Make a rental home feel like your own

Universal UclickFebruary 8, 2013 

In the midst of the nation’s housing-market downturn, more people are renting their residences. The nationwide rental unit vacancy rate is the lowest it’s been since 2002, according to second quarter 2012 census data. But, you don’t have to own a home to make a home your own, says Bob Novogratz, co-owner with wife Cortney of their New York City-based design firm and co-star of HGTV’s “Home by Novogratz.”

“Moving and change can be a good thing,” he says. “Surround yourself with things you love. It may be a rented space, but it should still reflect your style.”

The key to room-and-board bliss is communication between landlord and renter, so go through the lease before wallpapering or painting walls a bold color. Novogratz says you don’t have to overthink communications with the property manager, since you won’t be knocking down walls, but he encourages renters to “own” a space by infusing personality into it. “When you’re renting, you have to put your money into things that you can ultimately take with you.”

Color and light

Paint is the easiest way to bring color and life into a space, Novogratz says. “A room can become instantly cool with a shade of blue, or a space can also become warm with a deep, rich paint color on the walls,” he says. “In our home, the walls are white, which serves as a backdrop to the colorful artwork we have everywhere.”

Style doesn’t have to be costly, but you need a plan to make a space come together. “Wallpaper is making a comeback, but you don’t have to hang it on every wall,” he says. “Choose a wall and hang a boldly designed paper on it to create an instant focal point in the room.”

A bright tip to set the mood in a space is to change out light fixtures. Whether you’re hanging a vintage chandelier or a modern, sleek colorful pendant, make sure you store the original one, so when you move, you can swap it back out and take your light fixture with you.

Furnishings and artwork

Novogratz’s sensibility in blending modern with vintage pieces is the firm’s trademark. If a landlord won’t let you paint walls or hang wallpaper, think of the furniture as artwork.

“The sofa can be one of the biggest investments in a new apartment,” he says. “But bigger isn’t always better, and that definitely applies to having an oversized couch.”

Buy the best sofa you can afford with sleek lines, which imparts a timeless appeal, Novogratz says. The higher the quality, the longer you will own it, no matter where you live. If purchasing new furniture is cost-prohibitive, scour antique and flea markets for solidly constructed mid-20th-century pieces that can be reupholstered. Usually, the smaller scale of older furniture pieces works well in an apartment.

A layering effect can also begin at ground level with colorful or graphically dynamic rugs. “A rug unifies a color theme and creates a stage for what’s happening in the room,” Novogratz says. “A rug helps make the space warm and absorbs sound, which is important when living in an apartment.”

Accessorize with “pops of color.” Pillows and draperies – which can be easily changed out – can have atomic oranges, sea-glass blues and sherbet-inspired greens that enliven a space. Artwork can be both sophisticated and playful to reflect a personal style. “Invest in pieces that mean something to you, and that is money well-spent,” he says.

Storage woes

When storage space is minimal, invest in cabinets and armoires that can be moved as needs change.

“Don’t be afraid to move pieces around in the space to find where it fits best,” he says.

Although many may be postponing the American dream of owning their own home, renting a space can also mean a new lease on life.

“Surround yourself with timeless things you enjoy,” Novogratz says. “And, when it comes time to move, know those design staples will go with you.”

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