The security deposit isn’t a death sentence for décor, ok??

Photography taken by Mario Gutiérrez./Getty Images

My first year out of college, I moved to Birmingham for a fellowship here at Southern Living and moved into a homey little apartment with two friends. It had a dated kitchen, beige walls, and beige carpet. BUT it did also have a little porch and a fireplace (we were too afraid to use it, but it was a nice idea) and a manageable price tag when split three ways.

It also came with a big info packet, in which the leasing company spelled out all the many rules and stipulations for the safety deposit. It was nothing out of the ordinary, and all completely fair—no holes in the walls, no paint on the walls, and No Fun. It didn’t really say the last part, but reading through the list of Serious Lease Business kind of put a damper on the excitement I felt about moving into my first non-college place. (It seemed like the “rules” established in those places gave up a long time ago, and it had been a free-for-all since.)

I think I hung an unframed poster (eek) over my bed, and it helped a little to have my furniture that I’d collected over many a bedroom redo, but I pined (and pinned) for an apartment with you know, the Instagram touch—white walls, shiny hardwood floors, and tons of natural light that hadn’t been filtered through jumbled plastic blinds.

But the truth is, I was far too quick to concede to the builder’s beige that dominated that apartment. I thought there was nothing I could do to make it really a home, and now that I’ve lived a few more years in various rentals I can tell you—there’s a lot you can do to make a rental work for you—and still get your security deposit back!

Throw a rug on it, hang stuff without nails, add some plants, hide plastic blinds with curtains. There are so many ways to combat the drab, downright depressing look of rentals. Steal a few ideas we love:

Don't just move your stuff in and assume that's the best it can be. A few tricks can make even the blandest of rentals feel like a proper home now, it may just take a little ingenuity and elbow grease!