This Renter’s Decor Hacks Put a Personal Spin on This L.A. Apartment

This Renter’s Decor Hacks Put a Personal Spin on This L.A. Apartment

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Name: Ben Cuevas, my plants, and my pet tarantula, Thierry Spoodler
Location: Silverlake — Los Angeles, California
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 800 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: I moved to my home right after the start of the pandemic in April 2020. Immediately, I knew I wanted it to be my refuge — a space that felt soothing and healing yet stimulating with all the things I love. Rich textures like plush velvet, supple leather, and woven jacquard cotton, plus saturated jewel-tones of malachite and azurite all helped give me the sensory dose of dopamine I needed to get through lockdown.

I made quite a few personal changes beyond your average rental unit. I took to heart Amy Sedaris’ suggestion to view your rental deposit as your design fee, and installed a statement bookcase for the living area, filled with all my favorite books and objects. I love to curl in my own little library nook of personal pleasures at the end of the day. I’m an artist and designer, and my home is my workspace as well. I set up my work area by the apartment’s large south-facing windows, so my plants and I can be bathed in light as we go about our day. I changed out all of the light fixtures to give the place a glowing personal touch, and I even re-surfaced the shower surround with removable vinyl subway shower tiles.

Having worked in art and design for many years, I enjoy finding moments of connection in geometric design across objects, styles, and cultures. From my Art Deco stained glass mirror (by local L.A. artist Harpal Sodhi), to my Scandinavian handwoven rug (by way of IKEA), to my natural reed Vietnamese baskets (courtesy of West Elm), there’s a geometric through-line that adds visual excitement and an unexpected kind of continuity. Being a bit of a witch and putting much stock in the flow of energy, I worked with Feng Shui consultant Mark Ainly to make sure the flow and balance were all copacetic. Light balances dark, so that I can move from bright and airy moments, like my white sawhorse desk, to dark and sexy ones, like my bedroom’s emerald green velvet blackout curtains.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Modern eclectic meets laidback deco.

What is your favorite room and why? Definitely my living room. To me it’s the perfect combination of luxe meets laidback vibes.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing I bought actually hasn’t arrived yet! It’s a set of gold velvet bolster pillows to add to my couch.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t be afraid to make your space your own, even if you rent! You deserve to live in a space that’s a reflection of you and your style!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

Is Your New Apartment Suffering from a ‘Landlord Special’?

Is Your New Apartment Suffering from a ‘Landlord Special’?

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Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment is intimately acquainted with the “Landlord Special” whether they realize it or not. It’s when giant globs of white paint coat once-beautiful wooden trim, window blinds are held together with tape, and dust is caked into window ledge corners and floor baseboards. While I can’t help you with the paint or blinds, I do have something of a miracle solution for the dust, which will definitely come in handy now that it’s moving season.

As anyone who has tried to deep clean their apartment the first week of moving in will know, that old dust is especially hard to scrub. It solidifies in a way that stumps science, making it nearly impossible to wash with spray and elbow grease. It turns the grooves of baseboards black, and wedges itself into the tight cracks and corners of window ledges, making it feel like you’re living in a permanently dirty home. 

But, when you have something impossible to clean, it might just mean you haven’t found the right product to tackle it yet. If you’ve been battling that caked-on dirt, it’s time to retire the all-purpose spray and reach for Bar Keepers Friend instead.

Bar Keepers Friend is my secret weapon for all things hopeless. From the old penny tiles in my bathroom to the scratched plates in my cupboard, it makes everything glisten like it’s new again. So imagine my delight when I discovered this TikTok video, where I learned that it will also help melt away the years of crud thoughtfully left for me upon moving day. 

All you need is the powder form of Bar Keepers Friend, a cup of warm water with a drop of dish soap, and a stiff denture brush. Sprinkle the powder across those dirty corners and gross baseboards, dip your denture brush into the warm, soapy water, and then get to scrubbing. 

The stiff bristles will attack and loosen the dirt, while the product coupled with the grease-fighting dish soap will help melt away years of dirt in mere seconds. And since denture brushes are smaller than regular, all-purpose cleaning brushes, you can get into those tight corners and nooks easier, getting every last speck without much hassle. 

You might have to do this twice for especially dirty corners, but it won’t take you a full day of sweating and scraping as it would with other techniques.

Marlen Komar

Contributor

Marlen is a writer first, vintage hoarder second, and donut fiend third. If you have a passion for finding the best taco joints in Chicago or want to talk about Doris Day movies, then she thinks an afternoon coffee date is in order.

A Family of 5’s Small NYC Home Is Full of Smart Renter-Friendly & Storage Ideas

A Family of 5’s Small NYC Home Is Full of Smart Renter-Friendly & Storage Ideas

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Name: Megan and David Zietz, their three kids and two cats
Location: Astoria, Queens, New York
Size: 1100 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years Lived In: 2.5 years, renting

I’m Megan Zietz, a content creator and designer living in NYC with my family. We found our apartment after a year-plus long search and initially passed it by a few times because it wasn’t EXACTLY what I wanted but we decided to go for it and make it our own.

We’re located in Astoria, Queens. We’re coming up on our 10th year in this area and love our neighborhood. We are homebodies so we spend a lot of time at home and I wanted to create a colorful and whimsical space that makes me happy when I see it, all.the.time.

As creative homebodies, we do a lot at home: We create home decor, DIYs and tutorials, occasionally dress up, and produce silly lifestyle videos with the entire family. We love cooking together, watching TV as a family, playing board games, and gardening in the backyard. It’s definitely a space that has BIG main character energy for all of the vibrant characters and personalities in the house, including the cats.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Colorful, Eclectic, Maximalist

Inspiration: I’m inspired by the ’70s, lots of color, and texture.

Favorite Element: My favorite element has to be our custom wallpaper in the entryway; I love that it’s the first thing you see and it sets the tone for the whole space. It’s fun, unique and a little retro.

Biggest Challenge: Since we’re renting, the biggest challenge was making sure everything we do (and have done) is “renter-friendly.” All of the wallpaper and backsplash is removable and reusable. As far as painting goes, take a weekend and a bucket of Kilz to paint back when it comes to moving out — it’s 100 percent worth it to not look at beige/taupe walls everyday. Other issues we’ve had are the odd dimensions and heights in places like the kitchen counter/island (we had to buy 30″ barstools), closets — our landlord is extremely tall and I’m 5’2″ so reaching hangers in my office closet requires either a jump or a stool. The kids’ bedroom was also tricky; they had glass mirror closet doors that were really hard to open and close so we decided to take them off completely and turned their closet into a “cloffice/workspace.” It really opened up their room and we just put the doors behind our wardrobes in the bedroom.

Proudest DIY: Proudest DIY has to be my pink floor-length fringe mirror in the entryway and black round ball mirror in my office. They were IKEA hacks and I loved giving them new life. I also love our blue IKEA BRIMNES bed and wardrobes.

Biggest Indulgence: Aside from the kids’ bunk bed, which is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in our space, I’d have to say the KitchenAid mixer was my biggest indulgence. I put off buying it for years and finally bit the bullet and have never looked back. It’s amazing.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Aside from using our space as a backdrop for creating custom content for brands and our social platform, we really have made this our escape from the world. Outside it’s a busy street in Queens but inside it’s a colorful paradise where we have fun and spend time together.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? In addition to my all-time favorite, Rattan S Chairs (they’re so unique and have held up for six+ years against three growing, rambunctious kids), we just bought a hanging egg chair for the patio and I didn’t know what I was missing all of these years; it’s so comfortable and peaceful.

I also love all of the small details: the hanging metal planters in the living room, the Elnaz Ceramics serving bowl on the sideboard in the entryway, and David’s all-time favorite piece, the lava lamp; he loves it so much he named it Brick.

In the kids’ room, instead of a bulky TV we opted for a roll-down projector screen on the top of their closet so we can have movie nights on the big screen in their room. It saves a ton of space and is such a fun feature in their room.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Storage, storage, storage! With five people and two cats we need all the storage we can get, especially with limited closet and cabinet space. We’ve taken advantage of maximizing additional storage with baskets on top of the wardrobes and fridge, under furniture like the sideboards, and with tiered hanging fruit baskets — we have one at the entryway for masks, keys, and sunglasses and another one under an odd nook under the counter for cloth napkins, ready-to-use cleaning supplies, and other kitchen items. We also try to buy furniture that doubles as storage, like our velvet swivel chairs have compartments inside, as well as the metal drum side table/stools. The kids’ triple bunk bed even has storage drawers to organize their toys. While we are definitely maximalists we do try to avoid having a lot of unnecessary clutter laying around. Everything has a designated home and is organized as possible.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Don’t be afraid of color and remember that decorating a home is a marathon not a sprint. Take your time and decide what you truly want and need instead of buying something on a whim and being tired of it six months later. When you can, upcycle pieces to give them a new life and don’t be afraid to buy used. Have fun with your space and don’t be afraid to make it your own, whether you’re renting or own.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

This Nifty Doggy Door Is Rental Home-Friendly — And My Dog Loves It

This Nifty Doggy Door Is Rental Home-Friendly — And My Dog Loves It

Kristen Garaffo

Contributor

Kristen is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer and homebody. She specializes in home and lifestyle content, and loves helping others live their best lives at home and beyond. Romanticizing her life since 1987, you can probably find her sipping on iced coffee, crushing a Crossfit workout, designing her next dream space, or blasting Taylor Swift.

A 240-Square-Foot Fort Greene Studio Is an Impressively Cozy, Comfortable Home

A 240-Square-Foot Fort Greene Studio Is an Impressively Cozy, Comfortable Home

Name: Darini
Location: Fort Greene — Brooklyn, New York
Size: 240 square feet
Years lived in: 17 years, renting

Darini has made this 240-square-foot Fort Greene studio apartment into a cozy, tidy home, a space she’s rented for almost two decades. “I’m an anthropologist and sociologist, who along with my students explore such topics as our consumption habits and the ways in which we could bridge our lives with the natural world in creative, cohesive, and environmentally sustainable ways,” explains Darini. “Living in a tiny space poses many challenges, such as the obvious limited space and storage options, so it’s taught me to enjoy living with less and by default also consuming less,” she writes. “My tiny apartment has taught me to keep clutter at bay and creating space for things that are functional yet provide an aesthetically pleasing environment.”

Living in under 300 square feet for 17 years has taught Darini a thing or two about small space organization, and along with her academic career, she’s launching an organizing consultancy business called Declutterbug LLC, where she’ll “help clients declutter and organize their living spaces, so they can enjoy a more manageable and rewarding life.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My style tends to be calming, relaxing, and peaceful with a splash of boho charm.

Inspiration: Caribbean beaches, nature, and wildlife inspire my home.

Favorite Element: My favorite part of my home is the natural light and the sun I get streaming in from the southeast. The natural light casts mysterious shades of minty pistachio green hues throughout the day on my kitchen’s back wall/backsplash painted in “Daquiri Ice” from Benjamin Moore.

Biggest Challenge: Living in a tiny space poses many challenges, such as the obvious limited space and storage options, so it’s taught me to enjoy living with less and by default also consuming less. My tiny apartment has taught me to keep clutter at bay and creating space for things that are functional yet provide an aesthetically pleasing environment. However, my biggest challenge living in the tiny space, is that cannot part with books easily because being in the academy I often find that I need to be able to access them quickly, especially as I recall information visually and need to make references to them in my work, so I proudly showcase my library. So, I began downsizing my books by selling a few philosophy and literary books to Un-nameable Books, a local secondhand bookstore, and I donated the remainder to Housing Works and Goodwill. I gave away the books that had never been read and all the fiction that I had read once. That was a start.

Proudest DIY: My big DIY was stripping my gray kitchen cabinets and the paint off my window moldings, plastering old cracks in the wall and painting them. I began the task with two kinds of pseudo green and non-toxic chemical brands to peel away eight layers of paint back to the 1920s or so. I didn’t realize what I’d gotten myself into when I decided to strip down the gray paint, but in the end it felt like a fun archaeological project discovering the different colors that previous tenants had painted the cabinets over the past hundred years or so, which ranged from many surprising hues of bright yellow to salmon pink to even a shade of burgundy. Once the cabinets were stripped, I machine and hand sanded them and painted them in Benjamin Moore’s “Chantilly Lace.” The entire project update took me close to 30 days and cost about $600.

Biggest Indulgence: My biggest indulgence over the years has been upgrading my pieces of furniture to a more modern and functional aesthetic from the vintage pieces I had collected from an antique barn in Vermont prior to moving to NY. The latest acquisition has been my rattan boho coffee table from West Elm, which wasn’t cheap as the price went up 30% in recent months, but it completes my space.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I use my home as a respite from the hustle and bustle of NY life and its busy and loud streets. According to friends, my abode apparently imparts the vibe of a treehouse. My apartment is on the top floor of a lovely 200-year-old brownstone that faces east and overlooks a lovely backyard, which is teaming with nature, a huge oak tree, apple tree, squirrels, birds like mourning doves, blue jays, cardinals, a feral cat and on occasion even invites a hungry Cooper’s Hawk to hang out.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I have enjoyed the process of getting rid of things and furniture and clutter over the years, and choosing to keep and bring objects into my home that I think will only enhance or brighten up my space. I’ve had to give away an old New England rocking chair that was hard to maneuver around its sharp-edged legs. Yes, a small space requires a few pieces of furniture that are easy to move around, so pieces with rounded edges are best. I’ve enjoyed assembling a mid-century modern record player stand, which I bought from Ashley Homestore, and it has become my pride and joy, as I listen to my growing record collection. I’ve enjoyed buying colorful cushions from Joss and Main, hand woven Agowa Senagalese cane baskets of all shapes and sizes from Agowa at our Ft. Greene artisan market, and most recently some uniquely hand crafted pieces like a Laureate pitcher and a hilamos shopping bag from Plaza Bolivar, a local woman-run business that sells indigenous artisanal crafts from her native Colombia.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Bring nature in with plants, and if you prefer a calm environment keep it simple with a neutral palette and add a splash of color to brighten up the space. Lastly, for every three-five items you’re able give away, allow yourself to bring one object into your home that captures your heart.

This house tour’s responses were edited for length and clarity.

Erin Derby

Photographer

Originally from California, but turned New Yorker since 2000, I’ve been shooting my entire life and am still inspired and excited about it. Lately I have been putting my energies into my Fine Art, which can be seen on my website and on Saatchi Art. Being infatuated with interior design doesn’t hurt either, which mixes well with my love of photographing interiors.

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