Challenges in Rental Design

Rental design can be costly if you move often. We’ve been in our house for almost two years now but I haven’t done much to make it ours. Our old furniture doesn’t work in here but we hesitate to buy all new stuff for a temporary home. However…..temporary in this case might mean at least a few more years (thanks to the overpriced Southern California real estate market). We also have property managers that are super open to any changes we want to make to the house.

As a designer it pains me to come home to a house that doesn’t feel totally put together. After a lot of discussion we’ve finally decided that it’s worth it to make it feel like home. We know we won’t be here forever so we’re going to be smart about our purchases. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones in this situation so hopefully this can help other people. Because we’re working on a small to moderate budget, most anything we do will be attainable for the average household.

With that said, this won’t be a room-by-room update. I will design the rooms and then tackle projects based on priority. As you can imagine the priorities are different for my husband and I so this will also be a practice in compromise. My husband is ambivalent about the way things look which is great for me, but when it comes to function, comfort and budget he definitely has opinions. I guess you could say he’s my client on this project.¬†Overall the house is cute, it just needs some updating.

The house is about a hundred years old so it has some quirks and challenges. It’s 950 square feet, so quite small. It’s a 2 bedroom, 1 bath with a tiny mudroom and a detached garage. I’ll talk about details in future posts but here’s the project rundown by room:

  • Living Room: this is where guests enter and where we spend most of our time. It’s very narrow, has a non-working fireplace, lots of odd shaped windows and a furnace on the one little free wall with no weird windows, and a side door leading to an unused porch that has absolutely no purpose. Sounds great right?!?
  • Dining Room: this is probably the room in the house I’m most satisfied with. It is connected to the living room but has a large open arch in between the two. It’s actually beautiful. The dining room is the last priority for us right now because there’s not a lot we want to change.
  • Kid’s Room: we’re expecting our second kid in October so I need to update my son’s room to accommodate a four year old and a baby. We don’t find out what we’re having until the end of the May so I’m not making any plans for now. No matter what the room is going to be pretty neutral this time. I’m not even concerned with finishing it before the baby comes as long as we get a crib in there.
  • Bathroom: I don’t love the bathroom but it’s fine. Aside from painting the cabinets and walls and updating the hardware, there’s not a lot I’m willing to do because of cost and permanence. This is tied for last priority with the dining room.
  • Master Bedroom: this room needs quite a few updates. We have an amazing memory foam king mattress and that guy isn’t going anywhere.¬†However, having a king bed in a small house doesn’t leave room for a whole lot else. I want this done yesterday but the only thing we’ll do for now is get two three drawer chests to double as nightstands so we can at least get organized. I don’t know about you, but when I wake up to clutter it clutters my brain. Not an ideal way to start every day.
  • Kitchen: I really hate this kitchen. Before we moved in they refinished the formerly pink tile counters and backsplash, but they did it with this awful speckled paint splatter. Grey, beige and black splatter over white. It looks dirty even right after I clean it and it’s so easy to miss crumbs. Maybe that’s the appeal for some people but it kills me. I can’t do the two main projects in here while I’m pregnant, so this is a project for 2019. Until then, a girl can dream.
  • Mudroom: this is so close to done. I started it last year and it’s two tiny projects away from finished. I originally wrote about the mudroom last year and I’ll be doing a reveal post soon.
  • Backyard: we have a surprisingly huge back yard but it is in a terrible state. We already updated a small area in the back where we added a play area. That part looks great, but there’s a lot of yard left that’s mostly dirt and some ugly mulch. We have a 10′ x 28′ brick patio, and three large garden beds that are overrun with weeds and zero shade anywhere. We love being outside but we almost never use our backyard, so 100% our first priority is to clean it up and at least set up a dining area with some kind of shade. The whole backyard will take a long time to finish though because it’s so large. This will likely be a series of posts over time. I’ve had to break up the yard into zones so it’s manageable in my head.
  • Garage: when we moved in the inside was red and super dark. I went to town with my paint sprayer and gave it a couple coats of crisp white and it made a huge difference. Now I just need to paint the car side and call that done. The big problem is we have to manually open and close the garage door. I know – #firstworldpains – but it drives me crazy and I refuse to do it more than once a day. It’s old and not easy to open and close so it’s not like I’m totally lazy and I have already ruined a couple pairs of shoes locking up. Not cool. It’s a permanent change, but for a few hundred dollars so we’re hoping to install an automatic garage door opener this year. We basically only park the car in there overnight because I park on the street during the day. Having a garage around here is a total luxury so we should be taking advantage of it. It’s probably the thing I do regularly that drives my husband nuts. Even though he doesn’t want to spend the money on this it will be worth it to him if I’d finally just start parking in the garage when I’m home.

If you’ve stuck around this long you must be a saint or a friend – thanks! Do you think these are reasonable updates to make in a rental? Let me know if you have a rental, and what you are willing to do to make it feel more like home.