3 Design Tricks Nate Berkus Always Recommends to Make a Rental Feel Like Home — 'It's Instant Personalization!'

The design guru took to Instagram to share his favorite tricks for adding character to a rental without risking your deposit

A headshot of Nate Berkus on a red carpet looking into the camera
(Image credit: Alamy)

In the world of interior design, Nate Berkus' word is like gospel. When he has advice to share, we listen - especially where simple styling tips are concerned. It's easy to think that Nate's lifestyle is too far removed from our own to be relevant, but the master of sophisticated schemes is a dab hand at delivering adaptable guidance that any of us can apply to our spaces.

This time, he's discussing decorating a rental, and how to make a space feel like home even if it's leased. Taking to Instagram to share his renter-friendly tips, Nate shared three design ideas that add character and personality to a space while still guaranteeing the return or your deposit - and there are plenty of takeaways relevant to homeowners, too. Here's what you need to know.

1. Paint and Temporary Wallpaper

An office with pink trim and colorful, floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Read Mckendree. Design: Chango & Co)

Nate's first piece of advice to personalize a rented apartment is to repaint or add temporary wallpaper. It might sound like a big undertaking (and it's important you run it by your landlord first) but introducing some color or pattern to your walls is one of the best ways to cater a space to your taste.

'Do all your walls even if you have to paint them back, because white walls feel automatically make a space feel like it's not yours,' he says in his Instagram video. Painting might be the best port of call if your landlord allows it, but we'd personally recommend temporary wallpaper to reduce the risk of damage. There are plenty of peel-and-stick options on the market these days that make it easy to hang delightful designs on your walls without risking your deposit.

'Wallpaper can have a profound impact on transforming the ambiance of a room, showcasing its potential to elevate aesthetics and evoke specific moods,' says James Mellan-Matulewicz, wallpaper expert at Bobbi Beck. 'Whether opting for vibrant patterns, subtle textures, or sophisticated designs, wallpaper enables a personalized touch that paint alone often struggles to achieve.'

For renters seeking a temporary and damage-free solution, James recommends peel-and-stick wallpaper. 'Its adhesive backing allows for easy application and removal without leaving residue, making it an ideal option for those in rental properties,' he says. 'This innovation offers renters the opportunity to express their style, refresh their living spaces, and enjoy the transformative power of wallpaper without the long-term commitment or concerns about damaging the walls.'

2. Invest in furniture pieces you love

A living room with pale pink rug

(Image credit: Marco Ricca. Design: Ali Budd Interiors)

Perhaps the easiest - and most obvious - of Nate's tips is to invest in beautiful furniture that you love. While some rentals are unfurnished and offer a blank canvas for you to let your styling run wild, others come with existing furniture, but this doesn't mean you can't supplement it with your own pieces for a more homey feel.

'Buy things - furniture, decorative items, vintage lighting - that you're going to take with you when you go to build a home or buy a home,' says Nate. 'Just because you're renting, that doesn't mean you can't own beautiful things.' Items such as rugs, floor lamps, and soft textiles like throws or pillows are easy to introduce to a furnished apartment living room to add some personal flair, while investing in a beautiful sofa or dining table will make an empty rental truly feel like your own space.

'Investing in your home decor in a way that expresses who you are is essential to finding yourself at home,' says interior designer Soni Mehra, Creative Director and CEO of Marble Lotus. 'Even though I live in a rental, I have put in the effort to paint wall murals, add wallpaper, and invest in furniture that expresses who I am.'

If you're budget-constrained, Soni notes that elegant accent chairs are a great way to invest in statement-piece furniture without breaking the bank. 'Due to the smaller nature of accent chairs, you can get a really nice one that reflects your personality and style within a smaller budget than a full-blown sofa or dining table,' she says.

3. Stay Organized

Small pantry by Neptune

(Image credit: Neptune)

The most surprising word of advice from Nate is to stay organized. When we're renting, it's easy to feel detached from your space and lose a sense of pride, consequently picking up disorganized habits that clutter your space.

To avoid this, Nate suggests staying on top of your stuff with clever organizational systems. 'You don't have to have custom millwork and custom closets,' says Nate. 'You can have store-bought cabinets and bins to organize everything [...] For me, knowing what's behind every door or every drawer or every cabinet is something that definitely makes me feel like I'm home.'

'Investing in stylish, free-standing organizers is ideal for renters because they can easily be moved around, rearranged, or taken with them when they move to a new place, providing flexibility in organizing your space,' explains Di Ter Avest, owner of Di is Organized. 'They also allow renters to personalize their living space without making permanent alterations, which can help make the space feel more like home.'

Di also emphasizes the power of multifunctional furniture, something that's especially useful if you're renting a small apartment that's short on space. 'Look for pieces that serve multiple purposes, such as ottomans with built-in storage or coffee tables with drawers,' she says. 'Multi-functional furniture will help maximize storage while minimizing clutter and make it easy to transition the pieces into a new place when you move.'

If there's anyone we trust with rental styling advice, it's Nate. Whether you've just signed your first lease or you're a long-term homeowner, these easy, damage-free design tips are a great way to refresh your space and cater to your personal tastes.

A post shared by Nate Berkus

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Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.