How to Make Decor Changes During a Pandemic Pt. 1

Stephanie Hill features How to Make Decor Changes During a Pandemic Pt. 1 on The Style Bungalow

So far during this pandemic, I have found myself blurring the lines between working and dreaming through wee hours of the night; learning more about interior design and scouring the web for inspiration and beautiful pieces as I fight off sleep. Especially after spending these past few months quarantined inside the apartment, immersed in my coffee table books (specifically these here), I couldn’t help but revisit and round up some decor changes anyone can make to their apartment today, from my first apartment project (with interior designer Danielle Rollins) to what I’m continuing to learn, that has made such a significant impact.

So without further ado, here are a few ways you can update your rental during a pandemic…

Paint the walls

Generally, landlords use a very basic white paint and most are fine with you painting over it (just as long as you paint it back to its original color before moving out)…that’s exactly what I did after I moved in. I painted my master closet a shade of pale green (a subtle tropical tone) — Benjamin Moore’s Guilford Green — on the walls and ceiling of my closet. In my kitchen and bathroom, I opted for Benjamin Moore’s Pink Moire based on how beautiful it looked when the sun hit in the afternoon — providing a warm tone.

“Lighting plays a huge role in how a paint reads” throughout the day, what you experience early in the morning will be entirely different than how it looks in the afternoon and evening light. Therefore, it’s so important to get sample swatches of the color paint you love and place it on each wall of that room (I’d even suggest grabbing samples of the shade lighter and darker, too) to really determine how it looks and feels in your space during the morning and afternoon. I recently found a company called Samplize where you can buy peel-stick paint samples instead of painting multiple coats on your wall. There’s no denying the “transformative power” of paint, but don’t be afraid of it either…it is just paint after all.

Lifestyle Blogger Stephanie Hill features How to Make Decor Changes During a Pandemic Pt. 1 on The Style Bungalow

Add vintage

I own a few vintage gems that I’ve discovered throughout the years and love how they’ve become a conversational piece in my apartment. I like to strike a balance when shopping vintage – too many vintage pieces can look like an antique shop; too little will make your space appear too “new.” Make well-loved vintage pieces focal points or accents – they’ll add loads of charm and originality to your design.

Since we’re dealing with the ongoing restrictions of the pandemic, I really enjoy using eBay, my constant treasure trove for hidden gems priced to sell. I use it by maximizing my filter preferences – for example, if I know I’m looking for a wicker mirror, “I start by typing in “wicker mirror.” I check off the “vintage” option and select “local pickup only,” then sort based on distance and browse from there…If I don’t see many options, I’ll unselect “local pickup only” and opt for the shipping preference but only if it’s a small to medium-sized item (shipping can get expensive).

If that’s the case, I highly advise looking into the seller’s review history. Don’t be afraid to contact them and request for additional details about the item (more pictures to scale and different angles), ask questions and negotiate if you notice the item may need a new coat of paint or is missing a piece of hardware. 

In some situations, if I see another vintage piece I like but that’s too expensive, I’ll screenshot the image and try to search for something similar on eBay. I never search for exact phrases, instead I simplify the phrase to about three to five key words in order to optimize my search (or if I’m really on the hunt, I select “Advanced Search” and make sure to click “Title and description” in the event that some sellers may not have listed the item(s) correctly in the title… 

Swap out the old light fixture.

Installing an updated light fixture can create such a dramatic difference. In fact, it altered the entire ambiance of each room! The large wicker pendant light (similar here and here) above my kitchen table continues to create such a cozy feeling in my breakfast nook — and has become my favorite place in the apartment. The textured, tiered chandelier made of coconut shells gives a relaxed, elegant touch that contrasts so well with every other element in my living room; and of course, the capiz shell chandelier (similar here and here) I installed in my master closet establishes continuity in shape and curved themes from the rest of my design space (hint: the scalloped Mecox chair in my living area). Needless to say, if you can, I recommend temporarily swapping out the original light fixture or old ceiling fan that came with the rental (and storing it somewhere safe) to an upgraded light fixture in order to create a more appealing focal point (as it will direct the eye upward and open up your space) that completes your vision. Since there are so many budget-friendly options out there, I’d definitely do more research to see which design makes sense for your space and priority! Here are a few places to start your search: 

AFFORDABLE – MODERATELY PRICED, $-$$ 

CB2

Schoolhouse

Serena and Lily (when they do sales)

Rejuvenation

Ikea

Lamps Plus

eBay

LUXURY, $$$-$$$$

Aerin

Circa Lighting 

Hudson Valley Lighting Group

Amanda Lindroth

Horchow

Coleen and Company

Ralph Lauren Home

1st Dibs

Reminder: If you’re not savvy with installing light fixtures (especially if a ceiling fan was there prior), definitely hire a pro! An electrician will save you so much time and ensure things are done safely and efficiently. I use Handy.com or Angie’s List to find professionals.

Hide ugly floors

My apartment came with old discolored 1980s tiled flooring in the kitchen, so I had to cover it up. I discovered a renter-friendly and inexpensive solution last year: Quadrostyle aka my kitchen floor lifesaver! The pros? It’s a temporary peel and stick floor panel, easy to install (took me half a day with a few coffee breaks in between) and it can last up to 5 years. The cons? There are so many beautiful designs to choose from and because it’s not a permanent solution, it may require replacing a tile here and there over time when you clean the floors — still, I believe it’s worth it. Just make sure when it comes time to cleaning, you use a broom, a damp mop and a gentle floor cleaner to preserve the tiles.

If you’re looking into a rug as a solution and are torn between which design to choose from, maybe consider an affordable sisal rug (then, you can always layer it with a different size and/or complementing design down the road). Not only can rugs hide ugly flooring, like the stained wooden floors in my 1920s apartment, but it can double as a decorative piece that adds warmth and comfort to your space and defines the area. I put a sisal rug in both my living area and master closet to allow the interior decor and architectural elements to draw the eyes up. Many have asked why I decided on sisal instead of jute… I chose sisal, made from dried Mexican agave leaves, as it’s durable, meant for high-traffic areas and holds up well over time. Jute, a similar option but made from Jute plants in Bangladesh and India, is a lot softer, chunkier and therefore “slightly less durable.” Both are equally affordable.

It’s important the rug isn’t too small as it should fit under all key furniture pieces within your room. If that’s not possible, then the front legs of each major piece of furniture should at least fit above the rug.

Accessorize

Accessories are an easy way to change up or complete the look and feel of a space…but it’s important to be selective. I’m referring to any details (big or small) from framed artwork to new cabinet hardware or vintage vessels to those decorative pillows. These accessories can be an investment or affordable options that serve as intentional pieces to tying in the bigger picture while reflecting who you are. Because I knew I wanted to incorporate a similar design to the gallery wall I saw at Coqui Coqui in Merida, I came across Framebridge last year which made this vision come to life. Framebridge can professionally frame your favorite memories, treasured images and artwork so beautifully and have it shipped efficiently. I still can’t believe how it’s transformed my tiny corner — creating a stunning visual impact. Although this was a bigger accessory piece, you can absolutely opt for a few framed pieces of your favorite photographs versus an entire gallery wall instead. Photography, in my opinion, is one of the most affordable ways to incorporate artwork into your space. You can also buy a book on botanicals, rip out the pages and frame them to create a cheap solution. 

Decorative pillows and printed textiles can also add color and texture to a generic white sofa or bland furniture. 

Stephanie Hill features How to Make Decor Changes During a Pandemic Pt. 1 on The Style Bungalow

Don’t fret if you don’t know what your style is quite yet. Buy accessories you love and I promise it will all come together in the end. It always does! Your apartment shouldn’t feel perfect; it should feel lived-in, have soul and tell a story…

Consider window treatments

New window treatments had such a big impact on my apartment. After living with them for a year, I’ve come to cherish them (even more) and will spill all my design tips and tricks I’ve learned since installing them… 

First determine your budget. Custom window treatments from the Shade Store are a sensational investment (more here). If it’s a temporary fix, I’d consider some affordable options from places like Pottery Barn, CB2 and IKEA that can be just as beautiful; look for fabric that has weight because it will hang nicely (which also helps insulate older buildings, block light and save electricity) and make them appear straighter. Next, “hang curtains as high and wide as possible” to give the appearance of larger windows when the curtains are fully open, allowing all the natural light in. Experts say the curtain should be approximately 4-6 inches above the window frame and to always hang curtains wider than the window frame itself, about 3-6 inches from each side. Lastly, it’s important to make sure the hem of the curtain kisses the floor — a little under an inch is great.

 In our new home, we’ve decided not to make any major design changes, I’ve recently purchased curtains from Ikea and am currently having my seamstress hem them to give the appearance of custom curtains…I’ll share more about this design hack later! 

Whether it’s a minor change like a new coat of paint, peppering in the appropriate amount of vintage, swapping out old light fixture(s) or hiding ugly floors…there are so many ways to update your rental while being mindful of others during the pandemic (and staying on budget!). Plus, a lot of the above can be tackled on your own or with the help of a friend. 

There’s no rush to get everything done by a certain time, in fact I’d enjoy taking things in phases, prioritizing your goals and embracing the creative process along the way because it will inevitably change the more you spend inside your apartment. Knowing that you’re filling your space with pieces you love. *And don’t forget if you’re making any major changes to your space (like switching out a really old refrigerator) make sure to speak to your landlord first.

There’s still so many more ways to make upgrades to your rental — leave your comments/questions below and I’ll make sure to include them in Part 2. Until then, I’ll be packing and moving into our new home…more on Life As I Know It: August 2020.

Xo, Stephanie

Photography by Chelsae Anne

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