-We share stories about our favorite rentals, including how we decorated to make them feel like home. Here’s a photo of Elsie’s loft we talk about, and you can even see the green Anthropologie glasses that we talk about breaking. Haha.
-Medina talks about zoning her spaces, which means breaking up an open room into zones for different purposes. I had never head it explained in this way—it’s very inspiring.
-Medina’s favorite plants: ivy, snake plant, cactus and pothos. These are all fairly easy to care for, too!
-We talk about naming our plants. I love this!
-Check out #howirent for a lot of rental inspiration.
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast this week where sharing memories from our favorite rentals were also welcoming Medina Grillo, author of Home Sweet Rented Home. She has some excellent tips for making a rented space feel personal and cozy. This episode is sponsored by Hunter Fan Company, we’re big fans (laughs)
Emma: Yes, yes!
Elsie: And we’ll share more about them later in this episode. Did you like it?
Emma: Loved it. I love a stupid pun. I love it.
Elsie: Great. All right. So we wanted to start out this episode. So Emma and I are both homeowners, as you well know by now…
Emma: Elsie keeps moving though, it’s weird.
Elsie: I’m not moving anymore!
Emma: I’m just trolling you.
Elsie: I’m now extremely settled and I’m never, ever moving, I hope.
Emma: (laughs) You gotta stop saying things like that.
Elsie: I don’t I know I don’t want to curse myself. Anyway, we rented for many years and so we thought it would be fun to start off this episode sharing about our favorite apartments and sort of like memories of decorating them. What made them our favorite, that time in our life, they were in kind of special places. So which…do you want to go first or do you want me to go first? How should we do it?
Emma: I’ll go first. OK, but I. So bad news. I wasn’t a blogger back in these days, so I don’t really have any photos. So I’m very sorry there will not be photos in our show notes for the apartments I’m about to explain to you and I’m sorry. I wish I would have taken more photos.
Elsie: It’s imagination time.
Emma: This is why you should always take photos. You never know when you’re going to be a blogger ten years later. No, I don’t know anyway. So if you know from previous episodes, maybe some of you don’t. But I lived in Los Angeles after I graduated college. I was pursuing acting and I lived in Los Angeles for about three years. So when I was living there, I had two different apartments. The first apartment was a studio apartment. It didn’t even have a kitchen. And I shared it with my roommate Andi, a girl, girl Andi. And then eventually we moved to a bigger apartment that was kind of a two-bedroom. So it was a two-bedroom apartment, but it was like two bedrooms, a little hallway with like a kitchen/dining area, and then a bathroom. But there was no real living space, which was weird. So it was almost more like a one-bedroom and than a living room. But we just treated it like a two-bedroom. And there I still lived with my roommate, Andi, and also I had a boyfriend named Caleb and he lived with me too. Anyway. In that second apartment, oh and my dog, we both had dogs, so that…it was pretty full. Anyway, so in that second apartment…
Elsie: It felt, I will say, because I went to both houses, it felt very spacious compared to the first one. The second one was like, oh, there’s three distinct rooms…
Elsie: …in this unit.
Emma: The second one was an upgrade for sure.
Emma: It was still like in the basement, though. I don’t know if you remember that. So it was kind of like dark, but there was still like this nice courtyard and we could take our dogs out there and it was very close to — it was in Hollywood and it was just very close to like the walk of fame. And I remember walking to a concert one time. It was kind of the location that we were…anyway. So one thing I did in that apartment was I painted one of the walls, a brown, a dark brown color, and then I did these scallops on to the next, like, adjacent wall. So it was almost like you had put up something and then it kind of folded over onto the other two walls and it was these scallops. And I don’t really remember where I got the idea or why I wanted to do that, but I really loved it. I thought it was really fun and it was just a very like simple, not overwhelming little touch.
Elsie: It was adorable!
Emma: Yeah. I really kind of want to do it again someday in a space. Or like, do it with a piece of furniture or something, because I just it turned out really cute.
Elsie: I love a scallop.
Emma: Yeah. That was the main thing I did though that I can remember that I was like really into. But yeah, lots of figuring out how to live in a small space with other people. But it was… and dogs, but it was really fun. Great time of my life.
Elsie: Let’s tell them the story about when we fed Lovers a cupcake.
Emma: Oh, what is it you remember?
Elsie: Yeah. OK, so we fed lovers a cupcake…
Emma: My beloved lovers lived in Los Angeles with me.
Elsie: …from Sprinkles, I think.
Emma: That sounds right.
Elsie: Which one was your very favorite cupcake place?
Emma: It wasn’t Sprinkles, it was a different one. I don’t remember the name of it now.
Elsie: Oh my God. Time has passed.
Emma: We all old.
Elsie: So anyway, we had some cupcakes and we decided to feed just a little bit of cupcake icing to Emma dog Lovers. And it put him…
Emma: Which I never feed him people food. He really was a pug in that he loved to eat. So I felt like if I fed him people he would just beg.
Elsie: And he was a good boy…
Emma: He was a good boy.
Elsie: And we were just like, feeling in love with him. So anyway, we fed him a little bit of…
Emma: It was Elsie’s fault, really. (laughs)
Elsie: …a little bit of icing and then it was like he got high. It was so fun maybe someone can explain to us what happened because it was very mysterious. But basically he looked at the ceiling and he continued looking at the ceiling for like five hours.
Emma: And just like licking his lips.
Elsie: He just was like it was like he was having a spiritual experience from the cupcake.
Emma: (laughs) It was!
Elsie: It was so cute.
Emma: He was such a good dog.
Elsie: That’s probably my happiest memory of of all the times that I visited you.
Emma: It’s a pretty good one.
Emma: OK, so what was your? You had quite a few apartments and studios.
Elsie: Yes, I was a chronic mover. Even when I was a renter. I would usually stay somewhere not long enough really to even barely settle in and then move on to the next place and the next place. But I did have one very special apartment. It was right when Jeremy and I had first fallen in love and gotten together and we got this apartment on Commercial Street and it was like an apartment upstairs. And then on the bottom floor it was where I had my very first store. I can put a couple of pictures in the show notes because I definitely have a few way back when.
Emma: Oh you have a few? (laughs)
Elsie: I open this tiny little cute store. And then in the back behind where you couldn’t go was he had a music studio in there. And that was kind of our first time to have that experience together. And we were extremely, extremely poor during that time. Like, I remember how difficult it was to pay our rent, which felt enormous at the time, and, you know, just do basic things.
Emma: Yeah that was like the hurdle, every month.
Elsie: Mmhmm. So everything I decorated with during that time was either something I already had, something that I got for free or something from a thrift store and paint — lots and lots of paint, which I luckily had a landlord who went along with my ideas. She was very open and she let me paint quite a few walls. She let me paint the kitchen counter, which was just a vinyl counter. But I think it was like gray or purple or something. And she let me paint it white and…
Emma: She was pretty nice.
Elsie: She was very, very cool. And yeah, so we really made that apartment our own. It was a very special time in our life and I’ll try to dig up a few pictures. But it was weird. It was kind of like it was meant to be an office or something, like it really seemed like it was meant to be…
Emma: It was your Dharma and Greg button factory, you know.
Elsie: Yes. Oh Dharma and Greg is like a big part of our childhood. Yeah. We really, really loved that show, if you remember it at all.
Emma: If you know you know.
Elsie: Yeah. So magical. Yeah. So that was my most special rental. I think that was the first time I had like sort of a rainbow dishes collection. It was mostly thrifted. I have a sad story. Do you want to hear it?
Elsie: OK, so in these days because we’re from Springfield, Missouri, it was like such a big deal to go to Anthropologie.
Emma: Yes. It was an event.
Elsie: This was before shopping online was much of a thing. So I had like driven three hours to go to Kansas City for whatever reason. And we went to Anthropologie and I bought these like green glasses for my kitchen, like just little drinking glasses, like they have the cute little juice cups. And as I was walking into my apartment on the sidewalk, I tripped and fell and they all broke. (laughs)
Emma: (gasps) Oh, no, oh…I thought you were gonna say, “and then I saw the same ones at a thrift store the next day.” But no, they broke! That sucks.
Elsie: And then like one or two of them survived. And I kept them for a very long time.
Emma: That is a sad story.
Elsie: It was sad. But anyway, it was a very happy time in our life. And I think it’s it’s just fun reflecting back on it. I think we also had a scallop.
Emma: I remember Suki like just barreling down it because it was kind of like long like a rectangle. Yeah. So it just had kind of this long, like, kind of hallway. There was a big hallway. I know for sure that I bought like a ten foot Christmas tree from a Goodwill and I left it up until like June.
Emma: Yes. (laughs) Well you know…
Elsie: That pretty much sums up my life in those years. So anyway. All right. So before we move on to our interview with Medina Grillo, let’s quickly have a word from our sponsor.
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Elsie: Ok, so I had a chance to catch up with Madina Grillo, author of Home Sweet Rented Home, and she shared some really great tips. So I’m excited for you all to hear the interview now.
Elsie: So I just read your book, Home Sweet Rented Home, and it struck me as I was reading it, how beautiful and fully decorated all the spaces were, you know, not sparse, didn’t feel like it was just moved in. It was like, bam. So I was curious if you had any tips for what are the first things you do when you start renting a space to make it feel like home.
Medina: So I always say the best thing to do is live in that space for a couple of weeks. Just get to have a feel for the space before you start decorating, because what you don’t want to be doing is going into shops and just buying things for the sake of it. So I always say it’s a good idea to think about the space, how you’re going to how you can utilize it as much as possible. In England our houses aren’t that big, unless you own lots of money. So you have to kind of, like, be really clever with how you use spaces. So I would say start with soft furnishings, are the best way to decorate a home. Cushions, rugs, changing curtains. That’s the best way to inject color into a space. And also, it’s like you don’t have to commit so much like for example, painting a wall is a bit more commitment. But if you’re using rugs and cushions and throws and stuff like that, that’s your way of putting your own stamp onto a space. So that would be my biggest time.
Elsie: I love that! I used to always use white curtains and I just started using colored curtains. And it really it really helped a lot. I’m excited about it. Yeah, it really does give the room a thing right away.
Medina: Yeah. I love patterned curtains. I like to have, if you have like bold colors in your living room, then you have patterned curtains, it really just helps to give that whole space a lovely vibe. I’m a big fan of patterned curtains.
Elsie: I love it. I thought it would be fun to go through three different categories of things that kind of like problem areas in rentals and what are like some fun ideas. So the three categories are kitchen, flooring, and walls. So let’s start with kitchen. A lot of rentals have kind of an unfortunate kitchen or a kitchen that’s not your style.
Medina: Yeah, the biggest thing I would say in a kitchen is, you know, you have like cabinets on the walls and you might have really unattractive doors. I would just, my biggest tip would be just to remove the doors completely.
Elsie: Oh, smart!
Medina: And that just helps, that gives you. Yeah. That gives you like a lovely open-plan kitchen. You can actually add color to the kitchen by displaying your really pretty like dishwasher and cutlery and what you can do with the doors, you can put them aside with the screws and hinges. And then once the landlord, once you move out, you can put them back. My biggest thing would definitely be in the kitchen, remove the doors. Also simple things like if you don’t want to remove your door because some people are not a fan of open-plan shelving, you can change the handles of your actual, I think you call them hardware, pulls, and things like that.
Medina: You can change that to match your style a bit more…
Elsie: That’s a great tip.
Medina: Really simple to do, you can buy different handles. Yeah. Different handles off eBay or online. There’s so many different choices. That would be my biggest thing for a kitchen. I also I know people have because I know I did like with the tiles in my kitchen, they’re really, really not nice, so you can do things like freshen your tiles up by using like a grout pen just to make them darker or lighter.
Medina: And I think that’s really, really made easy to do. And also…
Elsie: I’ve done that!
Medina: Have you?
Elsie: Yeah, it really makes a big difference.
Medina: It really does, yeah, but I think there’s just so much to so many removable products on the market for renters so that you can just get really creative now how you decorate your home.
Medina: So you’re doing things that aren’t really causing damage so that would be the kitchen.
Elsie: Yeah, I loved in your book how you had the removable wallpaper as a backsplash. That was a really good idea because a lot of I don’t know, like what we would call it, like construction grade houses don’t have back splashes, like don’t have any tile there. It just has the little lip at the edge of the counter and then that’s it. So that is a really genius idea for adding color and personality. I love removable wallpaper, too.
Medina: Yeah. And it’s easy to clean as well, which is great.
Elsie: Oh yeah. Because it’s really wipeable.
Elsie: OK, the next one is flooring.
Medina: Flooring. This is so crazy but I’ve actually wallpapered my floor and what I…
Elsie: (Gasp) Ok, tell me everything.
Medina: So basically there’s two ways to do it. You can do a traditional wallpaper with no sticky back adhesive. But I’ve done both ways. So the first way would be just getting like contact paper or even like removable wallpaper and pasting it onto your floor. And obviously, it won’t cause any damage. So you can put it over laminate floor and you can put it over liner flooring, you can put it over floor tiles as well. But you have to take into account the grouting of the actual floor tiles. But it works wonders. I had it in my entrance for like two years. It was a great temporary solution. I couldn’t afford to get a new floor, my landlord wasn’t really happy to change the flooring completely, so that was a great, great option. So yes, I would definitely say if you can wallpaper your floor, I have a great tutorial on my blog.
Elsie: How did it wear over time?
Medina: It weared really well. I have a video about what went wrong and what didn’t. But I think my biggest advice I can give to anybody wallpapering their floor is not to go for really light colors. So I went with a white patterned tile effect color. So it did have a little bit of wear and tear in the corners and like where I put things on it. But as a whole, I think it did really well because I put loads and loads of coats of poly on top, so it really…
Elsie: Oh interesting.
Medina: I really, it was a really good idea actually.
Elsie: And then it just pulled up in the end?
Medina: Yeah, no damage to the floor underneath. It was brilliant.
Elsie: I have never heard anything like this. So you just blew my mind. That is a great idea. Yeah. Because a patterned floor, a trendy pattern floor is so stunning. But yeah, definitely not something you can just do in any space. That makes perfect sense.
Elsie: OK, so what do you think for walls.
Medina: So walls. So I like I always suggest like if you’ve got like a really empty wall, maybe a gallery wall would be a great way to brighten up that space. And just display things that you are…that show your style. And it’s like not any right or wrong with gallery walls. I mean, it’s just about what you like and what works in a space. So you can use things like self-adhesive strips to get them on the walls and damage the wall and arrange it how you want, like symmetrical or asymmetrically. I just think gallery walls are really, really great and also, again, we mentioned removable wallpaper. If you can’t paint, it is expensive, but it’s a great option because it has like a really lovely effect on the room as opposed to just leaving it bare.
Elsie: I totally agree. I see a gallery wall right behind you right now.
Medina: Yeah. Yeah. Just went to my dining room.
Elsie: I love the gallery wall. I love removable wallpaper as well. I have a couple of times kind of damaged my walls from it though.
Elsie: Yeah. Has that ever happened to you?
Medina: That’s never happened to me. But I think if you, if you have to make sure you’re not using contact paper as opposed to removable wallpaper because contact paper has a different adhesive on the back. And if you’re not careful, it will pull up if you don’t remove in the right way. But a great thing I would say to do is if you do have, like, wallpaper that’s not coming off, just apply heat to it, like with a hairdryer and then pull up and that helps to get it off.
Elsie: Smart, okay. I haven’t heard that before. Nice.
Elsie: Ok, so I see from your Instagram that you share my love for a very tight color scheme. It’s like something that brings me great joy is having a color scheme for my home. Yeah. And just kind of like sticking to it because I like how you can like move things from room to room…
Elsie: …and everything just sort of goes together. So I was curious if you could share a little bit about how you developed that color scheme, because everyone you have to look at her Instagram. It is so beautiful and everything matches.
Medina: Yeah. Thank you. So I love, I love, love, love, love the color yellow and I love the deep tone like mustard yellow. That’s my favorite color ever. It’s a color that makes me feel really happy that the space in England weather isn’t always very bright and sunny, so this kind of gives sunniness in my home, which I like. So I just try and keep things cohesive, because when I first started decorating like years ago, I didn’t really know my style that well. I would decorate each room differently and it wasn’t a lot of flow. So many women will be blue, one room will be gray and it just didn’t feel cohesive. So then what I did with this house is that I just sat down and I thought, what are the colors that I really like and enjoy? Make me feel calm and at peace in my home. And the colors I do like was like black, white, monochrome neutrals, like browns, earthy colors and also my bright color mustard. So I’ve just kept it throughout the house like I’ve done the woodwork black. I’ve done like some walls neutral browns. And then I have my black and white, like my black and white flooring. So I like to keep those things because these are the colors that, you know, they bring me joy. And I think it’s so important when you have a home. I know there’s so many decorating rules out there, but I think it’s about what works for you. If you want to paint your house red and yellow, do it. I think it’s just whatever makes you happy, whatever works for you. And that’s always been my mantra when it comes to my blog and my book. Just do what works for you.
Elsie: Absolutely. I think that’s a great mantra. Yeah. I feel like having a color scheme has actually freed me up a lot. And I think a lot of people perceive it as very like too precious and like I am limited, but I feel like it actually has made it very easy. So I suggest trying it if you’ve never tried it and rental is a great time to just try something new.
Medina: Exactly, yeah be creative. Think outside of the box.
Elsie: Yes. The other thing that struck me as I was scrolling scrolling scrolling through your Instagram is that you have so many amazing organization ideas. So can you talk a little bit about how that’s helped you to either kind of bond with a rented space or to feel settled there?
Medina: Yeah, I think the biggest thing for me is that my house isn’t that big. So I had to look at the spaces in my home and thought, how can I make it work for me and my family, especially during the last couple of months because we’ve been at home. You know, it’s been a lockdown here. There’s not been many we haven’t been going out a lot. So I’ve had more time to think about corners that maybe weren’t being used as much, how I could change them to make them work for us. So there’s things like in my house I’ve used underneath my stairs, I turn that into like a little homework station for my son. And also in my living room, I had like wall to wall, like bookshelving, so much so so many things. And I also like baskets for my son’s toys, I think, because my son is eight, but he doesn’t play a lot in his bedroom. So it’s for me, it’s really important to incorporate his toys into our living space because that’s where we spend a lot of our time. So things like baskets and just decorating vertically because again, the houses aren’t that big, I’m trying to make the room look much bigger, so decorating vertically, having a place for everything. And also I like to zone my spaces. So you might have noticed that in my living room there’s a lot going on because I’m zoned each part, it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
Elsie: What do you mean by zoning?
Medina: So when I say zoning, for example, this a there’s a sofa and a TV, that’s where we play games and stuff like that, watch TV. I mean, have a place when you first walk in the door, which is the entrance, I’ve kind of made it into my own entrance because I don’t have a physical entrance. And there’s also the work bit. So there’s work, play, and then when you first come in, like, so it’s just zoned. I’ve done that with I’ve done that by wallpaper. Like, I’ve got one of the entrances at half wallpaper that you see that’s one zone. And then I have the the wooden slatting on the wall, that’s the work area. And then I have the sofa in the middle of the room which is floating. And that’s like our living space, you know what I mean? So it just kind of even though it’s a lot of things going on, it doesn’t feel as like crazy too much.
Elsie: Yeah, well, I have to say, you could have fooled me because I would not have thought the space was small and I would not have thought that those spaces you just listed off were all in the same room. Yeah, that’s so amazing. So, yeah, you’ve definitely made the most of it.
Elsie: Yeah. Your Instagram is full of amazing organization ideas. So inspiring.
Medina: Thank you.
Elsie: I love organizing too, but I have a long way to go.
Medina: The biggest thing is just having a place for everything.
Elsie: Mhm. Yeah.
Medina: So I’m still, I’m still a work in progress, I’m learning new things all the time.
Elsie: I like in your book how you called removable wallpaper the best thing since sliced bread because I also use it all the time. So could you share a couple of your favorite sources for where you like to buy it?
Medina: Yes, my biggest, my favorite source is Etsy. Lots of different yeah, lots of different sellers from all over, so not just in America. I mean, if you live in Europe as well, there’s great places to shop there. I love ColoRay in particular. That’s the lady that I bought my wallpaper from. I also like Chasing Paper, I think it’s cool.
Medina: And then who else is there that I like? There’s Wallpaper Direct, and there’s also Astek Home as well. So those are like my favorite. I’ve used three out of four of those. So yeah. But yeah, definitely I would suggest like Etsy is the best place to find all of the sellers grouped together because most of the people that sell this kind of wallpaper will be on Etsy because they’re small businesses, which are great because you can also support a small business too.
Elsie: Yes, absolutely. I love Etsy. I almost shop on there every day, it’s like my wind down at night. (laughs)
Medina: Congratulations on your new line with Etsy.
Elsie: Thank you. Yeah, it was so much fun to work on. Yeah, I love Etsy. I will link in the show notes each of those wallpaper sources that you mentioned. So next, let’s talk about plants. So I never got into plants when I was a renter and I feel like I missed a huge opportunity to decorate a space because plants, obviously, you can take them with you. They become your children. They bring so much life to a space. So I’d love to hear about your favorite plants and if you have any tips for becoming a plant lady.
Medina: Yeah, OK, so I wasn’t always a plant lady, I used to kill all my plants, even things like succulents that didn’t require lots of like care. But I’ve since found, like, a new love of plants. They bring the outdoors in, they add pops of green. Again, they’re great not just for making the air much more cleaner in your home, but they’re also great for styling and filling empty spots in your home. So I personally love hanging plants because I like to put them on my shelves and they hang and they create this lovely, lovely styled look. So my favorites are ivy plants, snake plants, because snake plants, you hardly need to do much with them and they just grow.
Elsie: They’re so easy to take care of. I have some in our outdoor space right now and it’s like they’re easy, indoor and outdoor, which I didn’t know. So cool.
Medina: So I love those cactuses as well. I love them. And then there’s another one that I like, slipped my mind now — pothos, the green pothos that hang down. I really like those. Biggest tips would be not like most of these plants were quite indirect lighting, not ovwer watering them and actually taking them out of their…so now just watching them in the can or watering bowl, like actually taking them to your shower and giving them like a once every 10 days, like a little shower on their leaves and let the soil in the water drain out. For me, that seems to really help my plants thrive. And again, like, you know, when they get you just putting them into big things like that. But some plants, I’ve had to move around the house because they don’t like certain positions. So I think it’s just making sure you’re getting them in the right position that works for them. And I give my plants names as well.
Elsie: Ok, what’s your favorite plant’s name?
Medina: So I have my cactus is called Fred and he’s from IKEA. It was like a bit of a story getting him home because he was huge and it was hard like driving with him in the car. But yeah, his name is Fred. And then I have another a monstera plant. She’s called Mavis. So I named them and I thought maybe naming them makes me have like bond of them more, I really sound crazy maybe, but yeah.
Elsie: No, absolutely not. I’m going to try that because I think that the more you consider them your little friends, the better chance that you have to not kill them. Right? So that is great advice. I love that. So fun. Ok, so for your book, Home Sweet Rented Home, do you have any local shops or small shops basically looking for anything that’s not an Amazon link that I could put in the show notes for people to support?
Medina: Yeah, I can give you the direct link from my publishers and…
Medina: Yeah, they’ll have like some small shops that you can buy them from.
Elsie: Perfect. That would be amazing. OK, so we will link to your book in the show notes and our listeners can follow you on Instagram @GrilloDesigns. And also I wanted to shout out your hashtag, #howirent has over seventeen thousand images and it’s so inspiring. I was scrolling that this morning and yeah, it’s amazing. So #howirent.
Medina: Thank you.
Elsie: Yeah, it’s very cool. So other than that, how can we support you.
Medina: Just engaging with my content. If you’re a renter I’m, I’m always looking to feature new people on @howirent, I’ve had to do it where I’m actually accepting applicants from all over the world and we kind of edit the videos and we like to feature them on the website. So, yes, definitely get in touch if you want to be featured buying my book as well would be lovely. Thank you for that. And yeah, reading my blog. I have a blog as well where I share all my creative DIY ideas and craft ideas. So yeah, that would be a big support if you could check it out.
Elsie: Yes. Lovely. What is the URL for the blog.
Medina: So it’s GrilloDesigns.com.
Elsie: Perfect. Ok, well thank you so much for joining us, Medina. I’m so, so grateful that you took the time.
Medina: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Elsie: Thank you so much for listening this week. As always, we appreciate your support. We’re so honored when you share a podcast with your friends. We hope you have a great week.