Clashing patterns, chipping paint, and mismatched furniture is far from unusual in Beijing's rental market. But Becky Lane's apartment in an older neighborhood near the city's fashionable Sanlitun district was another ordeal entirely.
Despite this apartment being at the higher end of her budget and in a state that would make most expats go running for the nearest renovated home, Becky said yes to renting.
With a background in interior design, and armed with experience renovating her previous apartment, Becky headed with measurements in hand to Shilihe (十里河), a hardware supply market in Beijing. Embarking on a major makeover project that would take ten days during a break in work, she refrained from telling her landlord her plans: Doing so in the past had led to a rent increase. But she wasn't worried. "One thing that's nice," Becky says, "Is that it's kind of easy to do anything, because nobody really follows up with you or minds that you're renovating your whole apartment."
She only needed to convince her landlord to take the furniture out of the apartment. Like the furniture, the apartment's flooring looked as if "scraps from random leftover projects" were mashed together in this one space. So the first thing she did was rip it all out and put down her own black vinyl tiling throughout the entire apartment except the balcony. There, she removed the wall and window separating it from the living room, allowing more light in, and installed snap-together deck flooring from IKEA.
The loft bed, designed to make the tiny studio more spacious, was a particularly hefty task. Becky recruited a local handyman to help. She drew up the plans and measurements, and asked him build a metal frame with wooden stairs leading up to the bed. There were a few surprises, however, when he brought over the completed work. "I actually wanted the bed to be a little higher so I could stand underneath it, and he came back and said 'I didn't think you should do that because you could hit your head on the corner of the frame.'"
But, Becky says it's fine "You just kind of have to accept those things. You'll have a plan, but then it will be changed by the time it's actually done."