Home Sweet Rental Home – Decorating Your Rental

By Carla Olivo,  Marine Spouse

As you look around the room, all you see is WHITE!

White walls, white woodwork, white crown molding (if you are so lucky). Whether you live in military housing or a rental out in town, you may be surrounded by white which is not always bad. White is clean and bright and it goes with every other color on the spectrum. It can also be B-O-R-I-N-G!

Home Sweet Rental Home

At our last rental, the house was completely white except for the kitchen which had peeling floral wallpaper circa 1987, almond formica countertops, linoleum flooring and a stove and oven original to the house. Normally, I don’t even ask about painting the walls but the walls looked like they hadn’t seen a coating of paint since the builder two decades ago. Even precise placement of furniture didn’t cover the scratches and marks from the previous renters. So I asked to paint the kids’ rooms – blue for my daughter and green for my son. I even offered to paint the walls back to white when we left. Luckily, they said yes!

Whether it is white walls, stained carpet or peeling wallpaper, it can be tough trying to make that dated rental feel like home. As military families we tell ourselves, “Its only for a year or two”, but that year or two can stretch into three, four, or in my case five years. And two back-to-back rentals can leave you craving some color and personal touches.


Enlarged personal photo adds color and warmth

Enlarged personal photo adds color and warmth

Jennifer Farlin, military spouse, mother of two boys and owner of Bella Home Staging says her biggest tip is to not be afraid to do something wrong. She says there are plenty of ways to spruce up drab white walls in a rental. “For walls, bigger is better for art and photos.” Turn a favorite family photo into a canvas print relatively cheaply using online discounts though Groupon or Living Social.

Don’t Wait!

Nice use of large art and green plants to add color

Nice use of large art and green plants to add color

Farlin encourages military families not to hold off until they are in their “permanent” home to decorate. “You may not be there forever but you’ll be there long enough,” says Farlin.

“Home should rise up to greet you regardless of the address.”

She suggests putting up your own window treatments rather than relying on the plain blinds or shades already in place. She suggests hanging curtains wider than the window to add coziness and cover up some of the bland wall space.


As for adding some personality to a room, Farlin suggests live plants. “Green plants give a space life and can hide cords, imperfections and fill bare spaces. Most importantly they give life to any room.” The nice thing about plants is that sometimes you can take them with you. Movers won’t pack them but you can bring them to your next duty station through a partial dity move. Once when we were moving from Weston, Florida to Fredericksburg, VA, I put all my houseplants in my parent’s car on their last visit to south Florida. They only lived three hours from our new home, so on their first visit they brought the plants back to me. I’ve had plants that have survived the last five moves!

Add Color

While base housing or your landlord may not allow you to paint, there are several other ways to add color and personality to a room. Throw rugs on less than desirable looking flooring can help to hide the ugly flooring as well as add your personality to the room. Have bland beige carpeting that has seen better days? Layering a colorful throw rug on top could be the answer.

Throw pillows and blankets are also a wonderful, inexpensive and temporary way to add color and personality.

Farin says when space is limited; make sure you surround yourself with items you love. “Life is too short to be surrounded by items that we dislike or bring up bad emotions. Purge it baby! And if your great Aunt Betsy asks what happened to the lamp she gave you for a wedding gift–those pesky movers broke it!”

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OlivoPCSgrades Author: Carla OlivoPCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, and their two children.

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