.”

The designer likes to bring in “winks”—whimsical or offbeat items that, though unexpected, can help tie a space together. You can also swap out everyday objects, like your bathroom mirror, for more ornate versions to add some character.

Create a Gallery Wall

“One of my favourite ways to add personality to a space is to hang pictures up, salon style,” Ewen shares.

The designer swears by Command Picture Hanging Strips, which can hold up hefty frames and come off without a trace. Be sure to incorporate your own images, photographs and art into the space as well for a truly unique gallery.

Marry Opposing Styles

Recently moved in with an S.O. or roommate and wondering what to do with your clashing decor styles? “Marry them,” says Ewen. “Nothing is more complementary in decor than a little bit of tension.”

But if you find your tastes skewing in completely opposite directions, it’s all about compromise. “Try putting your furnishings or decor together and seeing if a palette jumps out,” she suggests. “If so, use that as your base. If not, check out a thrift or vintage store and pick out a few pieces together.”

You can use these items as a launching point for decorating your space, or revamp them in a DIY project that suits both your styles.

Swap Out Lighting

Another styling tip Ewen swears by? “I like to splurge on lighting,” Ewen shares. “It’s something that can be easily switched out.”

The designer swapped out the fixtures in her own apartment for two vintage chandeliers, which help liven up the whole room. “It’s like a piece of hanging art!” she says.

Go Big

According to Ewen, more is more. “People tend to strip things down to make a space feel bigger, but you’re actually going to get a lot more out of it if you layer decor up,” she says.

“Don’t be afraid of big, swag drapes in a great fabric that you can tie back with a tassel, for example,” she says. Even when they’re placed in front of your standard, rental blinds, they’re sure to add another level of dimension to your space.

“There’s always a workaround if you just use your imagination,” she stresses.