Making your rental house feel like a home: it’s a perpetual expat dilemma. On one hand, you probably want to invest your resources into exploring your new country, not into a house. Especially a house you’ll only occupy for a few years. On the other hand, two to three years is a long time to live in a place that isn’t a comfortable and pleasant refuge.
Even if you were inclined to do a lot of home improvements, most leases limit what tenants can do. Hanging pictures using regular nails is usually the only approved modification. Any other changes should only be done with written permission from the landlord. Then the tenant may be responsible for reversing the changes before vacating the residence.
How One Expat Did it
This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live out your assignment in impersonal blandness. Arzu Gradl is a German expat living in Greenville who seems to have struck a good balance. When you walk into her home you’ll see attractive touches that catch your eye. As a result, the space feels very warm and inviting. While you look around, Arzu will prepare you a perfectly foamed coffee with some cookies, and you’ll never want to leave.
Arzu shared her approach to making her rental house feel like home. She says that they did bring some furniture and decorations from Germany “to have some stuff that feels like home.” For furniture they needed to buy here, they went to Ikea since it’s a more European style and very affordable. To fluff it up with some decorative touches, her preferred stores are Marshall’s Home Goods, World Market, and of course she loves Target. Arzu is happy with the combination of their older, familiar things from Germany, and her new American purchases. She plans to take most of them back with her so that she continue to create a space that incorporates both of her homes.
Cheap and Cheerful Ideas
We’ve come up with some easy and inexpensive ways to personalize your house without costing you your security deposit:
1. Blanket ladders
One of the few good things about cold weather is wrapping up in a blanket. Buy a blanket ladder that can just lean against a wall to display pretty coverings and make them easily accessible. It will soften up a room and make it feel cozy.
2. Picture Wall
You’ll probably take lots of pictures of your adventures abroad, so dedicate a wall to them! It can be an attractive arrangement of framed photos, or try googling “DIY photo boards” for all kinds of ideas to display your favorite pics. We found this one on Amazon, but options are endless and come in many sizes. Often they allow you to switch photos in and out easily.
Baskets are attractive, functional, and another great way to make a room look more unique. In addition, they offer great storage and display possibilities.
Adding ottomans to your living room doesn’t just give you more places to rest your feet. They can add visual interest, a pop of color, or extra seating. Put trays on top and you can even use them as coffee tables.
5. Rugs and pillows
It’s easy to find inexpensive rugs and coordinating pillows to pull a room together and create an inviting feel.
You need lighting anyway. Spend the money to buy floor lamps that will enhance your decor – they’re still cheaper than large furniture. Then add some matching table lamps to tie the space together. Be sure to choose the right bulbs, as lighting is also part of your design. Use brighter, cooler lights in the kitchen bathrooms for an energetic feel. Try softer, warmer bulbs in the living room and bedrooms for a more cozy feel.
We hope this gives you some inspiration. It is possible enjoy everything your host country has to offer, and then happily come home to a place that you love.