Renting a new home or apartment can be an invigorating opportunity to start anew — but moving all your crap out of boxes and into piles on the floor is only the first step. Eventually, you’ll face the grim reality that your bare, colorless walls are morbidly depressing, you have no shelves for said piles of crap, and — unless your pad is newly renovated — your bathroom’s going to need some upgrades.

It sounds like a daunting and time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be. These 12 easy hacks will help turn your new domicile into a place you’ll be proud to call home… until your landlord raises the rent.

1. Use painter’s tape to make your walls awesome

Price: $3-$10
Materials needed: Painter’s tape

Approximate time: One to two hours

Grab a roll of painter’s tape, try to remember the basic geometry you assuredly forgot, and get to creating something incredibly unique and awesome.

2. Set the mood with a light dimmer

Price: $10-$20
Materials needed: Dimmer, voltage tester
, screwdriver
Approximate time: 30-45 minutes

Although this seems moderately dangerous and frightening, it’s actually super easy with the right tools (namely, a voltage tester). Here’s the abridged version: turn off your circuit breaker, remove the old switch, check the wires with aforementioned voltage tester, install the new dimmer switch, screw on the faceplate, and voila. You can now ask, with full confidence, “shall we dim the lights?” But you probably shouldn’t.

3. Ditch your old shower head for an upgrade

Price: $15-$40
Materials needed: shower head, sealant tape, wrench (possibly)
Approximate time: 15 minutes

A new shower head will change your life. You know those really crappy, ubiquitous shower heads that spray a powerful stream onto your ceiling, your shower curtain, your foot, and sometimes your body?

They suck. Upgrade to an adjustable seven-setting massager, and never look back. Worried about installation? Don’t be. You just unscrew the old one, throw on some pipe thread tape, and screw on the new one. The results aren’t unlike a Pantene Pro-V commercial.

4. Install a tap light, never stub your toe again

Price: $8
Materials needed: Tap light
, common sense
Approximate time: Three seconds

Throw an inexpensive tap light up in a dark hallway (or closet) and never again wake up your roommates/significant other when you stub your toe and start sobbing uncontrollably. No tools required, just some batteries and common sense.

5. Hanging strips > nails

Price: $5
Materials needed: Hanging strips

Approximate time: One to two minutes

Use hanging strips instead of nails. Hanging strips are great tools for throwing up a couple of pictures here and there and won’t leave any mess behind. Seriously, they won’t even pull off the paint when you have to remove them. Peel, stick, hang, high-five.

6. Install custom shelves that look professional

Price: $20-$? (depending on how many shelves you want)
Materials needed: IKEA brackets, wood, wood stain
Approximate time: One to two hours hours installation (the stain will take a few hours to set)

There are lots of directions you can take when installing shelves, but a personal favorite of mine is to measure where you want the shelves, buy the wood (and have it cut), stain it, and then use simple metal shelf brackets to create a really professional look that installs quickly and looks great.

7. Solve your closet woes with steel plumbing tube

Price: ~$60
Materials needed: Steel plumbing tube
Approximate time: About an hour

If you happen to move into a room without a closet, you’re going to need to get creative.  Constructing a garment rack out of steel plumbing pipes is a really simple way to accomplish this. Best part, it requires no drilling or tools whatsoever.

8. Stop hanging your art wrong

Price: Varies
Materials needed: Tape measure, ART

Approximate time: Varies

Always hang your art at 57” on center. This basically means that (for single pieces of art) you want the center of the piece to be at 57” high. For multiple pieces of art, you’ll want them surrounding a focal point of 57”. Check the video for a more in-depth and concise example.

9. Paint!

Price: ~$20 per gallon
Materials needed: Paint, paintbrushes, good music, beer
Approximate time: Depends on size of room, how much beer you drink

So you’ve got four white walls and a dim flickering light sending an ominous glow off your eggshell-colored ceiling. If you aren’t an admirer of the mental institution vibe, throw a couple layers of paint up (ask your landlord first, though). It’s instant gratification, and if you’re conflicted about what color to go for, check out this great app that will show you what different colors look like in different rooms.

10. For God’s sake, get a new toilet seat

Price: $10-$30
Materials needed: Toilet seat, screwdriver
Approximate time: Five minutes

Toilet seats are, by nature, indescribably boring and kinda gross — especially when it’s not yours. You sit on them. Sometimes leave them up. Sometimes put them down. Sometimes pee on them. But throwing a custom one in your privy can really go a long way, and they usually aren’t that expensive (unless you want something not-gaudy-at-all, like this guy). Also, it’s just two screws to remove/install. Approx time:  one minute.

11. Put mirrors, mirrors on the walls

Price: $10-$? (depending on how many mirrors you want)
Materials needed:  Mirror, screwdriver
Approximate time: Varies by number of mirrors you want

Mirrors will give the illusion that your space is much bigger than it actually is, and if you live in a tin city apartment, this is a very real necessity. If you live in a mansion, well, congratulations. Can we be friends? I’ll bring some mirrors.

12. Give your bed a lift

Price: $11
Materials needed: bed risers

Approximate time: Five minutes

Bed risers are super cheap and can boost your bed’s clearance by 6 to 8in. They’re perfect for storing bins, building forts, or lifting up other four-posted pieces of furniture that aren’t beds. Like chairs, maybe.




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