Making It Home

In a rental space you cannot really do much with the carpets you hate, but there are lots of clever ways to make the space your own. Enthusiastic renter Jenny McAdams, pictured here in her home, has experience decorating tight spaces with personal style.

You rent an apartment or home. So no, you cannot really do much with the carpets you hate or the lighting fixtures you consider eyesores. You are stuck with that dated bathroom tile.

Yet talented interior designers will tell you the space you are renting is worth the effort.

Dawn Rehm of Pine Cone Properties in Carmel suggests beginning with some basics. “As a renter, make your front door your own with a welcome mat that says you, maybe a seasonal wreath hung up, a plant in a stand,” Rehm advises. “If you like a big color pop inside, ask for permission to paint a wall, but be prepared to have it painted back to its original color if your landlord wants it that way.”

Jenny McAdams is not only Pacific Grove Mayor Pro Tempore, but also an administrator of the Buy Nothing Facebook group based in Pacific Grove and established to repurpose used stuff. She is also, more importantly, a renter – for two years now in an older house she believes was built in the 1970s. It’s the biggest house she ever lived in, so it cries out for decoration.

“When we moved in, the house looked like a funky ’70s house,” she says. “Gold fixtures are not my style,” she continues, demonstrating oversized, very ornamental kitchen lamps. “But I decided it’s good to not compete with that. So I wasn’t trying to go all modern, but incorporate things, cover the funk with wood and natural materials.”

Even the fake fireplace started to grow on her, McAdams says.

It’s a strategy designers approve of. “Use rugs to cover what you don’t want to look at on the floor, and help keep it quieter as well,” Rehm says. “Get fun storage on castors, like stainless steel shelving racks, cubby bench, kitchen cart or a hat or coat rack in case your new home is short on closets and cabinets.”

“I really try to not buy things,” McAdams says about adding to the decor. “The only thing that I bought is the dining table,” she says, apologizing for her “Zoom attire” and leading the way from her calm and earthy living room to the kitchen, followed by another smaller living room – now a colorful working space with sitting areas.

In this room sits a desktop decorated as a large cassette tape. There is a purple image of Prince hanging above it. McAdams is definitely not afraid of being eclectic. While the dining table is elegant and solid, a big message on the wall says “Come sit with us,” one of many inspirational/funny messages left all over the house.

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McAdams covered the white blinds in her house with her own curtains. She brought in precious memorabilia from her grandparent’s house, sculptures from a family member and an orangutan in a golden crown she once spotted in Home Goods. She had to get it, she says.

Your homespace is a place of safety and should be cozy first. One of McAdams’ recent additions is a wooden table with fake succulents in the middle of it; built by her partner who is a carpenter. She saw a similar table that was thousands of dollars.

“I keep my eyes open,” McAdams says. “And I replace items to avoid clutter. For example, I know that I can sell this couch for $150 so that’s my budget for my next couch. Not that I will find a better one for $150.”

Buying used, visiting garage sales and monitoring Facebook Marketplace is the way to make it work with a small budget, McAdams says.

Rehm notes that with rental properties, making it feel like your own is also temporary. Plan for what comes when you move out.

“If you have art or other things to hang, use the appropriate wall anchors, nails, etc., and when you move, use a proper quick dry hole filler that can be sanded and painted to return walls to the same condition as when you first moved in,” Rehm says. “Put up your own curtains or window treatments to reflect your idea of nice, be sure to get permission first – and plan on properly storing the ones you take down so they can be put back up when you move out.”

Finally, a homespace should reflect your interests and also inspire you. Don’t strive for perfection and don’t be too serious with it. Life is all about favorite mugs with broken handles, postcards from friends and the wonderful weird things you picked up during vacation.

Keep objects that make you happy close. Mixing and matching is perfectly fine, even expected, in your home. It’s how you mix and match that matters and showcases who you are.

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