It’s time that we stop associating the word “rental” with “lackluster,” “too temporary to matter,” or anything of that nature. As a proud rental apartment dweller, I still consider my space to truly be my home. I’ve learned over time that I’m happiest living somewhere that truly reflects my style. And simply upgrades can go a long way in making a bland rental feel like a chic retreat. Here are a few things I did to make my New York City rental feel less like a builder-grade shoebox.
I Added Faux Mantels
That’s right, my current apartment is home to not one but two fireplace mantels, and yes, they’re both faux! In a perfect world, I would’ve landed a historic unit with a fireplace dating back to sometime in the 1800s, but, alas, I had to make do in my little walkup. In came one mantel from Facebook Marketplace (which had previously been stationed in my DC apartment’s living room) along with another, more ornate mantel, that I ordered through Toronto-based Trumeau Stones. While this mantel was definitely more of an investment piece, it’s also something that I’ll be able to bring with me wherever I go next. I’ve loved having both mantels in my apartment unit; I’ve enjoyed jazzing them up with oversized mirrors and candlesticks for a Parisian touch and using them as spaces to get a bit festive during the holidays. And honestly, most people who see photos of my apartment online are led to believe that these mantels are original to my unit, which is always the utmost compliment—take that, Brooklyn brownstone!
I Painted the Walls
I had actually never painted the walls of an apartment prior to living in this New York City unit, and I really don’t know what was holding me back! I’ve come to learn that some fresh paint really makes a major difference in a room’s appearance—way more so than I could’ve imagined.
My landlord is A-OK with me making alterations like this as long as I return the walls back to their original white before moving out. Since I plan to be in this spot for at least a few years and just wasn’t loving the “rental apartment white” hue that greeted me when I moved in, I took matters into my own (ok, a TaskRabbit’s) hands. In the bedroom, I opted for Clare paint in the color Grayish, which reads as a gorgeous gray with some blue/green undertones that is perfect for a sleep space, if you ask me. In the living room, I went with Clare paint’s Whipped, a soft white color that is an excellent backdrop for all of the art and decor I have on display. I get asked about both shades I chose all the time and I couldn’t be happier with either!
I Installed Luxe Looking Molding
This was another TaskRabbit project, and while I was a bit nervous about how it would go, it ended up being executed flawlessly, and I couldn’t be more thrilled overall. Having admired picture frame molding in various apartments I’d saved on Pinterest and Instagram over the years, I always knew I wanted to go that route or do something similar. However, when I first moved into my space, I was focused on just getting all of my furniture and decor into place and didn’t really think about addressing the walls until later.
By that point, it was a bit too late to add wall molding without having to rethink the layout of everything—not to mention, I knew the process would be pretty time intensive. Then, while browsing molding options on Amazon, I had another idea: crown molding! I purchased this styrofoam and its corresponding adhesive and called in one of my go-to repairmen, who was thankfully up for the challenge. With a miter saw and a lot of careful measurements, he made my walls look like something out of a Parisian palace (if you ask me!). The best part is that you really, really can’t tell that the molding is styrofoam. I truly wouldn’t believe it to this day if I hadn’t been the one to place the order for materials.
This molding is renter friendly and should be easy to remove thanks to the type of adhesive used, but when it comes time for me to move out, I’ll probably ask my landlord if it’s something they’d like me to keep up for the next tenant. I think it definitely adds a lot of dimension to what was otherwise an ultra plain bedroom.
While these three rental upgrades may not seem like much on their own, they really have made a major impact in my apartment when pieced together. At the end of a long day, I genuinely feel happier retreating to my bedroom now that it reflects my preferred aesthetic and looks less like a generic walkup unit overlooking an alleyway. While you can’t change your surroundings, you can change your interiors, and these types of upgrades alone may make you not want to move, ever!