So You Want to Change Your Apartment’s Paint Colors.

PS if you think this looks good, you may want to skip this article. (via

Do you want to change the colors of your apartment? I encounter a lot of renters who do.  Standard issue "Landlord White" is a pretty boring and sterile color. Many renters these days are coming back from being homeowners, while others have grown up watching HGTV decorating shows and want to assert their own style in their living space.

Some landlords, especially the larger management firms, may allow you to pick from a palette of soft, neutral colors when you move in. Others just go with the "any color you like as long as it's white" route. Either way, if your tastes run towards bold colors you're probably not going to find much love in the apartment market. White paint is cheap and gives apartments a nice, clean look, so it's become the industry standard for new apartments. Unfortunately, landlords learn quickly that tenants love to use funky colors but vanish when it's time to put them back to normal. It may be difficult to find a landlord who's willing to cooperate with you in achieving your decorating ideas.

Even so, if you want to try and change the colors, here's the route to take:


  1. Read your lease for any "no painting" rules or "no painting without landlord's permission" rules or "seriously, don't paint or we will set you on fire" rules. Know what you're up against.
  2. If it says "no painting without landlord's permission" or if it says nothing at all about paint, you've got a chance.
  3. Count all of the different surfaces and different types of paint in your apartment now. You probably have at least 3 or 4. Flat or eggshell on most of the walls, gloss on the trim, semi-gloss in the bathrooms & kitchen, and oil-based heat-sensitive paint on the steam radiators if you have them. You will have to either paint, cut in, or otherwise protect these surfaces. Do not plan to paint anything that is still natural wood, exposed brick, or other raw surfaces. Painting over raw surfaces make the baby Jesus cry.
  4. Go get a paint chip and price the paint you want. Make sure to ask the shop clerk what the cost of your paint color will be, and what type of paint will work best for interior walls. Don't forget about primer. While you're at it, ask how much it will cost you in white paint to put it back again when you're done, because it will be expected.
  5. Present the paint chip, the type and brand of paint, and the plan for which rooms you are going to paint to your landlord. Politely. Expect that you will have to paint it back to its original color when you leave. Don't forget to save time to do so when you're moving out, and remember that painting white over dark colors takes several coats.

    Or just get a whole bunch of paint chips and some blue tack like these folks. (via Pageslap)

  6. Remember that your landlord will probably exceed your security deposit in costs if she has to restore it after you leave. Remember that excessive damages that go beyond the deposit can be billed back to you.
  7. Make your shopping list. Make sure it includes brushes, rollers, paint trays, painters tape, drop cloths, a step ladder, face masks, paint and primer. Set aside some clothing that you don't mind getting covered in paint. Tally up the cost before you dive in.
  8. Take that cost, plus the hourly wage you'd pay yourself for the time required to paint and the time required to put it back at the end lease. Double it to include the cost of repainting it with white before you leave. Divide it up by the number of months you plan to stay in the apartment. That's how much you'll be paying per month for new paint.
  9. Remember to save enough time after you move out to restore the apartment. This may mean you'll have to start your lease on your next apartment earlier than normal in order to get your stuff out of the way.
  10. If you've read all of this and still want to paint, have at it, have fun, and send pictures when you're done!