The Genius Way Six Renters Made Themselves Happier at Home


These six renters all have something in common. Each had high hopes for their homes, and they all invested some time and money into making their apartments match their lifestyles, priorities and interests. They weren’t huge projects or costly renovations, just little tweaks and changes that each tenant did to make themselves happier at home.

When they moved into their Chicago home, Joe and Kim started coming up with new ways to make their space look and feel great. A big priority? Plants. They admit to a crazy addiction to buying them and have more than 20 in the kitchen alone. Joe used some old materials hanging around to build what they call a “plant chandelier” which not only looks beautiful with the cascading greenery, but also hides the ugly lighting fixture that came with the apartment.

Whitney rents a fifth floor walkup in New York and didn’t like that the trashcans were one of the first things you saw when you walk in their front door. So she wrapped each of them in twisted sisal rope. She says it was one of those projects that makes you feel completely ridiculous while you’re doing it, but it was totally worth it. The cans also now sit on a flat, wheeled dolly so they can roll them out of the way and create more bar space when they are entertaining.

Chelsey wanted to make a statement on her living room wall, without breaking the bank. Since it’s a rental, she didn’t want to hang expensive wallpaper. So she created a feature wall for only $6 using metallic tape. It took her a few days to experiment and find the right pattern, but eventually it came together exactly the way she wanted. And it totally suits her glam Manhattan apartment.

Lisa lives in a laid-back Montreal studio. In an effort to maximize space, she hung additional kitchen shelves to hold dry foods and other kitchen items. The materials came from IKEA, and were a quick and very low-cost project.

Sarah is a chef, as well as the founder of a New York-based lifestyle and events studio. She lives, works and entertains in her small Brooklyn apartment and needed to create a space where she could do all three things. A focal point of her space is a wine bar built from wood planks, standing bottle racks, and IKEA shelving. It looks totally custom, and provides the perfect storage and display for all of her glassware.

Emily lives in a small Chicago studio. She really wanted some sort of division between her “bedroom” area and the front door, but didn’t want it to feel too dark and closed off. Nor did she want the room divider itself to be an eyesore. She made a hanging copper divider that doubles as clothes storage and a memo board. It’s the perfect solution for the space.

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