Making a rental feel like home takes talent. Unable to make major changes to the space—be it paint colors, wall fixtures, or any desired renovations—you have to hone in on the ways you can show your creativity—curating special pieces, styling each element, and crafting a certain synergy that brings both fresh life and a lived-in feel to your home. Interior designer and former MyDomaine senior editor Liz Foster has done exactly that with her two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood. With carefully curated vintage finds that speak to her approachable yet sophisticated style, Foster has transformed her 950-square-foot home into a bright, lively space, working in a neutral palette punctuated by gorgeous pops of color.
Head below to tour the bright, art-filled Santa Monica home of interior designer Liz Foster, and see what she has to say about the space.
"We live right by the beach, and my husband and I are definitely beach people, but I grew up on the East Coast, and he's a Midwesterner, so it was important that our home felt native to the surroundings and neighborhood while also reflecting us and our backgrounds. I wanted to mix lots of California-style textures like rattan, seagrass, and light linens with more traditional pieces and vintage furniture and accessories so the space felt like a real mix of our taste and styles."
"Unfortunately because it's a rental, we aren't able to [make any renovations]," explains Foster. "Although I know exactly what I would do if I could. Plug-in sconces and ceiling fixtures allowed me to add these more personal and unique details without calling in an electrician and cutting through drywall. Hot tip for décor-minded renters: Plug-in sconces are your best friends."
Foster says she's "a big fan of the ornate gilded mirror hanging in our entry. It belonged to my grandparents and was in their dining room my entire life. I was shocked when no one else in the family wanted to claim it—major win."
Pictured: Cost Plus World Market Wood and Metal Aiden Console Table ($203); Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. Princeton Long Sconce ($209); Crate and Barrel London Short Glass Hurricane Candle Holder ($25).
"I always tend to gravitate toward neutrals and use art, accessories, flowers, and plants to bring in color. A variety of textures helps me bring interest into a space."
Pictured: West Elm Box Frame Coffee Table ($599).
"I'm big into vintage pieces. I think I checked eBay every day for three months before I found a midcentury wheat sheath side table in great shape for the right price." The books and malachite box featured here are both vintage.
"I think my oldest piece might be the George Smith Louis Chair I had upholstered in my favorite Rogers and Goffigon velvet. I bought the chair when I worked in the George Smith showroom in Chicago at the beginning of my career—it was my first grown-up furniture purchase. Later when I worked at Nate Berkus, I had it reupholstered in a fabric we'd used in several projects. It's a piece I'll have forever, and it reminds me of my past experiences and different times in my design career."
Pictured: Mark D. Sikes Beautiful: All-American Decorating and Timeless Style ($31).
"I've been collecting furniture and décor for years, so it's been a work in progress for about a decade. I'd say it's more a question of what 'new' pieces were brought in," says Foster, rather than existing pieces she worked it. "I like the industrial sconces from Schoolhouse Electric that I used with a milk glass shade. I like how they contrast with the feminine style of the round vintage mirror in the entry. The woven bamboo shade over the dining table is a more recent addition. I like how it grounds the space and makes a tight corner in the kitchen almost feel like a true dining room."
"When you're a designer, decorating your own home can be a real challenge. We're exposed to so many amazing products, artwork, fabrics, and so on, that making decisions and pulling the trigger on big pieces can be difficult. After obsessing over details on more than one occasion, you finally have to just buy it and move on."
Pictured: Rejuvenation Mission Pyramid Cabinet Knob ($9); Nate Berkus lamp.
"I love how the art ledges in our bedroom came out. I'm big into showcasing art and featuring large collections. I've hung gallery walls in previous homes, but here I wanted to try something different. The mix of vintage sketches and abstract pieces feels so fresh and unique, and since I couldn't narrow my collection down, styling the display by layering items and grouping them together enabled me to use all my favorite pieces. The display feels unique and collected rather than stale and tired."
Pictured: Tappan Deerdana Kiss 1 ($120).
Foster describes her style as layered and eclectic. "I love mixing styles, time periods, textures, and materials to create spaces that look collected and assembled over time. I always bring in vintage items to add character and warmth to new pieces and create a sense of individuality. Mixing antiques with new items ensures that your space is a reflection of you—not something you'd see in the pages of your favorite vendor's catalog."
Pictured: Pottery Barn Hudson Extra-Wide Dresser ($1899).