DIY Projects, Black Paint, and a Backyard Makeover Transformed This Rental House

DIY Projects, Black Paint, and a Backyard Makeover Transformed This Rental House

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Name: Caity Hall, partner Corey Robinson, and our basset hound, Chauncey
Location: San Diego, California
Size: 750 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, renting

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We have lived here for a year and have been in quarantine for a few months now, and we talk about how much we love this house daily. We were looking for a new place to live for about a year and half and it was a very difficult process. The market in San Diego is very expensive and spaces are often rented out the first day they are posted. As a designer, I start moving into a space that I like immediately in my head, so it was hard to have to start over so many times. But we weren’t willing to compromise and knew we needed a large living room, a backyard, and a house with some character.  We are so happy that we were patient and didn’t give up, because this house gives us everything that we wanted.

We both grew up in San Diego and love the beach, so we spend most of our time in the yard in the sun with friends and family. Chauncey is also happiest being outside in the sun all day. We are especially grateful for the outdoors during quarantine because it really expands our living area. We wanted to have a space that looks beautiful and put together, but that people aren’t afraid to use and feel comfortable in.

When we moved in, every single wall was painted canary yellow. We spent a few long days painting, which totally transformed the feel of the house and is ALWAYS worth the work! I was so excited to use the built-in next to the fireplace to house our vintage camera collection from Corey’s grandpa. We also love how bright the house is with the large windows. I have quickly been converted into a plant person and all of our new plant friends are so happy and thriving with the natural light. They add so much color, texture, and life to the house.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I have a modern aesthetic that incorporates a lot of natural woods for warmth and bold contrast. I love adding fun and quirky elements so the spaces aren’t taking themselves too seriously.

Inspiration: I’m inspired a lot by traveling to different parts of the world and seeing how design, materials, and styles change. It’s so important to get away from your design bubble in your environment, as well as social media, where algorithms can start to make everything the same. We have a lot of accessories throughout our house that we have collected while traveling, which add an important collected and curated feel to a space.  

Favorite Element: The black walls in the bedroom are my favorite element. I knew before we moved in that I was going to give us a bold and moody space. So many people were terrified and tried to talk me out of it, but I knew it was right and had 0% fear. I love the olive green linen bedding, rust colored curtains, and brass elements contrasting with the dark walls. The black upholstered bed and black nightstands are a fun tone on tone addition.

Biggest Challenge: We have a large sectional (10 feet long), and it was very difficult to find an older house in our budget that had a living space large enough to accommodate it. But we also knew that we did not want to compromise and give up the flexible seating and lounging that it gives us. In this house, the living space was originally supposed to be both living and dining. We removed the pendant light and replaced it with a surface mount drum light, so it gets rid of the “dining area” feel. We used the entire room for our living space, which fits our sectional and our lifestyle so much better. We love how open and spacious the house feels when you walk in now. We were also lucky enough to have an outdoor space right off the kitchen, so we could use that as our dining. Living in San Diego, we love being able to eat outside most of the year, as well as host people for dinner outside.

Proudest DIY: I love DIY and have a lot of easy DIY elements all over the house. In terms of difficulty, I am proudest of reupholstering our bed myself. We loved the shape and design of the bed, but were tired of the chartreuse fabric that it was in. It was not worth the cost to have it professionally reupholstered, and we didn’t want to get rid of it. So I bought some very inexpensive fabric to do a practice round to see if I was able to do it myself. It took a long time, and I definitely made some mistakes the first round. But I was able to complete it with a nicer fabric the second round and am so happy with the results!

We are also very proud of redoing our side yard. It was originally dirt and gravel and the space was only used by the dog. After being in the house for a year and then going into quarantine, we thought it made sense to make the most of our outdoor living (which we use every day!). So I dug up the existing gravel and weed cloth, laid sod myself, added plants and ground covering, built raised garden beds, and started our first herb and vegetable garden. We are so happy to have more living space and Chauncey is so happy to have the grass to roll around on. We feel like such adults after completing our first landscaping job!

Biggest Indulgence: I am a firm believer that it is worth investing in some of the main pieces in your house, especially the pieces that get the most use, both physically and visually. I have this ability, regardless of what I am shopping for, to love the most expensive option that there is. But because we have to live on a realistic budget, our home is a combination of a few splurges and a lot of deals. Our sectional and media stand are the biggest indulgences. But we have already had the sofa for eight years and, because it is down filled, we are able to fluff it up and keep it looking like new. The media stand was something that I knew we would spend so much time looking at. I had seen this piece and loved it for about a year, so I knew that it wasn’t something that I was going to get tired of. It needed to be good quality and the design is so beautiful that I wasn’t willing to settle for anything else.

Best Advice: My advice to clients as well as friends and family is to always take your time and have a plan when you are designing your home. It is so tempting to want to get everything done as quickly as possible so the spaces feel complete. But you usually end up having to sacrifice because of availability, budget, etc. We have been working on collecting pieces for years, and our house will always be a work in progress. You should absolutely love everything in your house. When you buy things, you should always have a plan for them. If there isn’t a coffee table right now that you LOVE, wait until you find one that you do. If you can’t afford the perfect rug, save up for a while until you can. Not everything needs to be a splurge, and we have a really good combination of price points in our house. But everything should be intentional.

What’s your best home secret? I think black paint is my best secret. I have painted walls, furniture, fireplaces, accessories, frames, planters, and everything in between black. So many people are scared of black, but it adds much needed contrast to spaces and is so grounding. Paint, including spray paint, is such a quick and inexpensive way to transform something you find into something that is perfect for you with a custom feel. You can always find a few cans of black spray paint in my shed, ready for whatever project is next.



  • Living Room and kitchen — Sherwin Williams, Pure White
  • Bedroom — Sherwin Williams, Tricorn Black
  • Bathroom — Dunn Edwards, Windrock


  • Belham Living Sorenson Rectangular Console Table — No longer available
  • Vase — West Elm – Shape Studio Vases








Thanks Caity!

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