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decorating tips for renters.
some decorating tips i've learned after renting for many, many years. with a bit of imagination, a rental always has the ability to become a real and very personal home.
what really makes a house a home? it’s not necessarily a mortgage, is it? we’ve all rented at one point in our lives, and until i bought my home in echo park, i’d rented my entire life. and now that i’ve sold it, i’m back in a rental in laguna beach. so i’ve been there — and am actually quite happy to be renting again. once you’ve found your dream apartment or home, that’s when it’s time to really make it uniquely your own.
you know how when you’re just starting out in an apartment, maybe decorating for the first time and you’re feeling a little cautious or limited? maybe you’ve got boring budgets to contend with, or perhaps because you’re in a rental so you don’t want to do anything too permanent. i think that’s quite alright — it’s sometimes wise to take things slowly, adding elements to our homes over time, rather than all at once. this process ensures you make far fewer decorating faux pas and get it just right, rather than wasting your budget with snap decisions. it can also be much more gratifying and fun to go slowly as you decorate, revising plans and tweaking your ideas as your awareness of your design aesthetic becomes more clear. i love making mood boards on pinterest of my design dreams and find them most helpful in narrowing down the vibe i want to achieve.
with this in mind, i thought i’d share a few things i’ve learned over the years to add a bit more style to a rental with some easy and inexpensive projects that you can do to completely change the look of a room without spending a ton of cash. and, they’re decorating ideas that are easy fixes — ensuring that if you grow tired of them, or decide you want a change it’s no big deal. things like paint, for instance, are always an easy fix if your landlord approves (i’ve very often offered to pay for the paint just to get them on board — even if that just means a fresh coat of white paint).
a few easy and inexpensive fixes:
• if your landlord says yes, paint! i think i once painted a bathroom three times, so while the room may have shrunk with all the many layers of paint (ha!) the mood change was always a pretty easy and affordable transition. if they’ll allow you to improve the rental, ask about installing shelving — i’ve done that a few times (like these just below) and often left the rentals better than when i arrived.
• add unique lighting. paper and linen lanterns are really inexpensive and with a lighting kit you can create gorgeous mood lighting that’s easy to hang, with no need for hard wiring. and just as easy to take them with you should you move. i even covered the old kitchen fixture with a japanese paper lantern and love the look.
• fresh flowers and plant cuttings can make a huge difference. i try to hit the flower mart at least a couple of times a month for inexpensive branches and flowers. or go wild, and forage the hillsides for your own branches.
• if you aren’t allowed to put nails in your walls, consider 3m command strips — they remove easily and don’t leave marks on your walls. however, if you want to look très chic and effortlessly cool, simply lean your artwork against the walls or cabinets and dressers. i swear, it looks great.
• use functional furniture doubling as storage or multi-tasking — think perfect space savers for smaller apartments — like trunks doubling as coffee tables for instance. daybeds are a good solution — perfect for seating but also ideal for last-minute sleepovers. ikea has got great design and loads of super affordable options for storage furniture. look there for easy and useful storage solutions.
• accessorize! pillows and rugs can make a dull room come to life. there are so many textile options online these days, so let your keyboard do the walking. or, if you’re handy, get out your sewing machine and make your own pillows. vintage fabrics found at the flea market and etsy make for beautiful, one-of-a-kind pillows. i like layering my rugs, too — in this case, i have a vintage moroccan rug over a simple sisal rug.
• speaking of vintage flea market finds: i found this mirror, pottery collection, and the vintage portrait paintings below for next to nothing. i’ve also found dressers and chairs super cheap on etsy and craigslist. even beat-up old pieces like the dresser below when given a coat of glossy black paint can look fabulous. a very small investment for a quart of paint and a little elbow grease.
• books! for me, what really makes a house a home are my books. they’re like best friends i just can’t part with. arrange them by spine color for a really cohesive and good-looking bookshelf. or, seek out those little nooks and crannies (especially unique in older apartments) and stack your books and magazines for a great look.
• if you’ve got rather unsightly wall heaters consider hiding them in a creative way. i cover mine when not in use with a ladder and vintage blankets. and when i need the heat on, i simply move the ladder aside. easy!
it’s exciting to finally take some chances with your design plans as you get more comfortable with your taste — after all the hard work you put in to accomplish your goals around renting your home, it’s time to start to have a little fun with your decorating — and without spending a ton of money. and remember, it’s always a creative work in progress. no need to rush it. half the fun is in the creating.
• photography credits: all photos by victoria smith for sfgirlbybay.