As 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.