Home Improvement

Rental Refresh: Small Apartment Living Room Makeover

article anton sofa

If you’ve been following along on Instagram and YouTube, you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about how my other half and I recently signed a lease on a new apartment! We have now been in the space for two months, but have been struggling to make it feel like our own with most stores being closed right now. But, I finally found the inspiration to mix and match things we already had on hand with some things we were able to order online, and I’m honestly so excited about sharing this space! Did I mention I didn’t have to do any renovating to make this space come to life? Yeah, this is a true renter friendly living room makeover. Let’s do this!

Easy Renter Friendly Living Room Makeover
(No Painting Required!)

This project includes furniture that was provided by Article and includes affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

Want to see this refresh in action? Check it out on my YouTube channel & make sure to subscribe!

If there’s something I’ve learned as a renter, it’s that not every landlord is cool with their tenants painting their spaces (raise your hand if you feel me). In fact, I’ve gotten TONS of requests from you to share renter friendly makeover that don’t require painting. I’ll be honest, if there is anything I’ve learned here, it’s that it’s pretty amazing how much you can do without changing up the paint color in your home.

In this post, I’m going to walk through the stages of how we made this place feel like our own without doing any major work to the living room space. In fact, most of the stuff you’ll see here is furniture that we already owned or I have already built!

Shake (Use) What Your Landlord Gave You

The layout of our new space is… awkward, to say the least. While the style and the open concept are amazing, the doorway to the bedroom and the bathroom is in an odd spot. In fact, because of the placement we were unable to fit our l-shaped sleeper sofa from our studio apartment into this space because it completely blocked off the opening to the bedroom and bathroom.

living room makeover rental

In a “normal” situation, we could just go to the furniture store and purchase something on the spot. However, furniture stores here have been closed since March (boo). So, we had to turn to online shopping – which is great, but also so difficult when you can’t test out the seating you’re investing in for your space!

rental apartment living room makeover

But, after exploring some options, we completely fell in love with two seating options: the Anton Sofa and Denman Chair from Article. We knew that we had to have them in our new space, and Article was awesome enough to make it happen for us!

Even better, Article made delivery so easy with their contactless delivery. They delivered boxes straight to our door and the furniture pieces were already assembled (we just had to screw the legs into the couch)!

living room rental apartment ideas

Having separate seating options was the perfect solution for this space because we were able to opt for a smaller couch that could float in the middle of the room, but still set the gorgeous arm chair up in the corner as a reading nook and extra seating for guests. We could not be happier!

diy living room makeover on a budget

Refresh Your Furniture

Just because you move into a new space doesn’t mean you have to buy a whole new set of furniture. Use what you have & update it to fit your new digs with a coat of stain or paint. Don’t be afraid to swap out furniture from other rooms in your house that may look better with the new space!

These changes can be as little as painting your furniture legs to match each other, like I did with my live edge tables and hairpin legs (I painted them all black to match).

easy renter friendly apartment makeover

Or, as big as refinishing an entire piece. I actually used gel stain to transform the color of an entertainment unit we had that was too light for the space. If you want to see this in action, make sure to check out the YouTube tutorial!

how to refinish laminate furniture

Spoiler Alert: You can totally stain laminate furniture. Just give it a super light sanding with a 220 grit sanding sponge, apply gel stain, and wipe away!

Hang Your Artwork

small living room apartment ideas

Not sure where to hang your artwork? No sweat! Use leftover cardboard boxes or pieces of paper, cut them to the size of your frames, and then tape them to your walls to get a feel for where you’d like your artwork to go (without making 1,001 holes in your walls)!

If you’re like me, you’ll love this method because you can change it around a few times until you are happy! I ended up opting for two stunning prints from Neptune Art Prints! I just printed them to size at my local print shop and then framed them in poster frames!

small rental apartment living room

Create Your Own Art

diy easy artwork

DIY artwork doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive! We had some extra gallery frames packed away in boxes, and I decided to paint some patterns on card stock and frame them! You can see this in action on my YouTube video!

Another option is to frame sentimental things like comic books!

diy comic book frame

When You Can’t Buy, DIY!

As much as I want to shop the aisles of Home Goods… that’s not really an option right now. So, I decided to upcycle some planters and either paint them…

how to upcycle old planters

or make modern planter stands for them from scrap wood (let’s keep this scrap wood kick going)!

There are tons of DIY tutorials for scrap projects just like the ones I made on Pinterest, but I opted to make mine from 2×2 square stair balusters. 

cutting wood on miter saw

I started by measuring the widest part of my planters and then cutting pieces for my smaller planter at:

(4) Legs @ 5″
(1) Long Base @ 5″
(2) Short Bases @ 1 ¼”

and my larger planter at:

(4) Legs @ 8″
(1) Long Base @ 8″
(2) Short Bases @ 3 ¼”

I then attached the base pieces in a “x” formation using wood glue, CA glue, and clamps. I let that dry for 45 minutes, and then attached the legs using wood glue and 2 ½” brad nails.

rapid fuse on wood

Next, I finished my planters by torching them (to match my DIY wooden artwork) and then finishing them with a tinted polyurethane.

wood torching planters

Another thing I opted to DIY for my space was a custom book shelf, but I’ll be spilling the details on that next week!

Don’t Get Discouraged!

If there is one thing I’m learning as a renter, it’s that you don’t need to have it all figured out right away! This space is a work in progress, and I’m totally cool with that journey!

easy living room diy ideas

This space will probably change a few times over before we move out at some point. But, with the main pieces in place, I’m so happy with where we are!

But, for real… that couch and that arm chair? C’mon. I’m so in love!

easy living room makeover ideas

We are SO excited about our new space, it’s unreal! This has been a journey, especially with having access to limited resources right now. So, I’m so happy to finally be (mostly) settled in! I still have some work to do in the bathroom and bedroom, and will be sharing updates as I go, so make sure to follow along on Instagram and YouTube for project updates!

In the meantime, you can Pin This post to save it as a reference as well!

I hope that sharing our process was helpful for someone out there! Can’t wait to keep sharing our space as it transforms and grows along with us!

In the meantime though, friends… happy DIY’ing!

Sam Raimondi

Sam is a full time psychologist and part time content creator from Long Island, New York.




  • Chanel Auguste

    Where did you get your pillows from?

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