Rental Renovations: You Can "Renovate" Your Apartment

Published on Nov 4, 2011


Just because many of us--in fact, 70% of us!--choose to live in a NYC rental apartment rather than buy a condo or house, doesn't mean we don't have dreams and desires about transforming our living space into something more personal, more uniquely our own.

Sure, plenty of Manhattan and Brooklyn rental apartments come ready-rented with lots of character and/or architectural quirks, but, lets face it, many other NYC apartments could use a little love and imagination. But are rental renovations really possible?

The challenge: apartment leases don't allow tenants, for obvious and totally understandable reasons, to knock down walls or gut-renovate kitchens... and, given the relative transitory nature of many residents in apartments for rent in Manhattan, in Brooklyn and throughout the tri-state region, it'd be silly to spend the time and money to undertake such projects anyway.


That said, there are many less-drastic ways to personalize the look of your New York City rental apartment without spending a ton of money or risking your security deposit when it comes time to move. For example, recently The New York Post ran a nice piece on some of the more fundamental and easy-to-accomplish tips and tricks for customizing your NYC rental apartment: rental renovations that can be done!

In the article designer Vern Yip, who you may know from HGTV’s Urban Oasis, explains why he always recommends mirrors as instant room-changers, especially on those generally under-used surfaces of your doors. “Mirrors have the ability to expand a space and bounce light,” says Yip. “You can buy adhesive mirror tiles, or have a mirror custom cut for you--it’s not expensive--then attach it to the door using mastic.”


In the kitchen and bathroom, updating the look of your NYC rental apartment is fast and easy by installing new hardware on your cabinets (all you usually need is a screwdriver), and you'd be surprised, says HGTV’s Home by Novogratz's host Bob Novogrataz, what a difference a little brightly-colored shelf paper, even on the inside of cabinets, can mean for a room.

And if you really want to go to town in your bathroom and kitchen, it might be worth looking at changing the plumbing fixtures and faucets, in your sinks and shower.

Finally, the Post takes a look at some life- and look-changing storage ideas, all of which use relatively inexpensive, modular shelving from the likes of California Closets, IKEA and even Home Depot. Bonus: by not going the customized route when adding storage space to your home, you can uninstall the shelving, pack it up, and move it to your next apartment.


Meanwhile, over at the great Apartment Therapy, an older though still extremely relevant piece entitled 10 Ways to Customize a Rental Apartment is filled with good ideas. If, for instance, you're lucky enough to have extra-high ceilings in your apartment, it's easy to utilize the space above your kitchens cabinets for additional storage, and not just by piling old pots and pans there to gather dust.

And shelving that begins a couple of feet below the ceiling and wraps around a room (or, at least, runs the length of a wall) offers an even more radical room-changer. Finally, to tackle the ugly-ceiling-light problem faced by many NYC rental apartment dwellers, Apartment Therapy contributor Gregory Han offers simple, detailed instructions for swapping out your current ceiling shade with something more stylish, more pleasant, more YOU.


Remember, unless your landlord agrees to to keep your changes when you move out (and no matter how much improved the apartment may be, it really is their decision), you must return the apartment to the condition you received it when.  That means keeping all of the items you swapped out (cabinet knows, light fixtures, etc.), fixtures, etc. and reinstalling them before you leave.  On the other hand, this is not such a bad thing... you get to keep the items you bought to "renovate" your old apartment and hopefully use them again in your next rental renovation!

Back to Blog