Quick and Easy Tips for Decorating Military Housing
Military families are expert transients, embracing a mobile lifestyle that relocates every few years. This is most evident as it pertains 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 in an off-base rental, creating custom decor without making permanent changes is a rite of passage of military life.
Quick & Easy Decorating Ideas to Make Military Housing a Home
Let’s take a look at a few general rules for decorating on a temporary basis.
1) Always use and reuse what you have on hand.
Inventory the decorating items you currently own and consider their usefulness in another room, with 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, finally 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. As an active member in a buy nothing group, you’ll be exposed to new household items everyday, for free! Just remember that each group has their own set of rules and regular “receivers” have to become “gifters” for the project to thrive.
Want to successfully purge before your move? Plan a Pre-PCS Garage Sale!
3) Focus on furniture placement.
With strategic placement of furniture, the need for highly individualized decorating decreases. 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 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.
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 that have similar qualities, yet are different enough to be interesting. For example, three heights of candlesticks on a mantle or a collection of various shapes of three milk glass vases on a window sill. Coffee and entryway tables are two more logical places to stylize with decorative groups of three items.
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. Do be careful with the large swaths of white walls. Although color will add personality, it could emphasize the starkness and breadth of the area.
You’ll also have to seek the blessing of the homeowner to make paint updates to a privately owned home. You’re far more likely to be approved to use a color from a neutral paint family, and may not have to repaint upon departure if the paint is an overall improvement to the property.
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 or an off-base rental home. For an instant WOW! factor, paper an accent wall to bring color and drama to a bland room and remove it before you leave.
Vinyl décor hit the design market a few years ago and was an answer for military families who wished to put their personal touch on their home. This is an excellent option for decorating children’s rooms to create a unique space. For elegant style, a simple monogram near the entry of the home says, “Home is where the military sends us.”
The quality and quantity of temporary adhesive decor has evolved dramatically in recent years; the choices have expanded and reflect current trends. Wallpaper isn’t the only adhesive that can be impactful, however. Here are more possibilities that 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 a number of 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, as many products can only be applied to surfaces with certain qualities, such as walls that are painted with an eggshell or satin finish.
Get Hung Up
Concern over the number of holes made in the walls of a temporary home are over, so hang family photos and kid’s artwork. 3M Command Brand carries 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.
But, if you are 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 a variety of 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
Curtains and valances 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 that will 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. But, if you are 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. Try your lace kitchen sheers in the guest 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.
Area rugs are versatile; they help with warmth, comfort, and add color to a home that is probably very neutral in color. High traffic areas such as the kitchen, mudroom, or entryway certainly benefit from a quality indoor/outdoor area rug that can be easily cleaned with soap and a scrub brush outside and left to air dry.
Swap Out Light Fixtures and Cabinet Hardware
There's a significant difference that comes from a 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 landlord or base housing office prior to making any of these changes and, of course, 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. There is a high probability that several temporary solutions will bring instant happiness to you as the tenant, and instant improvement to the house itself.