Righting A Rental

Righting A Rental

nycAs an 9-year resident of New York City*, I had become accustomed to renting and skilled at taking someone else’s home and, through necessary and strategic investments, making it mine. Two additional years of renting here in Boulder rounds out a decade spent in other people’s homes, some nicer than others. The following are weak spots in nearly every rental; to remedy them is easy and will help make someone else’s house feel more like your home.

PAINT– As the single biggest feature in any room, walls are, strangely, often overlooked as a necessary focus of design. Many people are hesitant of color on the walls while others don’t feel the investment to improve someone else’s home is worthwhile. Painting the walls is not simply worthwhile; it’s essential. In the game of real estate, contractors, developers and landlords pay for what sells houses (kitchens and bathrooms) and skimp on everything else. It’s not uncommon for a two million dollar house or apartment to feature two dollar paint on its walls in some awful shade of white, cream or tan. The single best way to improve a room’s look and feel is by painting. Light shades of grey are the most neutral, versatile and modern, but tones of blue, green, and lilac also successfully transform impersonal into warm, dull into inspired. Add a high-gloss white paint to all baseboards, doorframes, anywhere that shows wear and tear.

LIGHT– After paint, lighting is the most significant financial corner getting cut in a rental. And as the single biggest contributor to atmosphere, the sacrifice hurts. Cheap, construction-grade pendants and ceiling flush mount lights make a room feel sterile, reminiscent other places where they’re popular: doctor and dentist’s offices. Bringing in table and floor lamps improves the space but is ultimately insufficient. The good news? What you bring in, you can take with you. An inexpensive fixture from a chain like Lamps Plus still provides a night and day difference from what’s currently installed. Additionally, these improvements will work in any future space, as lighting needs remain very consistent across properties, an investment that continues to pay itself forward.

HARDWARE– If you watch HGTV, you know how much the hardware on walls and cabinets can help or hinder a room’s style. In many rentals, knobs, pulls, switchplates are chosen haphazardly- they are overly stylized, unattractive and dated and, worse still, are eminently noticeable. Swapping them out for simple, appropriate fixtures is incredibly easy and, once again, an investment that will continue to pay off in future properties.


*Pictured is my New York City rental.


Mementos, Souvenirs, & Artifacts

Mementos, Souvenirs, & Artifacts

Mile High Style_Home -16Whether or not your travels include a passport and involve new worlds or simply new stores, collecting cool, interesting and special pieces to display has always been an integral part of home styling. The two coolest objects in my home reflect my travels…. Around New York City’s most fabulous boutiques: a Sumatran dance crown and cast-iron Glock, both displayed on stands are objets d’art, conversation pieces, and expressions of taste or history or humor. It almost goes without saying that where and how these pieces are presented, is as important as the pieces themselves.

WHAT- As just this writer’s opinion, while I’ve always found the occasional item to be cool and interesting, I’ve also found a collection of them to be not. By taking something special and aggregating, you are negating its unique status. One is exclusive; one of many is common.

WHERE- Consistent with a desired look of effortless chic, you’ll want guests to happen upon your pieces, not be directed by pedestal or spotlight. With that in mind, some safe spots are atop a stack of books, on a coffee table, in a bookshelf, next to flowers or an orchid, or (my personal favorite) as a surprise in the guest bathroom, where it’s sure to be noticed, appreciated, and humored.

HOW- Once you’ve found your spot(s), deciding what shares the space is critical. I know, I know, so much pressure! But it’s really not, because here’s the key: the best way to highlight one thing is by pairing it with something different, something unlike it. Whether you’re playing with individual pieces or whole styles, contrast expresses distinction, highlights individuality, ignores rules, and helps you think and see in a new ways. If your piece expresses a certain ethnicity, place it amid a different one (my Sumatran crown sits next to a stack of Hermes scarf boxes, the paradigm of French high-style). If it feels masculine, pair with feminine. Something hard with something soft, antique or period with modern, busy with basic.

Mile High Style Tip: As a general rule, limit truly special pieces to 3 (the magic number in design) per room.