This Beachy 400-Square-Foot NYC Rental Apartment Is Full of Rent-Friendly DIY Hacks

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Organic modern neutral-colored West Village apartment living room with sectional sofa, coffee table, decorative fireplace, and fluffy dog sitting on the floor.

Name: Kelsey Trevethan, boyfriend Ricky Tompkins, and Aussie pup, Taj
Location: West Village — New York City, New York
Size: 400 square feet
Type of Home: 1 bedroom walk-up apartment
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Like many of my fellow New Yorkers, I was able to score a pretty sweet deal on this apartment. My previous building was jacking up the rent, so I decided to move a whopping one block away — and it was completely worth it. Although it’s bigger and slightly newer than my previous apartment, I still wanted to enhance it all with some easy and renter-friendly DIYs.

The stick-tile backsplash in the kitchen and black hardware made a huge difference in the space, and the added shelves provided so much storage and room for personality. Growing up in California, my style has always gravitated toward a laid back and beachy aesthetic. I really loved decorating this apartment as if it were my own little beach house back in California. Almost every time I’m on a Zoom, people assume I’m on the West Coast based on the decor behind me and I love it.

When my boyfriend moved in, I was lucky that he loved the way I had already decorated, so we didn’t change too much. But as a fashion photographer, he had an impressive coffee table book collection that I was excited to merge with my own. Our media console is a super fun hybrid of our styles.

I identify as half Californian, half New Yorker. My boyfriend and I are both from California, so our coastal style definitely shows through our art and color palette. Some of my favorite coastal pieces include: the Ali Beletic’s “Just Waves” tapestry, the letterpress map of Malibu where I went to college, the Gray Malin print of Ocean Beach, San Francisco where I used to live, and the Slightly Choppy flag I had custom made for my pup Taj! I love that each piece has a personal connection or story behind where we’ve been and the things we love.

You can also find pops of our inner New Yorker throughout the apartment. From our coffee table book collection to the matches from our favorite restaurants, to my ten-year collection of Vogue magazines in the fireplace. The mixture of our two styles has resulted in a home that feels like a little piece of beach life in the big city.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: New York Slice of California.

What is your favorite room and why? The living room and kitchen area. The open concept layout and sky-high ceilings were two of the main selling points for me. My prior apartments never had enough space to entertain, let alone keep from eat dinner on the couch, so I love being able to host friends in this bigger place.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? My favorite piece changes frequently, but right now it is definitely the piece of driftwood above the mantel! I found it while walking on the beach in Montauk last summer and carried it all the way back on the train. The best kind of decor is free and packed with memories! A close runner up would be my rug that I brought back from Morocco. It was an unforgettable experience that I get to relive every time I look at it.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Get creative. From DIY to beach finds, there are so many budget-friendly ways to make your home somewhere you’re excited to be. Some of my favorite budget hacks in this apartment:

  • Restoration Hardware-Inspired Coffee Table: We had one of our friends who is a set designer build this table from scratch for us! I was in love with a table from RH, but the price tag was way out of budget. Instead, I went to the lumberyard and picked out a similar wood and had it custom built. The total cost for materials and labor ended up being a quarter of what we would have spent on the RH piece! Not to mention, it’s one-of-a-kind.
  • Framed Matchbooks: Instead of paying for overpriced photos of matches (which I still love), I opted to frame the actual matchbooks I’ve collected over the years. All you need is a hot glue gun, frames, and the matches of your choice!
  • Custom Desk: I recently started a canned cocktail company called Tif’s Spiked with my family, so I now work from home most of the time. I knew I wanted a standing desk, but couldn’t find one that I loved the look of. I ended up finding a place online that creates custom desks based on whatever materials and dimensions you need. The giant drawer they built in is an added bonus!
  • IKEA Console: I love the look of a rattan console, but not the price tag. I decided to see if I could recreate one with an IKEA cabinet. I purchased the rattan material from Etsy and attached it within the glass door opening. I love this piece and it was super easy.
  • Shelves: Debatably the MVP of this apartment. NYC apartments are low on storage, so I knew I had to get creative in order to fit all my stuff in here. I decided to have some shelves custom made and mounted throughout the unit. I went for oak, which is on the pricier end, but totally worth it. I can’t imagine getting by in this kitchen without them.

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