5 Tips to Personalize Your Rental (No Paint Required!)

My boyfriend and I were out walking our puppy today and I noticed one of our building neighbours had painted stripes on her walls. (The windows were open. I couldn’t help looking!) It made me wonder how many other units had been personalized too… I’d love to see what others have done with an apartment identical to ours! My boyfriend pointed out that many probably hadn’t changed at all, but I’m sure there are others out there like me who want more than plain white walls and drab old carpet.

We have the luxury of being able to paint our walls (well… Luxury might be a strong word. We still have to paint it back when we move, so I’ll go with lucky). However, this clearly isn’t the case with a number of places. What can you do to personalize your home when you can’t pick up a paintbrush?

1. For one, you can switch up your hardware:


Aren’t these awesome? And they are DIYed! They look like true Malachite knobs, but in actuality, they’re plain old white ceramic ones coloured over with a teal sharpie. For a full tutorial, check out her blog.



If a piece of furniture can change this much, imagine how much of a difference it could make on your cabinets. Just be sure to match the size of the new knob to your existing ones, and switch them back when you move!

2. Switch out door handles.

I often see people replacing cabinet hardware, but why not doors too? Ours are especially dull… Old basic gold and a silver with paint splattered on the sides after years of repainting our apartment. You could always switch out your current ones for a pretty new pair, or better yet, add in some character with a glass knob like this.


I’ve been crushing on this vintage style for quite a while now… Check some out at an antique store in your neighbourhood, or better yet, a warehouse that sells salvaged vintage pieces. Jack’s New and Used in Vancouver is a great option for any local readers out there!

3. Washi tape walls.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Washi tape walls? How simple and effective!

You wouldn’t have to stop at diagonal stripes. Chevron, squares, diamonds… There really are so many possibilities. For more pattern inspiration, feel free to check out my Favourite Patterns Board on Pinterest!

4. Multiple light sources and dimmers.

One thing I often find in a rental are the cheapest possible choices, and lighting is no exception. I’ve had living rooms that don’t even have an overhead lamp.

I’m picky with light. I can’t stand a room lit with harsh overhead lights, bleaching out the colours in the space. Imagine how much of a statement a gorgeous lamp could make in a rental, and how much better the room would look well lit?


However, I’m clearly not about to go off changing the hanging lamps I have in my place any time soon. Maybe one day…

That being said, I often read designers mentioning how important multiple sources of light are, especially when used with a dimmer switch. Even adding a few great accent lamps on your side tables and beside furniture can make space feel so much cosier and warm. What’s more, you can even buy cheap dimmer cords to add in some lovely mood lighting to your existing lamps! Check this option out from Ikea for $10.


5. Plywood wall.

If your walls can’t be painted or wallpapered, why not add a wall in that can be?


I mean seriously. How sweet is that accent wall? She made it with a piece of plywood. I love it. The project adds so much more character and depth to an otherwise white backdrop.

Hope these ideas have inspired you to make some changes in your home! If you’re going to be living there, why not make it feel more like you, and less like a plain old place you’re staying in?


What a Gem! My Five Favourite Finds of the Week

Every week I have grand plans of projects I hope to accomplish on the weekend, but somehow these goals tend to be pushed aside… I see friends and family, I take Bali for a big excursion (gotta make up for the lack of backyard in this place), I have errands to take care of, I force myself to exercise… (Or let’s be honest, I end up shopping a large part of the time…) I discover so many lovely ideas and projects during the week and I thought Fridays would be the perfect opportunity to share them. Maybe it will help to motivate me, and hopefully you, to take on a project we’ve been neglecting for the last little while! 

1. This is a perfect week to start this feature because one of my (and, odds are, one of your) favourite blogs, Young House Love launched a new project this week: YHL Forums! I really have no idea how they manage to pull off all the work they do, just the two of them. Amazing really.

It’s basically a platform to discuss all your decorating and DIYing: show off what you’ve worked on, ask any questions you might have for other readers… If you know of Reddit, it basically seems like a version meant for DIY geeks like me. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it. I can already see countless addictive hours spent there!

2. If you follow me on Pinterest, you may have noticed my washi tape wall pin:


Such a great idea to add colour to a space you may not be allowed (or have the energy) to paint. You could really have fun with the patterns: stripes, squares or any bold geometric. I’m thinking this could be a fun and faster alternative to stencilling my front entrance wall. We’ll see…

3. I’m loving the look of this rustic wood table:


If I had the space for it, I think this could make an awesome DIY! You could follow the same idea I used on our salvaged wood shelves, but of course on a much larger scale.

4. Lately I’ve read a few different articles highlighting the idea of taking off cabinet doors to refresh your kitchen. This one’s from BHG.


This is great for renters as it can lighten up your space without having to make too challenging or permanent a change. I didn’t think ours needed it because of the shelves we installed, but I think it could easily help in an ugly dated kitchen. Especially with some pretty paper lining the back…

5. And to finish on a high note for renters:

Kate from Centsational Girl published her latest article in her Solutions for Renters series yesterday. This time, she’s focusing on the bathroom.


(I mean really, anything you can do to help out that super dated yellow sink? I’m all ears.)

I was especially happy to see this one pop up on my wordpress reader today as I’ve been brainstorming ways to cheer up our beige/pink bathroom once the ceiling is fixed. (You can read more about that little issue here.) I’ll definitely be looking to this article for inspiration!

Hopefully this motivates you as much as it does for me. Feel free to share any projects you’re working on, and make sure to come back Monday to see what I’ve been up to!

Landlords: Rental Building or Homeowner?

A chat with the building drywall guy in my bathroom last week got me thinking.

Yup, you heard that right, we haven’t even lived here a month and we already have people coming in to repair our place. I guess that’s life sometimes… A few weeks before we moved in, I came by to check out the unit again and snap a few (meaning a ton) of pics. Here’s what our bathroom looked like:

Bathroom before

Other than the less-than-ideal tile and tub colour, looks fine. Little did I know, the ceiling was already falling apart.

A few weeks later, it turned into this:

Bathroom Ceiling Hole Ceiling Hole


After a few weeks of waiting for the problem to be resolved, repairs were started a little over a week ago. I then found myself discussing how much of the ceiling should be replaced with this guy. (Umm… all of it, because it’s coated in a thin sheet of mold?)

Every rental, older units especially, are going to have problems. Who will handle it better? The building manager hired by the company who owns dozens of similar properties? The homeowner who lives upstairs? Someone closer to the middle of the spectrum? Is there a difference?


I’ve lived in quite a few different rentals and witnessed friends’ states of affairs…  I’ve also worked for the university housing department as an administrative assistant to five different building managers. (Not the most glam job, but at least I learned a thing or two.) I’m certainly no expert, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject.

If you’ve been to college, you know that arts students get quite a bit of heat for being in the “easy” (and “no future”) faculty. (In case you’re wondering, I started out in commerce, but made the switch to arts in year two. Totally worth it.) That rep is partially valid since it’s relatively easy to pass an arts class, but it is CHALLENGING to get a high mark. Fields like science and engineering are the opposite. The range is much more varied. Many will fail, but, if you know the material well, you can earn yourself a stellar mark.

This analogy applies to landlords. Individual homeowners are the science faculties. Some will be abysmal: only interested in the money and trying to have them keep up with maintenance on their home will be like pulling teeth. Others will be lovely. For example, a friend of mine is a quiet, single and clean tenant, also an elementary teacher. Her landlords love her and take good care of their house, so they will go out of their way to keep her. When she had a leak in her bathroom like mine, they replaced the whole thing*. They took her choices into consideration, and fixed it within a weekend.

Building managers are the arts faculties. Of course they’ll pass: there are way too many systems in place (at least in Vancouver), like the rental board, the company’s reputation and so forth, not to. Problems, at least major ones, will be tended to… in good time. They have the maintenance people available already; they’ve fixed countless units before yours.

The catch?

Being on the other end of this, I’ve seen how busy these people can be. There can be countless work orders just like yours waiting to be tended to. Small leaks in the faucet, carpets that need to be repaired, little holes in the wall… Those ones can take a while for the maintenance staff to get to.

What’s more, a building manager generally doesn’t have a vested interest in the building like an actual owner would. Will they get more cash from potential tenants from a classier upgrade? Probably not. Does it matter to them if the paint splashes onto the tile? Doubtful.

Not only have that, but upgrades in buildings that are owned by one person or company tend to happen all at once. That means if you’d like your tiles to be replaced like my friend’s place, the building would (generally) need to have that scheduled, for all units. If it isn’t (like my bathroom, by the looks of it) they’ll just do whatever it takes to get the job done.

(What did that look like in our building? Yet another shade of beige of tile to add to our collection. This makes four. Nice.)

So which type do you choose? The arts faculty building manager, whom you know will do the minimum but won’t go out of their way to please you, or the couple who live upstairs, who, more like an engineering faculty, could do really well, or really really poorly?

There’s no real “right” answer of course. It depends on your needs, and of course the individual landlord in question. Hopefully this will give you a basic guideline to help you in your search.

What happened with our bathroom you ask? Well… needless to say, nearly a month after told our landlord about it (we moved in March 29th), it’s still a work in progress. The plumber has fixed the leak, but the drywall guy is supposed to come by tomorrow to redo the ceiling. (No more mold!) Fingers crossed… I’ll keep you posted.

A Couple Quick Packing Tips

I would (unfortunately) consider myself to be a seasoned mover. Since I moved out of my parents’ home almost eight years ago, I honestly haven’t lived in one spot for more than eight months. Blame it on university and travel (and our puppy). I never rented a place while backpacking, so off it all went back into storage at my parents’ place.

Want the final count?

14. Yup, 14 moves, which averages about twice a year. I’ve been told this doesn’t make me a good tenant…

Anyway, this one will be different. I’m tired of moving. I’m settled (more or less) in my life now. I’m actually happy living in one city. Until we buy, this is looking like our home!
Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Wrap breakables in towels or linen instead of paper. Why?
  • It’s more sustainable
  • They offer more cushioning than paper does
  • Towels need to be packed somewhere anyway
  • You don’t get newspaper ink on your fingers!

First layer:

Towel Packing 1

Top layer

Towel Packing 2

2. Try to pack with some sort of organization system. You can pack objects together in terms of where they will be in your new house, but I like to group items together from where it they were in our old one. For example, we’re moving from a two bedroom into a basic one bedroom apartment. I’m still packing everything we kept in the second bedroom together, even though they’ll be spread out around our new house. Why?
  • It makes for easier packing. Obviously.
  • More importantly however, it also helps me remember where I put things. If I can’t think of where that pair of shoes is, I can still picture what closet I had it in the last place, and search around in that closet’s box.
3. Get a ton of free moving boxes from your local grocery or veggie store. I always need more than I anticipated, and it’s annoying to spend time rushing out to get a few more. I’ve recently tried the vegetable store chain Kim’s Farm Market: so many boxes, and much cleaner and stronger than some grocery stores I’ve tried in the past.
You definitely don’t need to spend money on new boxes at Staples. Again, reuse!
4. If ever you do end up packing the odd thing in a random box (it certainly happens to me, at least when I’m losing steam at the end of a move) write it down somewhere accessible (I use my iPhone). This way, I can refer to my list when I’m on the hunt for some random object down the road!
Any strategies you’ve found especially helpful? I still have a few more boxes to go, so I’d love to hear them!
Packing Tips