Renting an apartment rather than buying one varies, as an experience, depending upon what city you live in. In New York City, becoming a sitting tenant in a rent-stabilized apartment is tantamount to a form of ownership, so difficult is it for a landlord to dislodge an occupant who has such a lease. I know, because I possessed one for twenty-seven years, during which I decorated and redecorated relentlessly my 300 square foot studio. 

I do not recommend such a prolonged tenure in such a diminutive rental for anyone, but here is my hard-won wisdom about how to make the best of it, and how to maximize your decorating investments so that when you move on you can use your furnishings in a new setting. 


1. Portability

In Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, Great Expectations, one character utters an amusing phrase I will never forget,  “My guiding star always is, ‘Get hold of portable property.’” 

When decorating a rental, this exhortation should be your guiding star, too. Therefore, avoid expensive built-in schemes, assuming, even, that your lease  permits them. Focus on acquiring furniture and objects which not only will fit into a different space, but which have some inherent resale value in case you decide, when leaving the rental, that you no longer want them. The value of tech commodities such as an immense flat-screen TV, will, like that of a new car, plummet once you take it home. Such items are doomed to almost instant obsolescence. 

Try instead to learn something about antiques and vintage furniture which you can later resell on eBay. Furniture that bears the patina of age will always add authority and interest to your environment, and you may end up cherishing and keeping it when you relocate.  

2. Lighting

Having underscored the law of portability, it should now go without saying that you must invest in moveable table and floor lamps, and detachable chandeliers rather than expensive built-in track or recessed lighting.  

I can think of no single object of decor more transformative of even the dreariest room than an attractive table lamp with a beautiful silk or paper shade. Incandescent light (not the horrible glaring new energy-saving bulbs) softens defects of both furniture and flesh  and lends an air of civilization to all interiors. A well-designed lamp, whether modern or old-school--including great hanging fixtures--makes a big design statement for the (relatively modest) buck. 

3. Creative Hardware

You can customize a generic kitchen by changing the cupboard knobs and drawer pulls for more attractive ones. Then, when you move, you can put the old ones back on and carry the nice ones to your new abode. 

 4. Window Treatments

Ready-made drapery panels are perhaps the best “portable” decorative item you can invest in. Choosing a beautiful solid, textured or patterned drapery  from the vast array of such panels available will create an instant feeling of home--of civilization-- in your apartment.  Again, when you move, you can take the drapes with you and alter the hem, if necessary, to fit your new windows. New drapes make even hand-me-down furniture appear fresh. 

6. Paint

Of course, repainting landlord beige walls--if permitted--seems like the most dramatic alteration you can make to your surroundings. But remember, you can’t take it with you. A compromise would be to paint one accent wall in a color you desire. 

7. Rugs

This can be an inexpensive or big ticket item, depending on the quality you opt for, but it is one of the most powerfully transformative elements you can add to an interior. Color, texture, pile or weave; solid or patterned; the options are almost limitless. Even if you must stick with landlord beige walls, buying a rug frees you to express your  decorative fantasies. When you are ready to move, just roll it up--like a nomad!--and take it with you. 

8. Throw Pillows

Like drapes, pillows are an immensely portable yet powerful item in your interior. Even if your overall color scheme is neutral, throw pillows may provide a provocative yet discreet dash of color. 

 9. Art

If you or your friends make things yourselves, you can hang a home gallery of your creations. If you aren’t so inclined, there are many inexpensive prints and individually made artworks on the market that will infuse your home with color and aesthetic interest. 

You should cherish and enjoy each space you inhabit, no matter how temporary it may be. If you follow Dickens’ “guiding star” you will never suffer buyer’s regret. 


Artfully mixed and matched, Indigo2ash’s wide selection of rugs, drapes and pillows are available in thirty subtle shades and myriad textures and patterns. At Indigo2ash, home is not only a place, but an experience, the setting most central to our families, friendships and visual adventures. Sign up to receive our newsletter with special offers!