Aside from major decor ideas I had before moving in to my new place, I realized it needed a lot of simple changes. For me, it’s all in the details.

The hardware had so many layers of paint over it, it was about an inch thick. The lighting fixtures were caked in dust and outdated (and not in the vintage-cute way I’m going for). The cabinets were dirty, and wouldn’t stay shut. The light switches were oddly misshapen. Needless to say, I got creative.

Here are a few ways to give an older home, especially a rental, some TLC:

Removing Paint from Hardware

Remove layers of paint from hardware.

Having ten layers of paint over hardware is a tell-tale sign of an old rental. (Gotta love lazy painters.) Clean the hardware to remove decades of old paint, or simply buy new ones. It’ll only cost you some spare change! How simple (and cheap) was that?

Light fixtures

Upgrade boring lighting fixtures.

This isn’t necessarily a cheap fix, but one that still makes all the difference. Upgrade ugly, standard lighting found in most rentals with modern light fixtures. Save the old ones, and you can take your upgrade with you when you move! In my opinion, it’s worth the investment.

This type of job usually requires some hardwiring knowledge, which is super easy to learn. (Make sure you turn your electricity off, please!)

Upgrade light switches

Add unique switch plate covers.

Changing a boring, white square plate to something more unique makes one of the biggest differences in the feel of a home. This one you see is from Allen + Roth, and I changed all my visible plates to this style. Instant class! The better the quality of what you choose, the more expensive. But again, this is something you can take with you if you rent.

My house is also really old (pre 1940’s) and I don’t think the actual light switches or outlets had ever been changed from the originals. I went ahead and upgraded those too. Believe it or not, these cost less than $1 for each on/off switch or outlet. Make sure you turn the electricity off, and then simply hook the wires up exactly how they were on the old. This not only gave me smooth, non-painted switches but actually improved the lighting response in my switch that connected to the outdoor lighting. I guess it wasn’t hooked up properly to the old one!

One final bonus — this easily allowed me to change my 2 prong outlets to 3 prong. Bye-bye, ugly 3 prong adaptors.

Additional ways to upgrade:

  • If you can’t paint your cabinets, sand and stain them to give them the “like new” feel.
  • If your cabinets don’t stay closed, add magnets.
  • Change your outdated hooks and knobs to something cute that matches the decor in the room. Anthropologie has the best finds!
  • Replace locks and doorknobs to something more modern.
  • Use cheap, unfinished wood from a hardware store to give yourself more shelf space. Then sand and stain. I did this for both my kitchen and my closet! You save so much money, and it allows you to have more space for storage in the most custom way possible.

While most of these take an hour or two of your time, they save you money and transform the look of your home.

  • Jenny @

    I agree that simply updating the light fixtures can give the room a totally different look :D New window treatments are also easy and inexpensive – JCPenny has some great styles for less than $20.

    • Marjorie |

      Thanks, Jenny! Good idea, new window treatments totally transform a room. Didn’t know about JCPenny, will have to check it out!

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