To Homepolish designer , a rental unit that looks like, well, the average rental unit is a bit of wasted potential.
“I find people stall on making their rentals their own. They often spend so much more time in the space than they expect,” Roth says. But, “if you don’t make the space comfortable, it’s wasted money. You are living in limbo.”
That’s not to say Roth thinks you should tear down your living room wall and rip up the kitchen tile. Instead, take some cues from the Chelsea loft rental she moved into last May with her husband and young son. Like the ever-adapting city at her windows, Roth changed what she could and imbued her personal flair into the temporary home (with only a moderate risk to her security deposit).
Two of the first areas to target in a rental, according to Roth, are your lights and your window treatments.
For example, you can “100 million percent” take down an existing light fixture in your apartment and install something more to your taste.
In her dining room, Roth swapped out her landlord’s generic IKEA light for a Synapse chandelier by . It helped “to bring the ceiling down a little bit and make the space feel cozier.”
If you don’t want to mess with your apartment’s existing lights, Roth recommends sculptural wall lamps you can plug into an outlet, mount up high, and swing out like a chandelier. It’s an easy addition that doesn’t require any wiring work.
On the windows, “installing blinds and full-length curtains add warmth and make the space feel more homely and textured.” Plus, your neighbors will probably thank you. Roth went with gray Belgian flax linen curtains to match the modern color scheme of the home ($119, ).
To be fair, the IKEA units in the living room are leagues away from what you’d find in the showroom. Roth worked with , a company that customizes IKEA cabinet systems, to add custom taupe doors, a counter and brass hardware to one of her units.
Probably the biggest undertaking of Roth’s rental spruce-up was adding faux concrete (similar to a paint application) by to the largest spanning wall. “If you are renter, the challenge with big spaces is trying to transform it so it doesn't feel like a huge white box,” Roth says. The faux concrete “adds so much texture and depth, and elevated the vastness of the white walls.”
What you don’t find in her apartment, Roth says, is “thin little lines.” Geometric patterns and chunky shapes appear in each room. “I love modernist aesthetic, and I learned at the end of this [that] I love chunky almost kind of Flintstones aesthetic, like bedrocks," Roth says.
The theme connects throughout the home with the sculptural vases and designed by Pietro Russo for Baxter in the living room, and the terrazzo wallpaper in the bathroom. Roth went with old-fashioned wallpaper, but for less-committed renters, we can recommend some removable options that don’t sacrifice style.
Another benefit of glamming up each apartment you live in is learning about what you like, what works where, and what will suffer under the adorable but destructive hands of a young child. In Roth’s case, she might not do another watermark-prone velvet couch so soon (at least, not until all her tenants are a bit older).
Besides, the Aussie-born designer says you probably won’t shock your landlord that much — especially if you live in NYC.
“In Australia, the culture is so different. I have girlfriends who didn’t even hang up a piece of art. Here, I really believe that landlords expect people to live in the space much more than people in other countries because we are city of renters.”
Most leases just mandate you return the place as it was. When the time comes, Roth says she will hang the IKEA light back up, deconstruct her concrete wall (surprisingly, a cheaper task than putting it up), tear down the wallpaper, and paint everything white again.
Or, you know, we’d be happy to take over the lease, as is. Just to save a friend the trouble.
See more photos of the loft below.