Monday, February 6, 2017

making a rented house a home

(jeans are 7fam!...and apparently we really like fleece)
First of all, how cute are my boys?!

This is us in front of our current house that we are renting. We got super lucky when we found this house to rent at the beginning of third year of school, and have been quite happy with it - it's small (around 900 square feet) but currently the perfect size for us, has a small back yard, has a washer & dryer, and a garage. We couldn't have found a better house for us!

I've been renting homes for the past ten years, since my sophomore year of college. Over the past decade, I've learned a lot about how to make a rented space your own. It's difficult sometimes to make a house that's not yours into something that feels like home - sometimes you can't paint or hang things on the walls, or have the type of flooring you want. There are things you can't change - for example, our house has very little natural lighting, and no ceiling lighting either! I wish we had hardwood floors, but we have carpet and linoleum. Those are structural things I can't do anything about, but how everything else looks in my house - that I have control over!

Here are some of the things I've noticed make the biggest differences in the places I've rented, from choosing similar furniture to fresh flowers to personalized art.

make it cozy with blankets and throw pillows
This probably sounds silly, but I never realized how much of a difference a soft throw and some pillows make it your living room. We have this amazing fuzzy throw I found at Target a few years ago (this current version seems very similar), and it's one of my favorite household items! It just makes the space so much more inviting, plus if you live in drafty house like we'll be happy you have it! Another cute option is this faux shearling throw with tassels. Target is obviously a goldmine when it comes to cozy throws and fun throw pillows - check out these cute faux fur pillows! Definitely going to sneak those into our cart the next time we are at Target! Anyway - if you have a living room you want to make a bit cozier, a simple throw and pillows make a big difference. Our pillows are all white/grey/black, which makes it easy to mix and match with other pillows in the house. 

buying cheap furniture or painting old furniture? go cohesive

When I moved to Pennsylvania from Wisconsin for medical school, I moved in just my car. All I brought with me were my dogs, my clothes, and a few personal things. When I got there, I rented a U-Haul truck and drove to Ikea to buy furniture - I didn't own real furniture before (I always had roommates who owned a few key pieces of furniture, plus my childhood bed), so this was my chance to start fresh. I bought a desk, bookshelf, bed, bedside table, and a dresser...all in white. Now that I live in a house with CR, the furniture is a bit more spread out, but because it all "goes" together, it makes our space look a bit more grown up. CR has an old dresser from his childhood that is painted white and navy, which was perfect for our bedroom. I would of course love to have really nice furniture that isn't all one color, but has more dimension and special features, but for now, our white furniture gives our house some cohesion and a grown up feel that mismatched furniture wouldn't have.

add unique home decor

Like I said, Target is a great place to find really cute picture frames, stand alone decorations, and candles. I have a few nice vases from Jonathan Adler and coasters from Kate Spade via Shopbop that are small touches that make a big difference in smaller darker rented spaces. We also love having a few trays throughout the house to corral remotes and jewelry and so on!

a gallery wall shows off your life and creativity 
I wrote a post last year about how to create a gallery wall, and it's still one of my favorite things in our house! This is great especially if you aren't allowed to paint the walls - you can even use those command strips if you aren't allowed to put nails into the walls. I love that it combines all different parts of my life and gifts from loved ones - the antlers are from a deer shot by my grandpa (who died when I was a freshman in college), the Rifle Paper company poster in the top left was signed by the artist and gifted to me by a dear friend, a few Etsy prints used as motivation, a print from Minted, a poster from my university, and a calendar that changes every month. We also have a smaller collection of pictures and prints above our bed.

flowers (fresh or fake) brighten up the room
Fresh flowers are one of my biweekly splurges - I just love how they bring a bit of cheeriness into our kitchen! For those of you near a Trader Joe's - they have the best and cheapest flowers! We unfortunately don't have one where I live, so I always make sure to stop at a TJ when I'm in a larger city. I also have several sets of fake flowers - one on our bookshelf and one at my desk. They are from Michaels, and unless you look really closely, you can't tell they are fake! 

celebrate where you're from
cheese board | butter dish | recipe box | beer cap map
Coming from a place with a lot of state pride, I love having just a few Wisconsin related things around the house! Our cheese board was a house warming present from my parents (it doesn't get any more Wisconsin than cheese!). I love it next to the cow butter dish - it's just a little bit of home here in Ohio. My parents got CR this beer cap map for Christmas a few years ago. He obviously needs to drink a few more local NY beers, but I think it's such a fun way to combine where you're from with where you currently live! Uncommon Goods has a ton of state related items if you are looking for inspiration (my favorites include the magnetic key holder and embroidered pillows). Minted also has gold foiled prints of all the states, which I think would be really cute hung up with each of your states next to each other.

and celebrate where you've been together
When I ran across these gold foiled prints from Minted a few months ago, I knew I had to get them. I love the idea of getting ones for every place you live together and lining them up! You can adjust the map to where ever you want (and how zoomed in or out it is), and it prints out to this cute map with the address on the bottom right. I'm already excited to get our one for our home next year too! If you live in bigger cities, they also have pre-made ones. We also started to keep track of all the states we have visited together. I found this globe at Target, and we just drew on the US, and have filled in states as we go! We have a few more states to go ;)

diy things you can move to other houses
The summer between first and second year of school, I really wanted to make a pinboard for our kitchen. I found a tutorial, and made it in an afternoon. It was the perfect item for our kitchen at the time - we used it to hang up pictures of us, bills, and little notes. It was also perfect for when CR and I moved in together because it's a bigger item that can go on the wall, but because it's in a neutral color, it goes with everything! It now hangs next to my desk and holds all sorts of things - sentimental family pictures, post cards from places we've visited, cards from friends, our Christmas card, and my band letter. I love that I made it, so it's a bit more personal, but that it will fit into any house we rent or buy.

plants bring a bit of life to the room

Same as flowers, I love a few plants throughout the house to liven up the rooms a bit. We don't have a ton because our cat likes to punch her teeth through them, but a few have made it out alive! I use one of those slow watering pots too so I can be forgetful about watering them.

find personalized art for your walls
Since you may not be able to paint your walls, you may as well cover them with things you can control! We have several pieces of art hanging around our house that are special to us. I worked with Minted last year, and got two prints of our star signs that hang in the bathroom - I love that it's not super overbearing in your face, but is a personal to us. CR and I go to a lot of Dave Matthews concerts (it's one of our favorite things to do together), and so I found him a "vintage" (ie from 2010) poster on eBay and had it framed for our hallway.

embrace being a renter

Maybe this is temporary, or you plan on being a renter forever, but there are definite perks about not owning a house (my favorite: if something goes wrong, someone else has to fix it!). We love our little home, and will look back fondly at our time in our rented house. I'm glad we got to have it be our first home together, and that we've found a way to make it feel like our home.