A designer makes the case for personalizing your rental

A designer makes the case for personalizing your rental


Hey, I’m Lisa Canning and welcome to my cabin just north of Toronto. We moved in here in the dead of winter and let me tell you this space — I fell in love. I love the natural light, I love the fact that I have mature trees in the back, but I knew this place was gonna be so much work! This house has a lot of mid-century modern charm, but it also had a bunch of stuff that was not gonna be practical for my family of eight people, including louvered doors, which means you could hear everything and I just knew that wasn’t gonna fly with a family of my size. This house has so much charm, but I really wanted to make sure it reflected me and my own personal taste. As a designer, it’s always challenging, and especially because this is a rental I had to really just like really balance my desire to make this space my own, but also sinking in costs that I knew I wasn’t really gonna get back. So the first thing that I did in this space that was a major structural change that I wrestled with big-time was installing shiplap. Shiplap is this beautiful texture on the wall. I put in new crown molding as well as baseboards and casing, all from Metrie and I love it so much. But I really wrestled with if it was a responsible choice to put in such a permanent solution. So because I knew the doors just would not be practical for sound I ended up installing brand-new solid doors. Painting them all really fun colors like this blush pink, and it’s just another really fun pop of my personality, but it’s another investment that I knew wasn’t exactly gonna be something I was gonna take with me when I leave this rental. So what I would say to anybody considering making a major investment in structural changes in a rental is to just consider how long are you gonna be in the space, and think about amortizing the cost of the changes over the time you’re gonna be there, and I find when you amortize it, you can…it just feels a lot more reasonable. This is still your home and you still want to feel good in it. And especially where function is an issue that you need to consider, I would definitely suggest that you think about implementing those changes. The other thing to consider in a rental is just your overall budget, so even if you are going to make structural changes think about the percentage it’s going to take up in that budget and then, you know, make necessary decisions for everything else. So one of the things I did, because I invested in shiplap and doors, was to go really reasonable on the furnishings. So I sourced the furnishings in this room from a multitude of very reasonable sources — I went to online retailers, I went to very inexpensive box stores, I went online at places like Kijiji that support the second-hand economy, just to make sure I could really stretch and maximize my dollars. When selecting the pallet for my living room, I really actually took into account how much natural greenery you see through my windows. And so I repeated the green in these cute little ottomans, as well as stuck to colors that were beside green on the color wheel like these navy blue sofas, and I just find it makes a very harmonious, very peaceful, inviting environment. When decorating a space that is large and open-concept, you also want to make sure that it still feels very grounded. So one of the ways I did that was with this oversized rug. All the furniture pieces you’ll notice are sitting on the rug. It’s a very important rule in design and it creates this really great conversation area. But then I also created additional little cozy nooks with, you know, side chairs with a little side table, another sofa, that create other areas where people can relax and congregate. I needed to keep costs really conservative in the dining room in order to make all of this balanced and so everything in my dining room was really cheap and cheerful. My table was under $200 and my chairs were from my previous home. Even things like working with trades in a rental I tried to keep so minimal. So I removed an existing — not so attractive — light fixture and replaced it with this chandelier. But the hole that the old fixture created was super large and it would have cost me more money to patch, so instead a $49 medallion saved the day. If you live in a rental and you’re afraid to make changes, or you feel like they’re just not worth it, let me encourage you. It is your home and it’s your environment and our environments impact our mood and our function, so don’t be afraid to talk to your landlord see what you can negotiate and really just make your space your own.

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