Trending: Renting Like You Own

Have you noticed that a lot of renters are starting to fix up their spaces as if they own them. For most of us who are fortunate to have lived in our rent controlled apartments for some time, we know how much we are saving in comparison to our neighbors. For some Los Angeles renters owning our own home might be a few years from now so why not fix up what we already live in...

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Kahi Lee of HGTV’s Design On a Dime says, she’s noticed a lot of renters are paying to replace those awful looking closet doors.

“Out with the mirrored ones and in with the new wood ones,” notes Kahi. She also mentions that she has seen a growing trend with painting horribly old wood floors with a new color and adding creative stenciling for a detailed look.

Michele Workman, interior designer and owner of The Red house Interiors says that when she was renting, she actually pushed through a wall that was adjacent to a closet and built out the vanity area into a closet to double its size. Michelle says, “You need all the closets you can get, especially when you’re renting!”

Jen Sincero author and (client of ours) says, “I love my neighborhood in Venice, if I were to move to a more updated apartment my rent would be double and with moving costs and the headache of just moving, its just not worth it.”

She said investing in some much needed updates in her rent controlled apartment was the best thing she did. We hired a painter, a handyman and an electrician who painted and we chose colors that were bright and cheery (getting rid of the boring white walls). We took her chandeliers and had them hardwired to the junction boxes that would normally hang from hooks in the ceiling and had both sinks replaced in the kitchen and bathroom.

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Interior designer, Kelly Van Patter, came up with a great idea that she used on a television shoot. The existing kitchen backsplash was not to Kelly's liking, but she was not able to retile it so she figured, I will just retile over it. She covered the original tile in blue tape and then attached a very thin piece of board over it, (like Luan plywood) and tiled on top of that. She had some left over Moroccan looking tiles and had them cut into 2”x2” squares that covered the backsplash perfectly. She had the tiles caulked all around and when she was done with the shoot, she said “It was such a great idea-we just removed the tiles and still got the look we wanted.”

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Another great idea for a backsplash, if you don’t have any tile is to use wallpaper. Cut a template around your sink and faucet and cut the wallpaper to match it. Keep in mind you might have 2-3 panels to attach. Then take it to your local printers and have them laminate it. Attach it to the wall with square adhesives and you now have a new backsplash. If you get bored with the wallpaper, then just reuse the template or the laminated one and use a different wallpaper design.

Another client we've worked with, Marie Dunaway, explains "I love living in Santa Monica. I have a very large rent controlled 2 bedroom apartment and am two blocks from the beach. I have lived in my place for a few years and felt it was time to update my look. I knew it was time to get rid of the carpet, paint and update the kitchen."

So Marie asked her landlord if she could make a few improvements.

"There were a just a couple things the landlord said no to, but that was okay -that just meant I could spend more on furnishings," said Marie. So we came up with a more open floor plan that included brand new Berber carpet and the painter come in and sprayed out the kitchen cabinets in dark brown and we added new chrome modern handles.

"My space has actually inspired my neighbors to possibly redo their apartments too, I had no idea I would be a trend setter in my own building!"

Please remember its always a good idea to ask your landlord what kind of renovations (if any) they might approve of. Some landlords might give you an alternative option if they don’t agree with your choices or suggestions. And if you’re lucky they might even split the costs with you. So being honest is the best policy. If you have had success in re-doing your rentals, we would like to hear from you. Please provide links to your pictures and what improvements were made?

"Trending" is a weekly report from Vanessa De Vargas, owner of Turquoise, a Los Angeles furniture and interior decor business.