Quick and Easy Tips for Decorating Military Housing
Military families are expert transients, embracing a mobile lifestyle that relocates every few years. This skill is most evident when it comes to personalizing the various styles of housing we rent. Creating a comfortable home to suit the needs of our families is a challenge but completely doable.
Whether you choose to live in military housing or an off-base rental, creating custom décor without making permanent changes is a rite of passage for military life.
Let’s take a look at four general rules for decorating temporarily.
1) Always use and reuse what you have on hand.
Inventory the decorating items you currently own and consider their usefulness in another room using a different color coat of paint or displayed in a dramatic way. Vintage family photos arranged in a wall gallery can disguise a multitude of ugly rental sins, such as an irregularly placed light switch. Or, display that heirloom china in a pattern hung on the dining room wall. Baskets, serving trays, and framed fabric are also possibilities.
2) Join “buy nothing” and yard sale groups for free and inexpensive decorative updates.
It's difficult to justify a new decorating budget every 2-3 years. But as an active member in a buy nothing group, you’ll be exposed to new household items every day, for free! Just remember that each group has its own set of rules and regular “receivers” have to become “gifters” for the project to thrive.
Want to successfully purge and make a few extra dollars to start decorating your next home? Plan a Pre-PCS Garage Sale!
3) Focus on furniture placement.
It's a rare occurrence that the best place for a sofa, set of chairs, and a loveseat is pushed against the perimeter walls. This arrangement leaves more open space to cover and hampers communication.
Instead, create conversation space. Pull furniture pieces off the wall and arrange them into smaller zones. Two chairs plus an occasional table situated across from a larger sofa is perfect for entertaining as well as family nights spent at home.
For more help, try these furniture placement tips:
- To highlight a focal point such as a fireplace or window, arrange the furniture framing the feature.
- Provide ample space for foot traffic between furniture pieces.
- Carefully choose coffee and side tables for functionality and fashion. Place at an arm’s length for ease of use.
4) Stylize your décor.
Have you heard of the rule of three? In interior design, decorating, and other design industries, this rule emphasizes object placement. The human eye and mind appreciate a group of three objects with similar qualities which are different enough to be interesting.
Use the "rule of three" in your home décor.
A popular look from recent years is stylized open shelving, especially in kitchens— if you can manage the upkeep and dust removal schedule! Three water pitchers or a group of mixing bowls serve both as storage and as decorative elements.
Now, for the finer details of decorating!
Personalize with Paint
Paint isn’t permanent and is one of the simplest home updates you can make. The sterile white walls of military housing take on new life and personality and instantly make the house feel like home with a little sweaty equity from you. Do be careful when painting large swaths of white walls. Although the color will add personality, it could emphasize the starkness and breadth of the area.
Find out the housing company's policy about painting. They may approve it but require you repaint to housing standards on moving out or or or have specific colors you're allowed to use.
Get more tips: 3 Big Ideas to Decorate Those Large Blank Walls.
Use Removable Adhesives
Wallpaper sounds old school, complicated, and permanent, but a wide variety of temporary wallpaper is a dream come true for military families in military housing. For an instant WOW! factor, paper an accent wall to bring color and drama to a bland room and remove it before you leave.
The quality and quantity of temporary adhesive décor have evolved dramatically in recent years; the choices have expanded and reflect current trends. Wallpaper isn’t the only adhesive that can be impactful, however. These options are all temporary fixes and found in home improvement stores. Browse their online store first, as there’s usually more inventory listed than displayed on site.
- Flooring: vinyl and wood
- Wood planks for walls
- Faux tile decals
- Decorated stair risers with cut-to-fit wall or contact paper
- Kitchen backsplashes, such as subway and penny tile look-alikes
- Stainless steel sheets to cover outdated appliances
- Privacy enhancements for windows that allow light
Beyond home improvement stores, there are several small companies that produce unique temporary adhesives. A simple search online will reveal options that go beyond oversaturated trends. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. Many wallpaper products can only be applied to surfaces with certain qualities, such as walls painted with an eggshell or satin finish.
Here’s a couple of companies to get you started:
Get Hung Up
3M Command Brand created a wide variety of adhesive decorative and metal hooks as well as Velcro picture and frame hangers that can hold just about anything you wish to display on your walls. No need to get hung up worrying about the amount of patchwork that will follow the first swing of the hammer. Concern over the number of holes made in the walls of a temporary home is over, so hang your family photos and kid’s artwork!
If you're still in need of using a hammer and a nail, always go for the smallest-sized nail the project can handle to avoid unnecessary repairs upon move out. Or, check out the line of Monkey Hooks (they look like the long curve of a monkey’s arm!). They come in various sizes and create a minimum-sized hole compared to the weight they can carry—up to 50 pounds. They eliminate the need for drywall chewing plastic and metal screw anchors.
Curtains and Window Coverings
Window coverings of all kinds can make a marked improvement in the warmth and personality of an otherwise drab room. The 3M Command Brand hooks work well here, too. Adhere hooks on each side of the window to support a rod and the weight of the curtains, instead of drilling large holes to place brackets. A wide variety of options are found both online and in most home décor stores, providing an easy way to express your personality without worry.
If you're still dragging around the varied curtain collection from previous homes, use a designer’s eye to see if a custom cut or dye job will freshen their appeal. A simple switch in the traditional curtain location could also spark creativity. For instance, try your lace kitchen sheers in the guest bathroom.
Pro tip: You might just be able to convert a fabric shower curtain into a window curtain. Watch the length (shower curtains tend to be shorter) and how you’ll hang them. Either weave a rod through the slats in the fabric or choose hangers that don’t scream “bathroom.”
Invest in Area Rugs
Even if your housing has wall-to-wall carpeting, buy a rug pad designed to be placed between carpeting and rugs and set the decorating scene by grounding the room, particularly if the ceilings are high or vaulted. A thick rug pad also elevates an inexpensive or thin rug to the next level, adding a bit of luxury.
Area rugs are versatile; they help with warmth and comfort and add color to military housing that is probably very neutral in color. High traffic areas such as the kitchen, mudroom, or entryway can benefit from a quality indoor/outdoor area rug that's easily cleaned with soap and a scrub brush outside and left to air dry.
Swap Out Light Fixtures and Cabinet Hardware
You'll find a significant difference from a simple change in a light fixture or updated hardware on cabinets. Plenty of stores, from boutiques to discount chains, carry a wide variety of cabinet hardware at different price points. The same is true for overhead lighting. Both quickly update the look of any kitchen or bathroom.
Again, it’s best to ask the housing office before making any of these changes, but don’t be afraid to suggest the benefits of what a couple of coats spray can do for an outdated metal chandelier for you and the next tenant!
If you switch out fixtures, keep all of the original fixtures and hardware on hand to replace as the move-out date approaches.
Think Like a Homeowner
For military families, it's essential to create an environment that feels like home, regardless of how temporary your stay. Looking at the house as if it were your own allows you to consider the changes you would like to make while also factoring in the ability to execute changes without an exorbitant cost or permanency.
As the rental home industry continues to boom across the country, home maintenance and decorating companies are developing modern products and conveniences to make it easier than ever to turn military housing into a home that feels like your own.