My husband and I pride ourselves in being excellent renters. We find really cool rentals. We pray about it and we don't settle and we negotiate a price we can afford and we don't destroy anything so we always get our deposit back.
One of the things that used to get to me about renting was the sense of impermanence. I always felt like I couldn't call a place "home" because we probably wouldn't live there for over a year. Now, in our fifth rental, I can easily say I'm over it. Someday I will be in my eternal home in heaven and until then I'm a traveler living in tents that won't last no matter whether I own them or not.
That said, I have absolutely no problem with making that tent the most beautiful tent I can because I live here. My family lives here. We do life here. There is a difference in decorating a rental versus something you own. Here are a few things I've learned as a renter.
1. Our experience has been that paint can absolutely change the feel of a home and usually a homeowner won't mind a renter painting as long as the color is neutral and approved. You're not sinking a ton of money into something that you don't own, and if you're anything like me, it will make life more enjoyable.
2. Don't be too attached to your furniture. Our last rental had a very open layout and no real place to put a kitchen table, so we sold it. (not hard to do when all of your furniture came from craigslist anyway. See more on that here.) We had a coffee table and a counter top with bar stools instead and it worked great. I have been wanting a breakfast nook for years and we finally moved into a place that had the perfect spot for one, so we bought one for $75 or something like that. But, I don't expect to keep it forever. It works for this house, probably won't work for the next. nbd.
3. Vertical blinds are UGLY. Do anything you can to be rid of them, rental or not. My current window treatments cost me less than $30 per window (including hardware) from Ikea and we store the owners vertical blinds in the closets on the top shelf.
4. Sell yourself as a renter. Beat our other potential applicants for the place you want by proving you are a responsible adult, will take care of the property, and want to stay put for awhile. Landlords don't want to have to find a new renter every year; especially when they have a good one. For example, we negotiated a lower rent by signing a longer lease.
5. Make your house homey. You live there, even if you rent.