How to Customize a Rental Apartment

how to customize a rental apartment

Upgrade Your Rental

It can be a bit tricky when renting to create a space that is truly your own; while still ensuring the security deposit will be there when you go to leave. It’s really important for me to feel that where I live is a space for me to truly be “at home.” To me a home is a space that I’ve made my own. I’m so happy with the simple changes I’ve been gradually making to my boring basic apartment. I really feel small, personal touches make a difference in a space.

Here’s a few easy, budget-friendly, non-permanent things renters can do to make the temporary apartment feel like home sweet home (and not upset the landlord along the way).

1. Create a Welcoming Entrance

First impressions count. Visitors may come and go but you will always return home, so why not make your entry something for yourself!? The first thing I see when I enter my home are things I love. Including two unique treasures I was thrilled to find, a marble tiered shelf and a glass cloche with a golden cupcake emboss detail.  The shelf is something I love, just like everyone lately loves anything with with white marble. I found it for $18 at a local North Hills consignment shop. The cloche is something to display pretty things – with a gold cupcake on it – whats not to love!? I had to have it when I found it at Chartreuse and Co. for $12. I also have on display an upcylced painted wine bottle I made with one of my favorite flowers, colorful hydrangeas.

marble side table

2. Add a Pop of Color with Painted Wall Stencil

In most apartment buildings renters have the option to paint the walls. In my apartment there’s limited overhead lighting. Without much light, I didn’t see a full accent wall of the deep emerald paint color I’m obsessed with adding to the space. Painting a wall this deep saturated jewel tone would unfortunately darken the space even more. To create the pop of color I craved in the bland space I had a thought use a large wall stencil. I used a unique damask stencil (by Plaid Crafts) to add color, create visual interest and frame the sitting space in the living room. Before it looked like the couch was floating and randomly placed. Now there is more purposeful definition in the space.

My ottoman is from Homegoods and my couch is from Levin furniture.

3. Bring in Personal Touches with a Photo Gallery

If you couldn’t already tell, I totally have a Homegoods problem. The place gets me every time I visit, and I visit a lot. Its a shopping weakness I’ve had for over a decade. Yes, really over a decade. I started working at sister store TJ Maxx at age 15. One visit to my local Homegoods right after I moved I found these beautiful grey wood side tables from Basset Furniture. Just having moved into an empty apartment I had to have the matching tables to fill the voids of space! Now that I’m settled in I don’t really know where to put the tables, but still totally need them.

For now, I’ve decided to put them in an empty spot in the long narrow rectangular living room. To anchor the tables I started a simple picture frame gallery that I can fill out over time. Displaying  personal picture that capture moments and memories really helps to make a space feel homey.

4. Add Interest in Blank Spaces with Hanging Mirrors

It’s a common practice to add mirrors in a dark spaces to increase light. Mirrors are also regularly used in small spaces to trick the eye into thinking the space is larger. I like mirrors just cause they’re pretty. That’s it. I’ve amped up the boring spaces in my apartment by hanging unique mirrors on the walls.

This gold heart-shaped mirror is over-the-top and that’s exactly why I love it 🙂 I found it on a treasure hunt at the Old Lucketts Store. I hung this right by my front door.

 

This set of mirrors hanging in my hallway are a Homegoods find. These sets are usually stacked on the outward face section of the checkout aisle.

5. Build in Functional Storage

My motto is functional can still be beautiful. Even wine storage can make a statement. I really wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a beautiful spot to display and store my wine in.

In the bathroom I’ve hung a unique patina hanging shelf that I found on an home decor shopping trip to the Old Lucketts Store. I also found extremely functional clear bathroom storage at Homegoods. These storage pieces can go for $20-50 at department stores or the Container Store, but Homegoods usually has them in the clearance section for $8-$15!

 

 

6. Display Things that Bring You Joy

I have been dreaming about building an open shelving area to display my treasures for months. When making this space my temporary home I made it a point to create my dream shelves with charming, curly brackets. May seem silly to some, but having these shelves and knowing I made them myself – makes me so happy! Now I have a place to display my home decor  (basically my prized possessions)! Some pieces I made myself, others were found through flea markets & vintage shopping trips.

I also recently flipped a hanging shelf piece I found for $10 at a flea market. I’m so proud of making it my own, plus it’s functional! I’ll take any display area for pretty things that I can get.

Moral of the story, display the things that make you happy! Make what brings you joy a focus of your space.

I’ve also taken this thought through in the kitchen. I’m lucky enough to have plenty of counter space in the kitchen. I’ve used this space to display some more of my treasures. I’ve obviously got a thing for white marble & copper. I found all the marble pieces, copper utensils and Rae Dunn mugs at Homegoods or Marshalls. I found the white canisters with copper tops at Chartreuse and Co.

I decided to fill the blank space above the sink with a charming serving tray I found for $18 at Homegoods.

 

7. Find Furniture that Represents You

My style is very much french country, meets farmhouse, meets moroccan glam. I love anything ornate. I won’t go for anything simple, with straight lines or that’s lacking interesting details. I recently fell for a french country buffet sideboard piece from the Old Lucketts Store. My mother and I actually kind of fought over it 🙂 I really love the charm of the piece. I am for the moment using it as my TV stand, but one day hope to use it as true bar cart.

I’m attempting to hide all of the horrible chords and hardware that the awful Verizon cable company requires for basic service. I really don’t like cable companies, but really love this giant copper wine cooler I found at Wow Outlets in my hometown of Greensburg PA. Seriously home decor enthusiasts, go shop there, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

 

8. Upcycle & Paint Furniture To Make it Your Own

DIY Furniture flip

I recently found a French Provincial set of dresser drawers through Craigslist.  I paid $130 cash for this secondhand piece and immediately wanted to flip it with a chalk paint! I made my own chalk paint through this DIY chalk paint recipe and transformed the piece into something unique.

I love the end product. It’s truly me. Some might not like the purple or the flourish details, but I do! This is what I love about DIY projects, making the piece your own. We can all take inspiration from what we see in Pinterest or Instagram. But I hope when it comes to the things we bring into our home, we don’t just emulate the look – we take inspiration and create our own version. I personally love the feeling of transforming something to reflect myself. I look forward to finding another piece to make my own soon!

 

9. Add Curtains and Rugs with Personality

Layering in area rugs and curtains can really bring a space to life and make it feel more complete, cozy and homey. These are items I don’t yet have, but that I’m looking forward to adding to my space in the future 🙂

The rug I’m dreaming of owning is this Jacquard Damask Rug, Turquoise from Ethan Allen

ethan allen damask turquoise rug

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Flea Market Furniture Flip

flea market furniture flip ideas

While treasure hunting at the end of the season Hannas town flea market in October, I found a charming mirrored shelf piece. I think I paid $10 for it. I of course wanted to transform it to make it my own. I love the look of mercury glass and have read a lot about how to achieve the look through DIY hacks.  So of course I was excited to have a flea market furniture flip on my hands and planned to transform the mirror, plus add some color to the wood with paint!

mirrored shelf

If you research it online, you’ll find there are many DIY hacks for taking a mirror or a piece of glass and making it look aged like mercury glass. I read a ton of DIYers advice on the process. I summed it up in my mind to layering a mixture of vinegar + water and looking glass spray paint and a darker spray paint, blotting in between layers to disperse the paint.

 

Well I think I took a bit too far. It dried too quickly before I could blot off the paint. I plan on buying another piece of mirror to have another try at attempting the DIY mercury glass look. For now the glass turned out okay for a first attempt.

 

For the paint color I decided to paint the shelf the new 2018 paint color of the year by PPG Voice of Color, Black Flame. It’s a indigo-black, charcoal hue.  I see it as a modern, moody version of my long-time favorite color purple.

I can’t wait to find a spot to hang this piece and decorate the shelves. Another piece I made my own 🙂

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Open Shelving DIY Project

I have been dreaming about building an open shelving area to display my treasures for months now. I even started the project months ago (see previous post), but then a lot happened. I even moved! Now that I am settled in a new space I have my dream shelves with charming, curly brackets. May seem silly to some, but having these shelves and knowing I made them myself – makes me so happy! Now I have a place to hang my home decor  (basically my prized possessions)! Some pieces I made myself, others were found through flea markets & vintage shopping trips.

I picked out a beautiful pine wood board at The Home Depot. I chose to stain it a warm brown color. My local PPG Paints store custom mixed the stain color in a Zar interior stain to match the hue of the laminate flooring in a previous project.

zar stain zar stain

I had found the studs and laid out the hanging positions previously, but waited until my Dad could lend a hand to help me hang the long shelves. He had the great idea of staggering the shelves 🙂

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The After, a Pittsburgh House Flip

So remember when my boyfriend bought another house (check out my post from the first surprise house here)? He’s really getting into the business of flipping small outdated homes and revitalizing them for rental. The Pittsburgh rental market is very active.

He has been working hard on the property since buying it in January 2017, with myself helping on any small projects that I can. I mostly contribute to design choices, painting and heavy-duty cleaning. Plus providing positive moral, and food & drink supplies for the worker bee of course! Working mostly on the weekends, the projects were slow to show progress, but the house is finally done & rented!

Thought I’d share the after state to show that it just took him a little budget, commitment and hard work to transform a dated, dull house into something livable again. Now it’s rented, providing a home for a family and a sense of accomplishment and future income for the investor. I’m proud of his accomplishments, and admire his commitment and drive towards something more. I know we have both been learning about a lot more than house flipping along the way, especially about how to balance projects, time management and communicating. It’s definitely a challenge to flip a property at 26 with a full time job and limited experience – it’s especially wearing on a personal relationship.

I recently became infatuated with another local couple, successful and established in the house-flipping business the Bennetts of K Bennett Development Group. You may have heard of them from their HGTV pilot show Steel City Rehab. I LOVED the show not just because of the Pittsburgh setting (so awesome to see the city shine), but also because of the couple’s fun, positive energy. They have been through the hard times of starting a house-flipping business, and continue to face serious challenges, but still (appear, I don’t actually know them lol) to have their kind, fun-loving, respectful relationship set as a priority. After their episode aired they posted to their Facebook thanking viewers and welcoming questions. I took the opportunity to ask something personal, looking for perspective for my own relationship during flipping struggles. I asked two questions and really appreciate that Kris and Tara answered with their thoughtful responses.

I’m curious about the beginning of your house-flipping journey. How did you prioritize getting your business off the ground while still taking care of your personal relationships?

TB: There came a time when we knew we needed to buckle down and give our careers some major attention. Kris had been used to getting checks in the mail for riding his bike for so long, so it was definitely a challenge for us at first. We had a lot of conversations about the business — how we need to do what it takes and make sacrifices to get on our feet. We had our daughter and another baby on the way at the time, and we were having a hard time making ends meet. We didn’t see each other a lot during the first flip. Kris would work until he couldn’t keep his eyes open, then he’d go back as soon as he woke up. That went on for at least six months. I did most of the kid and home duties on my own. It was extremely hard, but getting through that first house and watching the process succeed — even though it came with major challenges — was enough for us to want to do it again. That year was a major marriage victory for us. We realized that we make an awesome team, even when things get tough. We learned how beneficial we are to each other when it comes to encouragement and motivation. There were some days we felt like we couldn’t do it anymore, but we helped one another stay positive.

Any advice on the work-life-balance struggle as a young couple flipping in Pittsburgh?

TB: Balancing the different parts of your life takes a real effort. Kris and I will sit down and plan our weeks out at the beginning of each month. What are our work hours? When do the kids have activities? When does the gym fit in? When do we want date nights, time with friends, family days, etc.? If we don’t schedule, we will go weeks without a date night and months without seeing some of our best friends.

KB: Work does take up a lot of our time, but we’re good at prioritizing the other parts of our lives as well. If we feel like something is slipping, we re-evaluate and adjust the calendar. It’s an ongoing thing, but we try to be super-honest with each other about what we need.

Kitchen Before

House Flipping Pittsburgh BEFORE House Flipping Pittsburgh BEFORE

Kitchen After

For the walls I selected the same paint color from our own kitchen. It was inspired by what else other than an episode of Fixer Upper of course! I picked a PPG Voice of Color paint color called Silent Storm, a pale green gray 6 months before I realized it actually truly is the PPG crossover for Joanna’s color Americana Egg in the Magnolia Homes paint line! A crossover means that Silent Storm is the closest tint formula in the PPG color palette, to the other brand’s color Americana Egg. This is discovered based on tint and formula data.

silent storm

For more PPG Paint colors similar to those used on Fixer Upper check out this Pinterest board full of Modern Farmhouse collection colors.

pittsburgh house flip after

pittsburgh house flip after

pittsburgh house flip after

 

Bathroom Before

House Flipping Pittsburgh BEFORE

 

Bathroom After

In the bathroom (and bedrooms) we picked a very light grey color called Elusion PPG1005-2. He decided to use the same tile we have in our own bathroom across the shower and floor.

PPG Paints Speedhide

pittsburgh house flip after bathroom

 

Pink Bedroom

House Flipping Pittsburgh BEFORE

 

Updated Bedroom

pittsburgh house flip after

Updated Living Room

pittsburgh house flip after

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Farmhouse Home Decor & Vintage Shopping Tour of Maryland & Virginia

Farmhouse & Vintage Home Décor Shopping Tour

I’ve gushed about the treasure hunt of home decor antiques available in Maryland and Northern Virginia a few times before, (Fall home decor post here + Holiday home decor post here) and I’m here to share another trip the antique lover’s capital! I was first introduced to these spots by my mother, an avid Southern Living Magazine and home decor enthusiast. Hmmm… I wonder where I get it from?! Here’s a recap of our April 22 adventure, the stops we took and treasures we spotted from modern farmhouse decor finds, to vintage antiques.

We always start the day in Buckeystown, Maryland at Chartreuse & co. This home decor enthusiasts’ dream spot consists of a few charming farm buildings filled with various antiques and upcycled home decor vendors.

On this Saturday they were also having a “Spring Market Day” with additional tag sales and local vendors set up outside. It was amazing, again definitely worth the 6am wake up call and 3 hour road trip from Pittsburgh. There was plenty of affordable finds from romantic french country inspired pieces to rustic and farmhouse styles. At Chartreuse the vendors offer a mix of newly manufactured pieces, handmade pieces, untouched antiques and upcycled pieces.

Just up the street from our first stop is Buckeystown Design Co Op.  This shop features a bit more upscale, more refined home decor pieces & furniture. Instead of upcycled pieces, here you’ll find nice, quality things purchased from suppliers and fun finds from places like High Point furniture warehouse sales. The space was fit for spring with beautiful fake spring flowers.

Next up on our home decor shopping adventure we visited Sweet Clover Barn. Sweet Clover is vintage home decor and handmade marketplace housed in a dairy barn on a horse farm in Frederick, Maryland. Again there are various farm building used to display multiple vintage home decor vendors, create another ultimate home decor lovers’ paradise. This place was upcycled kitchen hutch central. I was swooning over each unique farmhouse kitchen hutch.

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