Living in a rented space can be challenging at times in terms of decorating, especially if you can't make big changes or upgrades. That being said, there are solutions to every obstacle & thinking creatively within your limits can make a huge difference.
Rachel Valente knows how to do just that, think creatively, and her rented home gives beautiful proof of what is possible. Here you'll find some of her insights on ways to "elevate a rented space" and if you haven't seen her reels on instagram yet, go check them out, they are truly inspiring.
What are some things you suggest to start with or do when creating a space you love that's rented?
The first thing I would suggest is to think of everything you can’t control. People usually give me a funny look or have question marks when I say this. What I mean by this is–– look around your space and notice the things you can’t change. Maybe you can’t paint, maybe there’s carpet on the floor, maybe the kitchen cabinets are an ugly color/finish. You get all the “can’ts” out of the way so that you can see the “cans”. So you can’t paint, but you can utilize smart color theory and design to balance the tones. You can’t pull up the carpet, but you can find a rug that will complement it and you can be smart about what kind of furniture you get to offset it. You can’t change the kitchen cabinets but maybe you can take off the doors or temporarily switch out the pulls/handles. This attitude isn’t one of negativity–– it’s choosing to have a different, more helpful perspective on your circumstances.
Another thing–– research! Hop online and find some renter-living Instagram influencers. Read articles from Apartment Therapy. Scroll through Pinterest. There are so many renter-friendly decor tips out there, you’re bound to find something.
And lastly. Do not ever be under the impression that because you’re renting, you can’t make a place feel like home. I’ve had people tell me it’s not worth the investment, they feel discouraged, it’s only temporary, etc. First, every moment you spend in your rental is one that you’re learning. You’re becoming more creative, more resourceful, more aware of what you like and don’t like. This is an amazing time to play with ideas so that you know exactly what you want when you have your own home someday! Secondly, when I come home from work every day and walk through my front door, I don’t think to myself “I’m coming back to an apartment. It’s just a few walls that I’m temporarily living in”. No, I think to myself “I’m coming back home.” And it’s an amazing feeling. To know that the place I live in, though temporary, feels like me. Feels like home, because I chose to make it feel like that. You deserve to feel at home, no matter how temporary a place is!
—Where do you go to get inspired?
Oh, so many places! Pinterest, most obviously. YouTube, random architecture all around me, too. And these days, mainly from other creators on Instagram because everyone is actively walking their design/decor journey. People are changing their minds, transitioning to new styles, exploring fun ideas and creative DIYs. It’s so inspiring to watch other people work through their own homes because the rest of us are all doing the same!
—Do you create mood boards, what tools do you find helpful?
I do, especially when I’m planning a full room makeover! I’ve heard many people use PowerPoint to make their mood boards, but I personally love using Canva. There are so many more graphics available, customizable colors, and easy ways to plop a design in and play around with it until it feels right.
However, I also want to note that sometimes it’s ok to not have a moodboard! There are so many times when I design at the pace of the space–– I take time to make decisions and I go slowly. I don’t have everything written down or planned, I just watch the space evolve and evolve with it. It’s ok to improvise and it’s okay to change your mind!
—Do you make choices in advance or add on to what you already have?
When you’re trying to make ends meet, pay for student loans, and generally survive :) you usually find it’s easier to add on to what you already have. Refreshing a piece of furniture or a decor item you already have is always so rewarding and so thrifty! When I’m re-decorating a room or thinking of a new way to refresh an old space, I always dig back into what I have lying around. I think it’s a fantastic way to keep things affordable and interesting.
–What is one thing you've created or done that's really changed your space?
Rugs, rugs, rugs! I could say so much about why and how a rug transforms your space, but I’ll try to keep it brief :) A rug is the foundation of every room and even though many people walk over it and some don’t even notice it, it actually has such a huge impact on how we feel about a room. For example, the hardwoods in our apartment are very very dark. We recently switched to a brighter, lighter rug that instantly lifted the feel of the room and make it feel more spacious and inviting. Our old rug was beautiful too, but it had darker colors and busier patterns that subconsciously weighed the room down instead of lifting it up. Also, a rug is such a simple way to switch up the feel of a room. Instead of changing all your furniture or other major decor pieces, you can simply switch out what’s underfoot to bring a space new life (and it’s renter friendly, hooray!!).
—Any additional tips?
Have patience and be brave.
Patience because the journey is long and nothing happens overnight. Many of us are walking real walks of life. We’re juggling jobs, parenthood, debt, exhaustion. It’s not an easy thing to do. It takes time.
Brave because it takes courage to keep away from comparison and discouragement and disappointment. It’s hard to wonder when the journey of renting or living in a tiny space you’ve outgrown will finally end. But courage in this chapter and kindness to yourself plays such a crucial role in making it feel like home. Be positive and be good to yourself and to your family. You deserve it!
Such a pleasure to speak and collaborate with Rachel. For more design tips, DIYS and wonderful content make sure to check out her page @rachlvalente.
(Lara & Lou)