Renter Q&A: Can I Paint My Apartment?

Finding the perfect apartment is such a thrill! It’s spacious and sunny, clean and updated, and in your favorite neighborhood! Now, it’s time to make it yours. 

It’s so exciting to think about how you’ll decorate and furnish your apartment to make it your home. Maybe you’ll buy a new cozy couch and lounge chairs. And it’s definitely time to finally splurge on that cool area rug you’ve been eyeing. Perhaps you’ll become a plant person and fill your new apartment with those elusive fiddle leaf figs. 

But are you looking at those plain white walls and feeling uninspired? I get it. In my job as a leasing agent in Chicago, one of the most asked design questions renters ask is: Can I paint my apartment?

Before you get googly-eyed in front of the wall of color swatches at the home improvement store, take a few steps back. Of course, you’ll first need to get permission to paint your apartment before tapping into your inner Da Vinci. 

While most apartment owners do allow tenants to paint, it’s important to find out for sure before you start. First, take a look at the lease to see if there are any restrictions or rules about painting. If it’s not clear in the lease, ask your landlord or management office what the guidelines are. 

Questions to Ask Yourself if You do Paint Your Apartment

If your property manager says painting your apartment is okay, there are some extra questions I urge you to ask before you dive right in: 

  • Are there any fees that you’ll be charged in order to paint?
  • At the end of your lease, do you need to paint the walls with primer or back to the original color?
  • Can you do the painting yourself, or does the landlord hire a painter?
  • Are there any restrictions on paint type or color?

Harness Your Negotiating Power

Personally, I hate painting, especially when I’m busy enough moving and settling into a new place. That’s why I love recommending that renters who want to paint the walls a different color do a little negotiating. 

If you haven’t signed the lease yet and know you’ll want to paint your apartment, it’s time to persuade the landlord to sweeten the deal. Asking if the property manager can have your new apartment painted before you move in may be something they are willing to do in hopes of locking in a lease with you. 

The interior of a luxury apartment in Chicago, painted with blue walls
Some property managers will offer to custom paint your apartment as a special incentive.

If you’ve already signed your lease and are still hoping to get the landlord to paint in the color you want, you might be able to swing it. 

Rules vary, but here in Chicago, landlords aren’t required to paint apartments before a new tenant moves in unless paint is peeling or extremely damaged. But – there are lots of luxury apartment buildings I work with that do paint between leases. If freshly painting the apartment is already part of their regular turn-around routine, and if the timing is right, you might be in luck! Ask nicely, and you could get your apartment painted in your favorite color before your move-in date. 

The interior of a luxury apartment with a bold blue painted wall
An accent wall can be a great way to add some color, without the hassle and cost of painting your entire apartment.  

Tips For Painting Your Apartment

So, when you get the go-ahead to paint, here’s my best advice for painting your apartment:

1. Consider Hiring a Professional Painter

They will handle the job efficiently, will take care of the prep and clean up, and are less likely to make costly mistakes. If you ever tried DIY painting before, you know how much trouble it can be. Apartments are typically small and quick jobs for painters, and they could be more affordable than you might think.

2. If you DIY – Plan and Prepare!

Measure your space and calculate the cost and how much time it will take to complete the project. Don’t forget to factor in clean-up and drying time. There are plenty of helpful video tips and tools online, like this paint calculator.

3. Invest in Quality Painting Supplies

Purchase quality brushes – these Wooster brushes are the BEST – as well as good painter’s tape. Be generous with drop cloths too – you’ll be thankful for this later!

4. Pick Your Colors Carefully

Learn from my mistakes: do not just choose a paint color from those little swatches in the store. Consider buying a few small paint samples and do spot tests to see how different colors look in your apartment. Most importantly, see if you like the colors during daylight and at night too.

5. Choose the Right Finish

When it comes to paint finish, eggshell or satin are both good choices. For apartment walls, eggshell is an excellent option. It can hide some wall imperfections, similar to flat matte finish. But eggshell has just enough gloss to make walls easy to wipe clean. So, if you have children or pets, that’s your best bet! 

6. Finish Up With Some Self Care

When you’re all done painting your apartment and moving in, book a massage at your favorite spa. Your shoulders and back will likely need some TLC, and you can reward yourself for the extra effort to make your perfect apartment even more fantastic! 

Ready to Find Your New Apartment?

Are you looking for a new apartment in Chicago? You’ve come to the right spot. Reach out to our team of experts at Hotspot Rentals. We’ll help you find the perfect apartment and might even help you pick out your new paint colors too!