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Transforming College Rentals: Innovative Solutions for Outdoor Space

Charlie Fletcher

Transforming College Rentals: Innovative Solutions for Outdoor Space

Transitioning to off-campus housing is an exciting endeavor for many college students. As you prepare to leave dorm life behind, it is important to understand what living on your own truly entails. Part of this process includes how to optimize your new space. Though students tend to prioritize the inside of their new homes when decorating, creating an enjoyable outdoor space is important as well.

Getting some sun, connecting with nature, and having a relaxing place to study or nap outside of your bedroom can really make all the difference. Let’s examine some of the best ways to transform your new outdoor space into a mini oasis for you and your roommates.

Picking the Right Furniture

Since outdoor space is likely limited at your off-campus rental, the furniture you use should be multi-functional. Choose seating that doubles as storage and can seat multiple people. Many outdoor sectional sofas have storage under the cushions and take up much less space than using multiple chairs. You can also place convertible tables on your balcony or patio that can be extended or shortened depending on how many guests you have. This is great for outdoor study sessions that turn into dinners.

Including stackable chairs can be helpful to reserve space, especially if you’re prone to having large gatherings. Since they are also easily transportable, you can quickly bring them inside should a big storm arrive.

Other fun furniture options to consider are:

  • A porch swing;
  • A portable fire pit;
  • A bar table with bottle storage.

When purchasing furniture, be sure to choose items that are weather-resistant. Since rain is inevitable, you’ll want furniture that can dry quickly and isn’t easily damaged. Consider purchasing a tarp as well in case you’d like to add some extra protection.

Choosing the Decor

The decor you choose should also be functional while adding life to your outdoor space. Lighting is a simple yet impactful way to jazz up a backyard or balcony. Hanging lanterns are a chic and bohemian choice that adds a sprinkle of whimsy to small balconies. As an eco-friendly option, you can also line your fence, walkway, or garden space with a collection of solar lights. Consider footlights to softly illuminate the ground at night, which adds a pinch of warmth without disturbing your neighbors.

Flowers, plants, and small gardens also liven up a bare outdoor space. Small veggie garden boxes and ornamental gardens add freshness and beauty while giving you a fun weekend hobby to attend to. Opt for easy-to-grow plants that don’t take up much room, such as herbs, peonies, or coneflowers.

Zones with Purpose

Zoning is a crucial component of optimizing your outdoor space. One way to do this is by adding a pergola to your patio space, which can double as a means of shelter from rain. Pergolas are also great for balconies as well. Consider adding a small patch of faux grass to add dimension under the pergola if you only have a balcony and not a backyard.

You can also create specific spaces for lounging, eating, and studying. Think about keeping the area under the pergola for studying, since shade is required for viewing your laptop and is necessary for extended work sessions. Place lounging furniture and accessories, such as a hammock, over a place in the yard that is naturally shielded by trees.

Plants and gardens can also help you create these zones. Adding a planter with a trellis can separate your lounging and dining areas. This is also quite easy to dismantle when moving. Using freestanding box hedges can also visually aid in creating specific backyard zones.

Things to Keep in Mind

Styling a beautiful space for you and your roommates is essential, but there are factors you should keep in mind while decorating your new home.


Since many college students choose to move frequently, it is important to stick to a strict budget when outfitting your new outdoor space. Try searching online marketplaces for secondhand items or visiting your local thrift store. If you’re purchasing new items, consider getting low-cost furniture and decor that can be easily resold if you decide to move and cannot take them with you. Be sure to discuss with your roommates how everything will be divided and paid for before getting anything for your balcony, backyard, or patio.

Renovation Capacity

Many apartments will not allow you to perform significant work on your space during your lease. However, if you are renting a house, the property owner may be a bit more flexible. If you are thinking about tackling a renovation project for your long-term rental, it should make sense for the duration of your stay and your free time.

Beware of addressing any projects that require electrical work as well. You should generally avoid DIY electrical work, as you may not be able to do renovations that are up to inspection codes and may end up creating additional fire hazards. Always consult your property manager if you come across any electrical hazards during your stay.

Also, tread lightly when it comes to adding outdoor fixtures or appliances. If you’re going to be renting the space throughout your college career and you drive an electric vehicle, for example, it’s tempting to add a charging station. At the average home’s electricity rate of $0.16 per kilowatt hour, you’re looking at a cost of $16 to charge the car. This will save you money when you’re driving to school. It doesn’t hurt to ask the homeowner — a charging station could add value to the home as well.

Your Neighbors

Even if you’re moving into a neighborhood that primarily consists of other students, you should always be considerate of other residents. Many living situations can require you to share an outdoor space with other tenants. Before making any significant changes, update your neighbors and be sure they are comfortable with the alterations. This is especially relevant if you plan on adding a garden space, as folks can have specific allergies that can prevent you from growing certain plants.

Transforming your new outdoor area into a small luxurious space can be easy with a bit of imagination and collaboration. Decorating your backyard and balcony can be a fun bonding opportunity with your new roommates. It can also make a huge difference in turning your new space from a mere short-term rental to a comfortable, temporary home.

SEE ALSO: Tips to Build Your Professional Network as a Student

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