Making a Rental Your Own

It’s hard owning property in the 914. Lorri Dyner knows this. It’s why the Westchester resident and noted home-design expert suggested the following ways to still make one’s house or apartment feel cozy and personal, even if their name’s not on the deed. 


What is the easiest thing you can do to make a rental your own? 

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The number one thing is paint. If your landlord allows it, paint your walls anything other than white. That will personalize your space immediately. We rented a big, beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side for years, and I regret never painting it. You know how it goes: “Oh, we’ll only be here one year, two years at the max.” And then five years later, your walls are still boring white and screaming “rental.”


What’s the biggest mistake renters make when decorating? 

I know shelling out money for a rug might seem frivolous, but even if you are in a space for a year, you can find really inexpensive options at places like IKEA and Target. The warmth and style that a rug brings to a room can make the purchase well worth it.


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Talk to me about wallpaper: a do or a don’t? 

Wallpaper is another issue. I would say absolutely not if you are going for a standard paper (too hard to remove), but there are so many terrific options for temporary wallpapers. Try Spoonflower, CB2, West Elm, and Etsy. All of these sites have great designs for less. Try hanging temporary wallpaper in the bathroom or on one wall in your sitting room or entry. 


What about light fixtures? 

I say absolutely yes to swapping out light fixtures (of course, hang on to the original fixtures so you can put them back at the end of your lease). The only caveat is that you need to make sure the cover plate (also known as a “canopy”) of your lighting fixture is the same size or bigger than the hole in the ceiling. Nothing is more frustrating than installing a new ceiling light, only to find the hole in the ceiling is bigger than your canopy.

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What kind of furniture should you buy? 

I would personally try to stick with items that are small and easy to move, and that could potentially fit in a variety of situations (i.e. small barrel chairs that swivel). Resist purchasing an expensive designer sofa and consider buying your sofa off of craigslist. Imagine investing in a huge sofa that doesn’t even remotely fit in your next place. Better to spend your money elsewhere.  


What are some of your fastest, most inexpensive, and easiest tips for renters who want a stylish home? 

Focus on the last 10 percent of decorating that really makes a house (or apartment) feel like a home. Things like curtains, rugs, and throw pillows can literally transform your space from a boring clinical feel to something completely warm and homey. The best part? These elements can be very inexpensive and they can all come with you to your next residence. 


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