8 easy ways to update your rental


On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Marianne Sides, who moved from Apex, North Carolina, to New York in February 2021, also busy himself by remodeling his pre-war apartment to showcase some of its original charm. She frequently shares home makeovers and styling tutorials with her Instagram audience of over 50,000.

Sides and Fletchall have built full-time careers that largely revolve around maintaining an aesthetically pleasing living space. But, like many New Yorkers, the two women rent their apartments. This can complicate things when it comes to making updates.

“I always view the changes I make to my home as investments in my business,” says Sides, who, with her landlord’s permission, has painted her apartment, installed crown molding and new light fixtures, and wallpapered. , among other changes. .

Imani Keal of Imani at Home says rental apartments — like her own studio in DC’s Glover Park — occupy a specific niche on social media. Keal considers major (and expensive) home repairs by established design influencers who own their homes to be more ambitious than realistic. “They talk about things you can do three to five years from now, five to seven years from now. I’m talking about DIYs and changes you can make this weekend,” she says. Keal made several changes to her apartment, including adding wallpaper, changing all the light fixtures, and turning off her bathroom faucet.

Sides, Fletchall and Keal have benefited from landlords who are open to them to make reversible, tenant-friendly changes. And, in Fletchall’s case, a written proposal and careful planning led to a former landlord accepting the equivalent of three months’ free rent in exchange for Fletchall remodeling the apartment’s kitchen at his expense. Adjustments included installing new cabinet fronts from Semihandmade, adding a faux marble laminate countertop with overhang from Ikea, and replacing the upper cabinets with a custom plywood solution. “Our kitchen hadn’t been updated since the ’80s, so while everything was fine, it wasn’t a space I wanted to show off,” Fletchall says. “Everything changed, of course, with the redesign.”

Keal ran into a similar situation with his faucet upgrade. “When I told my landlord what I wanted to change, he offered to do the work,” she says. “They were great, and it only took a few hours. Plus, I saved a lot of money.

The three women agree that, even if they weren’t making money by sharing their homes on social media, they would still personalize their rental spaces. “My apartment would constantly change and evolve,” Keal says. “I’m bored and it’s fun for me. I like changing apartments.

We asked Keal, Sides and Fletchall what rental upgrades they would suggest prioritizing. Here are their recommendations.

Tackle the lighting. Sides suggests replacing basic overhead lights with a decorative medallion and statement lighting. Or use a simple hook to hang a plug-in lamp in a corner. “Run the cord down the ceiling and down the wall inside a cord cover painted to match your walls,” she says. Sconces can also be made to look like they’re hardwired to the wall with a simple trick, Sides says. Hang them with small nails, then place battery-operated puck lights inside the lampshades. You can use a remote control to turn them on and off.

Install a faux molding. Sides and Fletchall have both added tenant-friendly wall moldings to their units. “My love affair with casting began when we moved into our first apartment in Brooklyn in 2015,” says Fletchall. “The living room had beautiful picture frame moldings which we were able to emulate in the rest of the apartment after a few years of living in the space.” Fletchall uses a nail gun to install the molding and fills the holes with putty. This allows for easy removal and eliminates any residue you might get from using mounting tape or Velcro hanger strips.

Take advantage of the peel and stick options. “Cover outdated floors with patterned tiles or faux hardwoods, create a wall with wallpaper, and update a backsplash with peel-and-stick marble tiles,” Sides says, adding that she particularly likes the look. classic black and white checkerboard. model. She is also a fan of neutrals; in her current location, she opted for beige printed tiles.

Consider contact paper. “Use contact paper to change the look of kitchen floors, counters, backsplash, and even cabinets,” says Fletchall. “I like more traditional styles, … especially in soft colors.”

Add a fireplace surround. Both sides and Fletchall installed fake coats in their spaces. Sides bought a standalone one from Facebook Marketplace. “I wanted a fireplace that could feel authentic to the original building, something with a European or vintage aesthetic with lots of unique character,” she says. “I centered the wall molding around the fireplace, so it felt almost integrated into our apartment, and added the insert inside with battery-operated candles to give it a cozy feel. .”

Turn off the cabinet hardware. Updating drawer and cabinet knobs and pulls is a simple yet effective way to refresh your space. And when it comes to choosing a style, “I would suggest sticking with what you like,” says Fletchall. “If you tend to gravitate toward gold, opt for unlacquered brass knobs and pulls.” She says she’s not afraid to mix metals or button styles. Do not lose sight of everything you will need to put back in place before moving.

Hang large-scale artwork. “If you have a very strict landlord who prohibits painting, go with large-scale art to add interest to your walls,” says Keal. “You can use discreet hooks and command strips to hang.” Keal is particularly drawn to textured pieces, which are easy to DIY using spackling or joint compound and any paint colors you like. “It’s relatively cheap and really lets you experiment with texture,” she says.

Invest in Roman blinds. “Take off those ugly plastic blinds and invest a little money in some roman blinds instead,” says Keal. Additionally, “using fabric blinds allows you to add another layer of texture or color to your space.”

Sarah Lyon is a freelance writer in New York.


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