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Damage-free decorating tips for renters

Apartments, dorm rooms and other rented spaces often share the same bland decor: builder beige walls, utilitarian cabinets and flooring that's uninspired or just plain ugly. Yet rental contracts or residence hall rules may prohibit permanent changes such as painting or putting holes in plaster or drywall. That doesn't mean you have to live in a boring box, though. We've gathered some damage-free decorating ideas to perk up the place where you live. They might not turn your digs into your dream home, but they'll make your rental a more pleasant place.

Think like a homeowner

Renters can be reluctant to invest much money or effort into decorating temporary quarters, but David Bromstad thinks that's a mistake. If you don't personalize and beautify your space, "it's always going to feel like it's not your home," said Bromstad, an artist and interior designer who rose to fame as the winner of HGTV's first Design Star competition.

Think beyond posters and invest in some homelike decorative elements, such as wall sculptures, sconces or framed artwork. Beautiful bedding and window treatments add panache, and some luxurious towels and a handsome shower curtain can do wonders to distract attention from ugly tile or tired bathroom fixtures.

Consider changing unattractive lighting fixtures and cabinet hardware, he suggested. Save the old ones so you can reinstall them and take yours with you when you leave.

Hang things safely

3M has an extensive line of hooks, picture hangers and other hanging hardware using its Command adhesive. They can support a surprising amount of weight, but they're removable without damage or residue, if you follow the instructions.

You can even get hooks in decorative metallics that add beauty as well as function. Support both ends of a curtain rod or dowel with metallic hooks, and you can hang curtains without putting a single hole in the wall.

Add color

Just because your walls are boring doesn't mean your room has to be.

"You don't need color on the walls to have color in your space," Bromstad said. He prefers to bring color into a room with changeable elements such as accent pillows, art and accessories. Don't be afraid to paint furniture, he said.

Go big

Stretched canvas prints are an inexpensive way to add color and character to plain walls, said Gillian Andrew, an interior designer with Garth Andrew Co. in Ohio. Often they're available in groups of three or four prints, which take up a large space. They're lightweight, because they have no frames or glass, so they can be hung easily with damage-free hangers.

Wall murals are another option for large-scale artwork, she said. Many are backed with a low-tack adhesive, making it easy to put them up, take them down and reuse them.

Use graphics

Like wall murals, wall decals have a repositionable adhesive that allows them to be removed easily and reused repeatedly. As long as you're careful to put them on a clean wall, they can be reused almost indefinitely, said Paula Berberian, creative director for decal brand WallPops.

The decals add large-scale graphics and personality to walls and other surfaces without a long-term investment.

Paper the walls

Berberian said improvements in wall-covering materials have resulted in papers that are easy to strip, as long they're installed on walls that have been properly prepared. WallPops' parent company, Brewster Home Fashions, makes a number of wall coverings with a non-woven substrate, some of them prepasted and others requiring wallpaper paste.

Other wallpapers use a low-tack adhesive. Karen Starr of Akron's Hazel Tree Interiors, who described herself as "a wallpaper lover through and through," is partial to the removable wallpaper tiles from Hygge & West. They could be mounted on a wall behind a bed in place of a headboard or used as artwork, surrounded by a simple frame, she suggested.

Perk up the floors

Your floor is one of biggest surfaces in your room, so Bromstad said it's a logical place to add color and texture.

He prefers an area rug that's big enough to extend under all the furniture. It's okay to put a rug on top of carpeting to break up "the wall-to-wall monotony," he said. Just use a rug pad that's designed for that purpose, so the rug won't wrinkle.

On hard-surface floors, carpet tiles can be installed to add softness and color, Andrew said. Carpet tiles such as Flor install easily and adhere only to one another, not the floor. You can install them wall to wall or create an area rug from them.

And when you leave, you can take them with you.

Damage-free decorating tips for renters 08/30/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 4:45pm]

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