Apartment Living: Don’t be Afraid to Drill


The accepted wisdom, when you’re renting an apartment, is that you’re very limited in what you can do in terms of decoration, renovation, and personalization. You don’t own the space, so investing money into a serious renovation makes no sense, of course you’ll lose the value of your investment when you move out, and since you don’t own the apartment you can’t even be certain when that will be.

That makes sense. But this also usually includes a stern warning not to do anything even remotely permanent, which often results in trying to make a small space work despite having no built-in storage and filling the floor with clunky free-standing furniture pieces because you’re worried about losing your security deposit if the landlord doesn’t approve. The fact is, with just minimal handyman skills you can install storage and other built-in elements in your rental without any risk of being penalised for it.

Step One: Paint

The first step is to paint your apartment. If at all possible, do it yourself. If you can’t do it yourself, ask your landlord if they have any paint left over, or, at minimum, if they can tell you where they bought the paint and the exact colour used. This not only gives the apartment a fresh, clean start, it’s also going to come in very handy when you need to fix up some minor things when you move out. Plus, of course, you’ll also get to live surrounded by a colour you like instead of a colour your landlord thinks is appropriate.

Step Two: Drill

There’s no getting around it: Installing some shelving on the walls and in those odd negative spaces in old apartments is the easiest and most efficient way to get storage, especially in a small space. But many people hesitate because they worry the landlord won’t approve. You should of course get permission before doing anything, but don’t worry fixing those drill holes is easy.

Step Three: Repair

After enjoying your space, talk to your landlord about the shelving or other storage. They may actually like it and be willing to just leave it in place if you won’t need the materials in your next place. If they do require you to return the apartment to its original state, simply unscrew everything and fill the drill holes with standard joint compound or spackle. If you’ve created a larger hole (perhaps by guessing where the studs were located) you can purchase a wall patch at any hardware store. Cover all holes and patches with joint compound, using the blade of the applicator to smooth it down on the wall. Allow it to dry, then sand it lightly with fine-grit sandpaper until it’s smooth and level with the rest of the wall surface. Then paint the whole wall using the matching paint you’ve either saved or had re-mixed at the store.

Just because a space is temporary is no reason to live in a poorly-designed apartment with insufficient storage. While you do always need the owner’s permission when working on their property, there’s really no other reason not to be a bit creative and ambitious when it comes to personalizing the space you’re living in.