PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips

Bali home decor

Military life is colorful, but military housing is not! Your rental or on-post housing will most likely pair beige carpeting with white walls. A combination creating a 360° panorama of ho-hum. The typical military PCS every 2-3 years. Home decorating tips for the military spouse needs to make your temporary digs feel homely– cheap and easy. A little imagination and military DIY you can turn an empty box into the castle you deserve. And one you’ll enjoy coming home to for the next two or three years.

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BLD039436 PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips


Home Decorating Tips for the Military Spouse
Temporary Housing

These days you are limited only by your imagination. Decorating your military quarters is a great way to use your DIY skills. If you long for color, but dread repainting when you PCS, you have options. There are a number of inexpensive decorating techniques that might inspire you to create a home Martha Stewart herself would be proud to call her own. And while this post targets military spouses, the tips that follow can be applied to any rental or temporary housing situation.

Military Housing
Borrow from the Housing Office 

The military housing office can help furnish your temporary housing. Trust me it might not be pretty. But they can supply you with wall lockers, dining room sets, sofas, chairs, beds, and dressers. It’s a great way to PCS overseas, especially when you didn’t bring all your furniture. However, there are ways to dress up that dorm-style furniture to make it work. But be sure to return it in the same condition it was given to you. Or you may end up living with it longer than you expected.

uncomfortable-mattress PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips


Tip #1

Never, never, ever move without your mattresses. You can leave everything else, but if you have to borrow one of those hard-ass mattresses from the military housing office you will hate life no matter where you are.

Tip #2

Don’t forget to take advantage of the self-help center if you live in military housing. They provide painting supplies, seasonal flowers, and other items that will save you money in the long run.

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Paste It

If you are a DIY kind of person, applying fabric to your walls could add splashes of color and texture. Apply liquid starch to your walls using a paint roller, adhere fabric and smooth out air pockets and wrinkles to create a whole new look. When you are ready to leave, simply pull the fabric down and wipe with a damp sponge.


empty-foyer PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips
decorated-foyer PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips



Splashes of Color

If pasting sounds like too much work, paint, or staple colorful fabric to large canvasses to create depth and interest to those bare walls instead. You get the color effects and the canvasses are completely portable to use in your rental. If you still want to paint, paint an accent wall, stripes, or boxes that frame your entryway, artwork, or the sofa.

Paint wooden knobs, drawer pulls, or plain tiles with washable paint or decals. Colorful artwork, floor rugs, and knick-knacks add a lot of personality to your temporary quarters.


Tip #3

If you are in housing, ask them if your unit is scheduled to be repainted when you leave, you may not have to repaint it.

ecletic PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips


Eclectic Decor

Do you have a specific design style? I think one of the easiest styles to pull off is eclectic. It’s a mix of everything you like. Hang the textured mats, masks, photos, and paintings you’ve collected during your travels. Decorate with the Moroccan brass trays, Japanese silk tapestries, and batiks from Taiwan. Cover your floors with rice straw mats from the Philippines or a hand-woven Moroccan rug. Make collages using postcards, ticket stubs, brochures, maps… whatever interests you.

Choose photo mats that add a pop of color, resist the urge to hang a single picture when a grouping will create that WOW factor you crave. Or frame your own photography, needlepoint sketches, or children’s artwork for a personal touch.

Tip #4

Eclectic works well when transportation breaks one of anything that comes in pairs.

Stick It and Get Personal

Go from house to home using personalized vinyl decals, monograms, and personal quotations. Turn your favorite travel photo, your hometown, or a landscape that inspires you into a wall mural using paint. Check out websites like www.wallaz.com. It’s as simple as uploading a photo and choosing the size. Make sure you have a few people to help install it.

Patterns Create Interest and Warmth

Stripes, blocks, and dots are a great way to add depth and spice to your home and they are much easier to paint over when the time comes.

Don’t just limit yourself to the walls; bring the patterns down to your military rental furniture, accessories, and even the floor.

Use fabric paint on inexpensive paper lampshades, place a color-blocked throw on the back of that ugly sofa, or add a decorative rug to define specific areas in a large room that otherwise lacks a focal point.


Tip #5

When you don’t have carpet, area rugs cut down on the echo and covers the hard, cold floors. Most home decorating stores have rug remnants that they will bind for pennies.

ticket-wall-art PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips


DIY Projects

DIY projects are fun and offer an opportunity to be creative and showcase your hobbies. I love the shadow boxes I created using ticket stubs and foreign currencies we’ve collected during our travels and the planter and footstool I decoupaged from repurposed wine crates.


I love to look for second-hand furniture and decor at garage sales, bazaars, thrift stores, and antique markets. Bargains can be found everywhere, sometimes even on the side of the road.

Go Glam

I love the floor to ceiling drapes. Try covering an entire wall with them to create depth. Longer drapes can be puddled at the bottom for extra drama. Create your own curtains with “good quality sheets”, they already come with a hem you can slide a rod through. Shower curtains rods are cheaper in many cases to curtain rods. Mirrors look great on the walls, but mirrored furniture is the shiz too.

Go Green

Plants are probably my favorite decorating accessory. They are relatively inexpensive but adds dimension to dull décor and life and clean air that helps you breathe better.

Add Mood Lighting

Have you ever walked into someones’ house and all the ceiling lights were on? Did it look sterile or gives you a headache. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Add a more welcoming feeling by alternating the heights of your lighting.

The kitchen is the place most people congregate and sure you need overhead lighting in the kitchen, but add a dimmer switch for when you aren’t cooking.

If you don’t have light dimmers, create more character with uplights or small canister lights strategically placed in dark corners or behind floor plants. Use desk or floor lamps for added ambiance.

Tip #6

Stay away from white light unless you have an operating room in your home, no one looks good in that light. Opt for natural or ambient light bulbs instead.

Shop in your Boxes

Why not? My kids do it every time they come home. I know for a fact you have a couple of boxes you haven’t opened in years. Either get rid of them WITHOUT opening them or open them and see what you have and then get rid of the rest. But don’t keep carting it around from duty station to duty station.

A display of brightly colored scarves hung in your bedroom is pretty. Display those gorgeous perfume bottles or Polish Pottery you’ve been collecting for years and currently reside behind closed doors.

Tip #7

If I were you and hadn’t opened a box since the last PCS, don’t open it now. Take it directly to the Salvation Army or your post thrift shop. 

Make Space for Everyone

Make sure everyone has there own private space, even if its a seating area in their bedroom. This will go along way to creating harmony in a new home.

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Create Focal Points

Every room needs something that’s unique. Unfortunately, military quarters don’t usually come with fireplaces, chandeliers, bay windows, or cathedral ceilings. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create some drama.

Hang a huge piece of art, string Christmas light around a ball made of twigs and hang from the ceiling or a collage of mirrors in similar frames in varying sizes.

Tip #8

Join Facebook yard sale groups. You can find some great items on these sites esp. when you are overseas and people are unloading their 220V electronics and larger furniture.

Themed Rooms

Themed rooms are fun but don’t overdo it. A few well-placed items will usually do the trick. Apple wallpaper, apple curtains, apple canisters, apple throw rugs, etc, etc… will have you craving oranges in no time!


Make sure to pack the holiday decorations, your home and base may change, but the holiday décor will become a familiar and welcomed tradition. I pack my Christmas tree everywhere I go. Yeah, its 7ft and took up a lot of space in my small apartment, but I was glad I had it from November to February. Don’t judge, some of you left it up even longer.

baumholder-kit PCS Military Housing Decorating Tips


Stairwell Living

Stairwell housing can be drab. Don’t forget to decorate the entryways to your military home. A few well-placed plastic planters or flower boxes filled with brightly colored flora will liven up even the plainest stairwell or walkway.

Storage… I hate wall lockers!! Unfortunately, sometimes that’s all we have to store our clothing. Try dressing them up with fabric, shelving paper, or door mirrors. Stack the top with baskets and voila, you’ve just found a ton of vertical space.

Dress up white modular shelving with wallpaper or decoupage. Or just combine several to create the illusion of a fancy wall unit, wine rack, or shoe display.

Double-Duty Decor

I like to recycle furniture because we move so often. But I don’t want to wait until we retire to buy nice things. Buy furniture and other items that can perform two or more functions in your military housing or rental. These are just a few good examples:


  • Acquire a coffee table with storage drawers or use a steamer trunk.
  • Kimchi pots, footstool, and ottomans double as storage and extra seating.
  • Buy or make a decorative screen that can also serve as a room divider.
  • Cover glass doors with beautiful see-through self-stick vinyl to allow in the light, but also allow you some privacy.

Extra Seating

  • Buy a sofa bed instead of a sofa and throw pillows provide extra seating on the floor and hide that ugly housing furniture too.
  • A day bed can be created out of a single bed or a bench normally used outdoors—just add a few pillows.


  • Hang area rugs on the floor or the walls, as they not only add color but they provide some sound deadening.
  • Create interesting displays with your plaques, awards, coins, and flags. You earned them, so display them.
  • Use mirrors on the walls and in your furniture to reflect the light and cast sparkles of light as the sun moves around the sky.


  • Use an old door, fence section, or standing screen as a headboard.

Final Thoughts on Decorating Military Housing

Finally, don’t think matchy-matchy or dress-right-dress when it comes to decorating. Military decorating must be flexible since you will be living in houses and apartments with different layouts. Today’s nightstand might be your next end table.

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    1. duffelbagspouse

      You have to stay positive Peachy for sure. It’s a wierd thing, but when you are brought up in this life like I was (I was born on an Army base) you get an itch around the 3 year mark to get ready to go. For the most part, you don’t like where you go, and miss where you just left… every single time. Its cool though because you take something away each and every time that becomes a part of your life moving forward.

  1. Cameron

    Great tips – even for someone who might be studying abroad for a year or moving anywhere for only a short time!

    | diaryofasouthernmillennial.com

    1. duffelbagspouse

      The keys are not to spend a fortune on things you can’t take with you and make sure everyone has some space they feel is theirs.

  2. Elizabeth O.

    Moving to a new place is already so stressful what more if you would have to redecorate the whole thing. It’s not an easy life, so it’s nice that you’re giving these tips to help out! Much appreciated.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thanks Elizabeth, its a challenge but the rewards of serving and seeing the whole world make it completely worth while.

  3. Leah

    I love the DIY shadow box idea, i think I might give this one a go. I recently had a style change at home from Balinese to Hamptons. A change is as good as a holiday! 🙂

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I love both. They are both relaxed although Hamptons is beach colors and lighter woods with straight lines, right? I don’t normally change my entire style, I make tweeks to it because my style is eclectic incorporating all styles where I can. My hubby laughs because I buy statement pieces I fall in love with not knowing where I put it sometimes. But when you move every 2-3 years how can you. I have a spare bedroom thats mostly Balinese and one thats’ Manhattan loft. I blend them with coordinating colors so you don’t feel like you walked into a totally new apartment. I did recently purchase an Asian step cabinet that will be a unique addition to my current design, but I look forward to making it work. But I learned when we lived in Europe and I didn’t buy the Venetian chandelier on a trip, I never got back to that shop again, so I don’t pass up opportunities like that anymore.

  4. Janine Anne

    Wow, really great job with the decorations and placement of furnitures! Your home is lovely. <3 Thanks for sharing all these tips to us as well!

    Janine Anne

  5. Author Brandi Kennedy

    You were right – these are great tips for any sort of living situation, and several of these tips are also great ideas for maximizing small spaces as well. And that foyer transformation is amazing!

  6. JM Castro

    Lol very creative post. Makes me want to redecorate our house. I specially love the amazon wall clock and those shadow boxes you created with ticket stubs.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thanks Damaris. I am always impressed with your DIY skills, we can all take a lesson from how handy and creative you’ve made yourself.

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