January 18, 2018

DESIGN: Making the Most of Your College Rental

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One of the best aspects of college is the chance to live on your own. Not only are you free of the restrictions your parents imposed on you for the last 18 or so years, you’re also free to decorate your new home however you want to.

Whether you’re living in campus housing or renting your first apartment, it’s wise to think twice about the way you style and treat your new abode. When the lease is up and it’s time to hand in the key and get your deposit back, the last things you want are hundreds of tiny holes in the walls and the faintest silhouette of stripes from when you temporarily went through a nautical phase, and then painted it over with white.

There are ways to let your personality and taste shine through in your first home away from home, without sacrificing the integrity of your dorm or rental. Heed our advice, and you’ll be happily taking back your entire chunk of deposit change on moving day.


Color is one of the keys to happiness. We don’t blame you for wanting to paint over the hospital-white walls that surround you. But how can you express your color creativity and still make sure the landlord doesn’t balk at your choices later on?

Simple – you choose lighter colors that are easy to paint over when the time comes for you to move out. Avoid bright, garish colors, as well as patterns. Neutrals such as gray, beige or cream always work, or try colors such as:

  • Baby blue;
  • Sunlight yellow;
  • Light green.

Think pastels and not bolds or patterns for walls, and you’ll have no trouble painting over them when it’s time to leave the place the way you found it.

Wall Hanging

Even if you decide not to paint over the white walls that your new home came with, there are plenty of other ways you can spruce things up. Hanging up art, photos and other tidbits of your personality can certainly help make your house (or dorm room) feel more like a home – but at what cost? If you want to receive your entire deposit at the end of your lease, it’s important not to leave holes or scars in the walls from nails. Fortunately there are other ways to hang items so the walls won’t be harmed.

  • Putty. Go buy a package of poster putty. It’s great for hanging posters and other lightweight materials, and it won’t damage your walls when you peel it off later.
  • Double-sided Mounting Tape. Most double-sided tape will hold your decorative items to the wall without harming the paint job. You might want to do a little research – there are numerous brands and styles, some of which can leave behind residue or peel off paint.

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Furniture and Accents

Your first apartment away from home might be temporary, but you still want it to feel like a home. Decorate with furniture and other items that express your style – but that you can take with you when your lease is over.

  • Solid-colored chairs, sofas and ottomans. Let the larger pieces of furniture in the room be the focal points of color, especially if you’ve decided not to paint the walls. If you crave bold colors, a bright sofa or chair can do the trick.
  • Rugs. Nothing livens up a bare floor like a colorful, fun area rug. Whether you are dealing with cheap, rental carpet or some other surface that begs to be covered, try putting a rug down to warm up the room and complement the furniture.
  • Pillows and throws. You can say a lot with a pillow. Decorative pillows and throws can make the difference between a living space being dull and having character. Best of all, you don’t need to hold back with pillows and throws – so make them as loud and bright as you want to.


Imagine the day you move out of your apartment or dorm and move on to the next phase of your life. Will you be prepared to leave the place in great condition? If you keep up with your home the entire time you live in it – instead of scrambling to get everything done before you turn in the keys – you and your landlord are more likely to feel satisfied with the results.

  • Dust and clean the baseboards and fans. Keep the baseboards or ceiling fan blades clean and dust-free so they don’t look grubby and horrible at the end. Run a damp cloth over them every now and then to keep them sparkling.
  • Clean up spills when they happen. When something gets spilled – whether it’s on the floor or inside a cabinet – make sure it is promptly wiped up and doesn’t leave stains.
  • Fix up whatever went wrong. If you keep up with your home all along, there should not be too many things to fix at the end. Even so, it’s best to be prepared. Paint the walls with an extra coat, if necessary, and fill up tiny holes in the walls if you need to. Wall spackling kits do the job much more professionally than toothpaste!

Your first rental home is a place to show pride in your style and have some fun. But taking responsibility and keeping up with the appearance of where you live is important – especially if you want to get your deposit money back.

Angelo DiGangi is a Home Depot sales associate and is also a contributor on furniture and other decor for the Home Depot Home Decorators.com website. For a complete selection of area rugs available at Home Depot, click here.

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