We all have an ideal image of what “home” looks like, so it’s easy to feel out of place when we’re in spaces that don’t meet that ideal or that feel temporary, like small rentals and apartments. You aren’t bound to the limits you perceive in your apartment, though. Home is an experience—it’s what you make of it, not what boundaries it seems to impose upon you. With a little bit of creativity and effort, you can make your apartment really look and feel like home. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Design for Use

The difference between a home and just another room is how much you really dwell in it. If you’re ready to think of your apartment as a living space and not just where you crash at night, start designing your environments around their utility. Approach kitchen improvement projects around making it easier and more fun to cook and host company, tackle your bedroom as a pursuit of true coziness and relaxation, and think of your living room as a great leisure space just waiting to emerge from the blank canvas of the floor plan.

Color and Light

The cheapest, most functional way to establish a real decorative aesthetic is with careful color and lighting concepts. Look into whether your lease allows you to paint the walls. A fresh coat of the right color can really personalize a room. Even if you’re not allowed to paint, you can start thinking of other kinds of decor along a color scheme that makes your home feel more intentional and personal. It’s also a good idea to have plenty of lighting to open up each room and make the space feel more inviting.

Think Beyond the Now

Even if a given apartment is just a temporary arrangement, that doesn’t mean everything in it has to be temporary as well. When you furnish and decorate your space, invest in items you’ll want to see in your next home as well. By putting the effort and money into your belongings now, you’ll feel literally and emotionally more invested in the space, plus you’ll be less likely to have to start from the beginning the next time you move. Every chair, poster and candlestick can be the start of a continuous story, rather than just a lost chapter.

Add Some Life

Tending to your space or something within it is a great way to make your rental feel like home. When you’re ready, bring a pet or some plants into the apartment so you’ll have something you can help thrive in your environment. If you opt for something practical like a small garden of fresh herbs like mint and basil, you’ll also have another reason to step into the kitchen and make your home a source of physical and spiritual nourishment. Apartment gardens are often as easy as a few potted plants on a windowsill, or even a small DIY project to install a floating shelf near a source of light.

Match the Mismatched

Especially when you’re just starting out, it’s pretty common to have a mishmash of furniture acquired more out of convenience than an eye for catalog perfection. Making a matching set just takes a little extra work, though. If you have wood, plastic or metal furniture, a fresh coat of paint can make them into companion pieces. Leather and fabric seating are good options for slip covers an upholstery, which will also increase the longevity of furniture that’s either at risk of wear or is worn already. Taking on these small-scale DIY projects is not only a fulfilling and productive use of leisure time, it’s also a great way to develop new skills that will serve you well when you’re ready to take on larger home improvement projects in the future.

No matter how small your apartment or how short your stay, there are plenty of things you can do to improve and customize your space. A little effort and TLC will definitely make your rental feel like a home you’re happy to call your own.

Read the full article at Apartments/Renter Resources.