Home Decor

The 4 Best Paint Colors for a Rental, According to An Interior Designer

Plus, what to do before, during, and after you paint.

June 18, 2019

Arlyn Hernandez, the editorial director at design company Style by Emily Henderson, is well acquainted with the dingy walls that often come with rental homes. At best, they’re dull. At worst, they’re stained and scuffed. And the one thread that ties them all together? The hesitancy renters can feel about making an easy fix: painting.

According to Hernandez, it doesn’t have to be this way.

“You can always just ask for permission to paint your walls and say you'll be happy to paint them back before you move out,” she says. “Sometimes, that alone will alleviate the stress of possibly angering your landlord.”

When she and her husband moved into their current rental home, a 1920s apartment in Los Angeles, Hernandez envisioned a future redesign that better reflected its period architecture and her distinct style. In short, it meant she needed to paint the walls. Hernandez wanted to stay put for a while, which she considered before any projects began, so she got the greenlight from her landlord and set about finding the right shades.

These are the four paint colors Hernandez recommends for a rental, as well as her tips to keep in mind as those hues work to transform dingy walls into refreshed backdrops.

“In general, don’t be afraid,” she notes. “Yes, it's a rental, but it's also your home, and it should be a space that makes you feel happy.”

1. White Dove

Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD. Design by Arlyn Hernandez.

White Dove by Benjamin Moore: “This is such a beautiful, rich white, and I used it in my living room,” Hernandez says. “It's on the warmer side, but definitely doesn’t go yellow at all. It has a milkiness to it that gives it some depth, even though it's white. If you want something bright without feeling sterile, I'd recommend this. Also, if you find a great paint store that's a certified Benjamin Moore retailer, there are tons of base options at different price points that can be added to the pigment to keep things affordable.”

2. Inchyra Blue

Inchyra Blue by Farrow & Ball: “Farrow & Ball does not make inexpensive paint, but the paint is very thick and goes a long way. There is no comparing other paint companies to the depth of the pigment you get with this brand,” she says. “Inchyra Blue is what I used in my dining room, and I've never been more obsessed with any color. It’s the perfect balance between blue, green, and gray. It's a very special color that would absolutely take any rental’s style up several notches.”

Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD. Design by Arlyn Hernandez.

3. Light French Gray

Light French Gray by Behr: “I love this color, especially for bedrooms,” she says. “Finding a paint color that's a good middle point between gray and blue can be tricky, especially if you don't want anything too saturated. In a rental, where you want to easily paint over a color when you move, a lighter color that still has some depth to it is your best friend. I've used this in several bedrooms.”

4. Pewter Green

Pewter Green by Sherwin-Williams: “I'm not recommending this one for a wall, but rather if you're brave enough to paint window casings, interior doors, or millwork instead,” Hernandez says, noting that it would work well if paired with the aforementioned White Dove. “It's a beautiful, modern green that's saturated but still muted. It would be so pretty on interior French doors that open up to a neutral room.”

Remember to Do This Before, During, and After You Paint

1. Get approval from your landlord.

“Do this in writing,” Hernandez says. “And if you can figure out your home’s original paint colors, take note so you can easily paint everything back accurately.”

2. Evaluate how long you plan on staying.

“If you know that your home is a short-term rental, either skip painting altogether or prepare yourself emotionally for painting everything back upon moving out,” she says. “If you think you'll stick around, then go for it, because you should absolutely love where you live, even if you don't own it.”

3. Paint swatches on the walls—yes, every single wall.

“You'd be surprised how different a color looks wall-to-wall in sunlight, and also during different times of the day,” Hernandez says. “You'll want to love your choice at all hours of the day before committing.”

4. Pay attention to paint finishes.

“If you're painting a bathroom, kitchen, or an area that either has a lot of moisture or traffic, then you'll want a paint with a higher sheen,” she notes. “Note, too, that higher glosses are much harder to apply, so you might want a pro to do this.”

5. Prep the room for painting.

“Don’t skimp on painter's tape, and tape around everything. If you can, move your furniture out of the room or to its center, and then cover it with cloths or tarps to prevent splatter,” she says. “Lastly, wipe down your walls and baseboards, because paint mixed with dust and hair doesn’t go well.”

6. Paint with purpose.

“First, ask someone at the paint store if you have the right roller for your wall’s texture,” she says. “Start painting by ‘cutting’ in the corners with an angled brush. After, just fill in the walls with the roller going top to bottom, and then one side to the next. This process will keep your paint looking smooth and professional.”

Do you have a favorite color for rental walls? Let us know in the comments.

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Kelly Dawson

Written by: Kelly Dawson

Writer and Editor