Welcome to Amplified Apartments: Home Edition, a special edition of ForRent’s Amplified Apartments series, featuring amateur interior designers whose winning decor hacks will save you space whether you’re on the first or fifteenth floor.
In this post, Amplified Apartments: Home Edition heads to Vienna, VA. There, blogger Jane Pearson has overcome rental design limitations to find her voice and aesthetic. Pearson’s blog, The Borrowed Abode, explores her ever evolving rental decorating experience and the DIY craftiness she’s had to employ to get her home to a place she loves. In the case of her office, Pearson stalled completing its design for nearly a year.
But when a bout of procrastination, caused by a fear of building her own farmhouse desk, ended, the final product turned out to be a worthy space for constant habitation. All she had to do was take the plunge. While some DIY projects along the way turned out to be winners, many ideas needed tweaking. Paying attention to her developing tastes and keeping an eye out for the budget-friendly steals, Pearson achieved a multi-purpose space filled with warmth and personality.
Read on for DIY inspiration and wisdom from the rental design ace herself.
If you could describe your design concept using 5 words what would they be?
Modern, colorful, rustic, bold, and easy.
What were your must-haves when designing your space? Did you have to make any compromises?
I knew I wanted to experiment with rustic farmhouse style just to try something new. I also needed to create two separate work spaces in the room. In one area I needed my computer for my corporate day job—I work from home—and one for my personal handmade business and blog work. My personal business is run from the farmhouse desk I built. The day job happens at the mid-century modern secretary, and at night the desk folds back up to hide my work laptop and papers.
One compromise was made when we had to let go of a sweet mid-century modern dresser that would have been perfect, but I was on a budget and my grandfather’s antique dresser was free from the family. Since the room has more of a rustic feel—between the desk and the window frame jewelry display—the antique dresser fits in just fine. And you can’t beat free!
What was the process like getting your office to this state? How long did it take to get it there?
I’ve found that the only way I can successfully design a space is to live in it and do it by trial and error. It was an office and dressing room from the day I moved in, but my style has been slowly evolving.
Once I had the vision for the space, the office took at least a year to come together. See I procrastinated on building my farmhouse style desk out of fear that my design wouldn’t work. But once I built the desk, which wasn’t as hard as I’d expected, every other element fell into place.
What are the main restrictions you’ve encountered decorating your home as a renter and not an owner?
Early on, I wanted to decorate my office in Hollywood Glam style. I dreamed of shiny, pale silver walls, very Great Gastby-esque, and there is a paint for that. It costs a ton, though, and would be too rough a process on the walls.
Otherwise I’m very fortunate with this house, because I’m allowed to paint the walls, unlike many renters. I’d change the bathroom layout though and I get frustrated by the wall-to-wall carpet because we have pets. Hardwood floors with awesome throw rugs would work so much better.
Your office is playfully decorated, and yet still adult. How were you able to achieve that balance?
Trial and error. As I said in the last question, my vision evolved over time. When I initially painted the green walls, I planned to add bright citrus and fuchsia fabrics and accessories. The combination, along with all my white Ikea furniture, just felt cheap and juvenile. Months later, I saw my navy and green curtains at Ikea and I just knew that’s what the space needed.
As soon as I hung those curtains and removed the fuchsia and citrus tones, the room felt instantly more grown-up and elegant. Adding the well-worn, solid wooden furniture pieces was the final balancing step.
The window pane is a creative space saver that also functions as decor. What was the inspiration for it?
I’d been using a shadow box for necklace storage but wanted to make something that would store earrings and bracelets too. I had two window frames that I’d found on the curb and I was determined to find a use for them. The first version worked fine, but the current version is my favorite.
Why did you go with plastic containers to hang your hats versus traditional nails or hooks?
Every time I used hooks, my hats would fall off! Suddenly, I realized that they needed a larger surface to hang from. I had a ton of clean take-out containers, so I tried them on a whim. They worked so well and I was able to recycle! Double score.
What are your go-to stores for home furnishings and decor? Are there any antique stores you would recommend?
Some of my favorite furniture pieces have been found on the curb, like the window frame that holds my jewelry.
“Curbside finds take work to refresh, but are so rewarding – and cheap!”(Tweet This)
I recommend that above all else. The only antique store I recommend is one in Littleton, NH, called Just L. It’s a mid-century modern and vintage furniture shop. The owners are wonderful, honest, and tasteful people. We drive up there around once a year to shop. Other than that, I just use thrift stores and craigslist. I haven’t fallen in love with any antique stores in the DC area.
What’s your number one tip for solving the small space problem?
De-clutter. The longer I’ve rented the more I’ve learned to only hold on to what you love. The less stuff you have, the less time and money you need to devote to cleaning and organizing. When I need to de-clutter my closet, I look at the dresser in the corner. My dad and his two brothers used it growing up. They each had one drawer for clothes. If that doesn’t serve as inspiration for simpler living, I don’t know what does!
“Only hold on to what you love.”(Tweet This)
For more rental DIY craftiness, see Jane Pearson’s blog, The Borrowed Abode, here.
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