Episode #25: Decor Inspiration For Renters

This week’s episode is all about decor inspiration for renters! About half of the ABM audience rents, so if you’re a long-term renter, this one’s for you!!!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Show notes:
We’re each giving three renter-friendly tips!

Elsie 1- Make your own art. Here’s the fiber art pictured above and there are so, so many more DIY art projects in our archives.

Emma 1- Consider removable wallpaper or paint (a lot of time you can get permission if you paint it back!). Here’s a post about our favorite removable wallpaper on Etsy. Other brands we love are Walls Need Love, Chasing Paper and Spoonflower.

Elsie 2- Invest in pieces you can take with you! I suggest a great sofa, coffee table and some rugs (8×10 and 2×3 size are most likely to translate).

Here’s the bed my parents got me that I’ll probably keep forever. You can see it above in two different rooms, but I moved it probably 10 different times over a 10-year period.

Other great purchases I made early on were a good quality dresser, coffee table and mirrors.

Emma 2- Lighting

-Swap light fixtures.

-Add twinkle lights.

Elsie 3- Thrift your heart out! (obviously we mean AFTER the virus outbreak is over—not right now).

Some spots I find great things—Facebook Marketplace, flea markets, Goodwill and shopping vintage on Etsy, eBay and EBTH.

There is SO much educational value in finding $10 furniture and painting it and making it over yourself. The possibilities are ENDLESS.

Here’s a photo from 10 years ago (ish?) that shows my home decorated with all things I thrifted (and my outfit too).

Do you like to decorate with books?? (please say yes!) Used books are a great collection to work on.

McKay’s bookstore in Nashville (great for records too!).

Emma 3- Inexpensive rugs or curtains. These can really update a room!!!

Area rugs for under $500.

-Check out 25+ Decor Projects for Renters (Or Anyone) and 25+ Decor Projects for Renters (Part 2)!

Shoutout to @hotpinkpineapples Wow, wow, wow … this girl is so talented and the ultimate inspiration of what you can do as a renter!!

Reader question about transitioning to a different career as well as how to choose a career (we talk for 10 minutes on this, like we usually do when there’s a business-related question).

*If you’re enjoying the podcast, please share it with someone this week!! Thank you, thank you! Love, Elsie + Emma

Miss an episode? Get caught up!

Episode 25 Transcript

Elsie: You’re listening to A Beautiful Mess podcast. This week, we’re spending the entire episode chatting about decor inspiration for renters. About half of the ABM audience rents and as former renters ourselves. We know it comes with some very unique challenges. That said, decorating our apartments played a huge part in figuring out our style. And though it can be restrictive, it can also be super inspiring. Let’s jump in. So we rented for a long time and I used to move kind of a lot like I was definitely like a serial mover through my 20s. So about every six months to every year, I would move. And I don’t think I stayed in any house I lived in for more than maybe a year and a half through my whole 20s. So I definitely had a lot of apartments and Emma also did and some obviously better than others. Some, you know, that we loved in some way and some that we hated the whole time, but we decorated them the best we could. And we learned so much. Do you agree that decorating an apartment is a great education for yourself?

Emma: Yeah, definitely. Here where I live in the Midwest, a lot of times you rent when you’re younger and you buy when you’re a little bit older. But there’s a lot of areas of the country where you rent forever. Like, I just view it as where you live, you know? But the thing with renting, like everyone who’s currently doing it or has done it knows, sometimes there are some rules around what you can and cannot do in your home because you don’t own the structure or you don’t own the building that your apartment’s in. So they don’t want you to knock down walls or change the countertops necessarily or, you know, some various things like that. So there can be a few more challenges or a few more things that you just can’t do. More rules than a homeowner. Although I will point out that a lot of the bigger things that homeowners can do cost a lot more money. So there’s a lot of homeowners, especially new homeowners, who really don’t have the budget to be doing that stuff anyway. They’re pretty much on the same budget as someone who’s going to be doing a makeover as a renter. So anyway. I don’t know. It’s different, different perspectives. So…

Elsie: Yeah. And the one thing I will say is, when you first move to a new apartment, if there’s something you want to change. Always ask because sometimes the landlord has been wanting to do that update anyway. Sometimes they’ll even pay for it. Or maybe they’ll split it with you. But they don’t always say no. I had a lot of times when I asked to do something where they said yes, especially when it was, you know, right as I was moving in.

Emma: Yeah. And as someone who owns a long term rental, if someone was interested in making a like really positive change to the house and was open to splitting it with us if we could afford to, whatever they asked like we would probably for sure do it because we’d be like, that’s great. It’s going to be great for you. You’re probably going to stay in the house longer and it’s gonna be great for the structure of the building, which we own. So this is a Win-Win. So yeah…

Elsie: Definitely. Yeah. Don’t be afraid to ask. Okay. So we’re each going to give three tips for decorating apartments or rentals. And I hope that this is inspiring. If you’re living in a rental and you’re focused on the things that you can’t change. Hopefully this will help you focus on some things that you can change. So my first tip is to make your own art. This is definitely the biggest thing that I used to do. I still do it. It’s fun and it’s something that you can do that really makes a room. So it’s not very expensive. If you go to the craft stores and you use — all the craft stores have an app where you can get like a 40 or 50 percent off coupon every week — and you can buy like a massive giant canvas for not very expensive and make your own giant painting. It can be modern. It can be minimal. You can sort of mimic something that you saw online that was $3000 that you loved, but you would never be able to spend $3000 on a piece of art. And I just think it’s such a great creative way to customize your space.

Emma: I also had a friend one time this just popped in my head where she was working on a painting in her living room. And it was really pretty big. It was over her couch and it was like half done. But she already had it hanging in the space and she would basically just take it down and work on it as she could and then hang it back up.And I think it kind of…

Elsie: That’s cool.

Emma: Yeah. Motivated her and it was fun to watch it evolve over time. And she didn’t have to store this half finished piece. She just stored it where it was going to go. So it’s kind of like, I don’t know, sort of a fun. Some people wouldn’t like that. But since you know that our podcast is called A Beautiful Mess, I just feel like that’s like a really fun and interesting. I don’t know. Way to view art, too, like it’s a process. OK. My first tip is consider painting or removable wallpaper. So a lot of times people say, oh, I’m a renter, I can’t paint. And I think that is true sometimes for sure. For some people also, though, there are a lot of situations where you really can. Paint. Or like put nails in the wall. You just have to be really aware of repainting it when you leave and if you’re willing to do that, to fill the holes and paint it. If you ever move out, then you’re not going to lose your deposit. So it just depends. And I would like check into that a little bit if you can. But if you can’t paint. Another idea is removable wallpaper. They make it like all the modern removable wallpaper, at least all the ones I’ve worked with. It truly does come off like in sheets whenever you remove it. It’s pretty amazing. If you’re worried about it, though, or you’re using a brand that you don’t see a lot of reviews and you’re just like unsure, order a couple samples and stick them up somewhere that’s going to be hidden behind a table or behind a cabinet. Leave them for a couple of weeks to a month and then peel them off and see if they do any damage to the wall. Just so where where it’s going to be an area that no one would ever really find or say.

Elsie: That is genius advice because you’ll be able to know right away. And we will link in the show notes our favorite removable wallpaper places because there are so many. It’s amazing. And I definitely agree with that. It’s one of the best ways you can have a mural, you can have a statement wall. And it’s not easy to put up, but it’s not. It’s something that anyone can do. If you’re willing to just put on a podcast and have some patience and not be like an insane perfectionist.

Emma: Yeah. And again, buy a few samples and you can practice.

Elsie: Right.

Emma: So if you’ve never, ever done it before, practice on a little piece somewhere like not even it does have to be a wall. It could just be scrap pieces of wood. You saw your neighbor throw it away or something like something that helps you see ok. I see that I should do it this way or oh if a bubble happens, here’s what I can do to like get it fixed right away or, you know, whatever.

Elsie: Yes. Ok, so my second tip is to invest in pieces that you can take with you. So I think this is one of the best things that you can do as a renter is to start collecting some classic pieces. Classic to you, can mean different things to different people, but some things that you just love that you’re gonna want to take with you. I still have a couple of pieces that I’ve been moving with me since the beginning of time. And there are like a couple of them are thrifted and one of them is the bed. You know that mom and dad got me for my divorce present when I was 24 and I still have it in my BnB. I couldn’t let go of it.

Emma: It was a good divorce present!

Elsie: It really it really was a great divorce president. Yeah, they were very sweet. Yeah. Investing in pieces that you can take with you that you love. So I’ll just name a few. A great bed frame like that bed I’m talking about is a Room and Board canopy bed. I’ll link it in the show notes. They still sell it. It is solid as F.U.C.K. And you cannot break you through any move. You will never break it. You might have to like, you know, repaint it a little bit or whatever, but you will never break it. That’s for sure. And I think a couple of quality rugs, the rug sizes, because I’ve moved so much. The ones that you’ll never regret. I would say are an 8 by 10, you can always find a place in your next house for an 8 by 10 and doormat sizes like for your bathroom, your doormats, quality rugs, either vintage or natural materials in those sizes. You can probably keep using them over and over forever. A couple more. A really great coffee-table really great sofa. Anyway, I’ll link a few of the ones that I’ve moved a bunch that I really love. But yeah, investing in pieces that you know that you’ll use in whatever space you move to next I think is a great way to spend your money instead of doing something really custom that you’re that’s not going to translate to your next space.

Emma: Right. Like a built in or something that wouldn’t be able to take. Yeah.

Elsie: Yeah, yeah. Shelves are the worst like you can never use them in your next space when you move.

Emma: My tip number 2 is lighting. So a lot of times…

Elsie: Nice!

Emma: Yeah, you can swap out light fixtures. It depends. But especially if you keep the old light fixture, like if you had an unattractive light and fan combo that you didn’t like. Let’s say you swapped it out for a beautiful fan or a beautiful light and you don’t even care about the fan, whatever, as long as you keep the old one. You can swap it back before you move. Another option, though, if you’re like, I’m not sure I’ll be able to swap the lights. I don’t know if I have access to breaker boxes and I’m not sure if my landlord would allow it or whatever. Another thing is, too. This is going to sound like such a dorm room thing, but I literally have them in the room I’m in right now. Christmas lights or some people call them fairy lights. So just hanging lights because I feel like a lot of…I work from home, but not everyone does. And a lot of the time that we spend at home is in the evenings or it’s in a low light time of day. So having lights that feel like cozy and happy. I think that’s part of what I love about Christmas is the Christmas tree lights. I just like having them in my house so you can totally replicate that. No matter your budget or if you’re a renter, if you own your house, I literally have them up the room I’m in right now as I’m podcasting because I just think they’re really cute and they have such a fun, little cozy vibe.

Elsie: Yes, it is the ultimate hygge feeling. I just I love them. It’s like you can keep them up year round. You can move creative ways to use them that don’t look like Christmas. And yeah, it makes me so happy, too.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: OK. My third tip is to thrift your heart out and. Okay. Hear me out. I know that not everyone loves thrift stores. You don’t even have to go to a thrift store. You can use Facebook Marketplace. You can go to just flea markets, which tend to be a little more curated.

Emma: Who doesn’t like thrift stores?!

Elsie: You know, some people just, you know, it grosses them out. I get it. They can be gross. Well, sometimes, you know, a small bad and stuff. But like, not always. And some of the greatest vintage of my life was $3 from a thrift store. So I’m definitely a thrift person and I love it. I don’t mind, you know, that one out of every I say, okay. Out of every five times I walk into a thrift store, I walk out with something maybe one time. I try to be very picky. You know, so. But I don’t mind that because to me, it’s just like I stop in when I have the time and I only bring home things that are magical and amazing. Yeah. When you have an apartment to fill and not much money, if you can set aside even like $40 a month, you can go to a thrift store and buy furniture for real and paint it, you know, or sand it or. I used to do a lot of decoupaging in my day. You know, just anything that makes you happy. And that to me was my greatest. I guess my way of getting into design was trying to make my own stuff basically for free.

Emma: Yep. And thrift store, a great place to find lots of things. You can also find like great fabric in the like blanket or fabric section or curtains, if you like sewing or if you want to make your own curtains. Also, if you like to decorate with books, Elsie and I both have had big decor type pieces in our home centered around books. She had her rainbow bookcase. I have this bookcase that covers my fireplace that we don’t use in a functional way, but it’s still there. And books like that’s a great place to get books. Obviously it’s great if you collect books and you like to read them. But I have more books in my home than I have read, and I am a big reader. So thrifting is a great place to collect that.

Elsie: Yeah. We have a bookstore here in Nashville if you’re ever in the area. It’s called McKay’s and it is like the used book heaven. It’s the greatest used bookstore I’ve ever been to. And I just love to go there. And I usually just get like a couple of art books. A couple gardening books, maybe. I like to breeze through the biography aisle and yeah, even like the DIY books, like I have a couple books that are like How to Build Your Own Cabin. And I just love like looking at them, even though it’s just for fun. And I’m obviously not going to build a cabin.

Emma: Yeah, I love old school like Halloween or Christmas holiday type crafting books because they sometimes are so outdated. It’s like coming back around to me. And I also love cookbooks. Yes, old thrifted cookbooks. But anyway, OK, my third thing is inexpensive rugs or curtains. Well, they don’t have to be inexpensive, but just rugs or curtains and you can put rugs over a carpet or over any flooring. So if especially if you don’t love the carpet, like if you have carpet in your bedroom and you can’t change that, get a big rug, because it’ll definitely change the feeling not only like visually, but also like literally the feeling under your feet when you get out of bed in the morning. And curtains too!

Elsie: I 100 percent support that. And we’ll link some of the most inexpensive places and we have a couple roundups of rugs that are not very expensive. Rugs are…yeah.

Emma: Yeah. And rugs like Elsie was mentioned before. If you want to get if you wanna invest in a rug and you’re like, oh, I know this rug, I’m going to keep forever. So what size do I get? I agree. I think 8 by 10, it’s great because you can always layer a rug if you have a rug, that’s a little bit too small for a certain area. Just get some kind of natural jute rug or something plain that’s gonna be a lot less expensive. And you can put that underneath and it can kind of be a little bit of a vibe. So there’s lots of ways to kind of make it work for your area. But I really do think rugs and curtains will make a room feel completely different depending what you choose based on your style and budget. So that’s a good place to start. And you can take them with you.

Elsie: Absolutely. So I want to give a quick shout out to the ultimate renter friendly DIY inspiration, which is the Instagram @hotpinkpineapples. You follow her too right?

Emma: Yes!! Oh, my gosh.

Elsie: She’s so inspiring. And she’s definitely one of those people who will. Who goes all out with her rental. And she just says, It’s fine, I’m going to paint it back before I leave. And that’s, you know, like Emma was saying earlier. That’s just a choice you can make. You can say, I want to love my house 100 percent for these years that I’m living in it. Especially for people who live in very expensive markets where, you know, you’re going to be renting for a long time anyway. Follow her. She has some amazing DIYs not too expensive stuff that I mean, you have to be committed and want to use power tools and want to make the stuff to do a lot of it. But even if you’re not going to make it, it’s still just fun to follow and watch what she makes for her apartment.

Emma: Oh, it’s it’s amazing. She’s so talented.

Elsie: I agree. OK. So we also have a reader question. And I think this is a really, really good, interesting question from Rebecca.

Emma: Yes, Rebecca asks. I’d love to hear some advice on finding a new career. I think a lot of us are really inspired by your story and would like to figure out ways to take the plunge into finding a new career path that is more in line with who we are. So what I would say is I think if you’re looking to change your career is I’m assuming you already have some kind of career or job and you’re not loving it. And that’s kind of what I got from her question. So while you’re still doing this job, this career path that you don’t love. I think that’s a good time to do a couple of things. One, explore because the worst thing would be if you go to all the trouble of changing your career and then you don’t love the new thing. So yes, that would suck. So good time to explore and kind of try things out and really try to get a feel for as best you can you know, if you’re going to like some of the new things that you’re looking at.

Elsie: Because you really don’t know if you’re going to enjoy the new career until you’re doing it. I have a lot of friends who do what we do who hated it and quit.

Emma: Yeah, it’s it looks fun, but it’s a lot of just sitting in your house by yourself,

Elsie: Podcasts, blogs, apps, all of it, it all looks more fun and easier than it really is.

Emma: Yeah. And then the second thing is, I’m assuming that you probably have some kind of income from your current career job. So it’s a good time to start some kind of savings plan and be actively saving because no matter what career you changed you, you’re probably going to have an a time period. Hopefully it’ll be short, but there will probably sometime at least we’re going to be making less money because you make some kind of change or jump. You might have to start at a lower position than you are currently at in your current career, or you might be starting your own business and that could take time for it to get off the ground. So building up your safety net, your nest egg so that hopefully you have a couple of years to live off of it before you take the leap is good. And then the third thing I would do is to be thinking about once you’ve explored and you kind of have an idea of the next thing you want to do, whether it’s building a new business or whatever it is. Make a big master plan that is a three to five year plan of how you’re going to move in that direction to this new career and be actively doing things every single month to move in that direction. Because I think it can be easy to feel. It’s easy to look at someone else and think, oh, wow, that happened to you overnight. And for Elsie and I both, Our career did not happen overnight at all. It took a long time and it will for you, too. And that’s not a bad thing. But you need to be actively working towards it all the time so that as that time passes, you’re moving towards the new thing that you want to do. And some months it’ll feel like you make a lot of progress, and some months it’ll probably feel like you didn’t make any. But as long as you have that master plan of three to five years, then you’re gonna know I’m still on track because I accomplished this thing this month.

Elsie: I totally agree. I changed careers as a result of sort of losing my job when I wasn’t expecting to. And I went through my savings really fast and it felt like relatively a lot of money. But it was gone really quickly. And I had a few years that were very, very challenging trying to establish our new business and earn money. But also, I think that the pressure that I felt for it to be a dream job makes it really complicated, too. I’m one of those people who think this is gonna sound so unromantic, but I do really mean this, that I think that when you have a job that feels secure and that it feels, you know, consistent and in some ways like just a, you know, regular adult job, that that is a really freeing thing because you’re going to want to do other things in your life, too. You’re going to want to buy a house. You’re going to want to maybe become a parent. I know when I did, I was like, whoa, big change in my life. And it cost a lot of money to adopt children and things like that. You know, there’s just things in life besides your job. Like, so having a job that you sort of can romanticize and love and feel like is a dream is important in some ways. But I also feel like it might not look like what you think it’s going to look like, you know, like in the Disney movie version of it. It’s like I won’t open a flower shop, so I’m going to. Go and find a building to lease, and I guess I’ll just have a flower shop. You know what I mean? It just kind of happens. That’s not how real businesses in real life happen. And sometimes I think mixing something that you love, that you’ve tested because I didn’t know I would love doing apps like it’s so weird. It’s so. Yes, not the thing that I set out to do, but I love it so much, you know, and then finding something where you have the potential to make a good income and that can grow. I think that’s different for different people. But for me, the feeling like there’s a lot of jobs where you can either get straight out of high school or straight out of college and you feel like you’re making more money than your friends and you feel really good with them. By the time you’re 30, you feel like you’ve hit a wall and you can’t grow. And it’s a very frustrating position to be in. I think having the room to grow for me is a big part of what I want out of career. And to not have that room would kind of like I would be hard for me to stay motivated. So yeah, it’s just important to think about all those things, but I know it’s it doesn’t feel as like exciting. Yeah.

Emma: I think too it matters too. Two other things that I thought of as your explaining that. I totally agree Elsie is: one I think there is a lot of happiness around who you work with and what your work environment is like, you know. So I really like working by myself alone, completely alone. And some people would hate that. So I think, like, you know, if you see a dream job that involves being around people all day. For me, that would actually not be so great. Even though I might like what’s what the job is, I don’t think I would like the environment. And then I also think if you are in a situation where everyone you work with, you know, is it’s not a positive environment for whatever reason, it may not be the job. It might be that. And that may be something that you have to evaluate and can consider changing in whatever way that you can. But it may not be that you hate your career. It might be that you hate your coworkers or your boss is a douchebag or, you know, something like that. So, yeah, who knows? So that. And then also, I do think there’s sometimes space to challenge yourself that doesn’t have to do with a career. For example, I love my job. I do feel very challenged by it. I love it. So I’m not like saying I don’t. But I have noticed that a lot of the authors that I really love, most of them, it’s not their whole thing. They usually work somewhere else, but they also write great fiction. And I kind of think if if I ever get lucky enough to publish anything, I really wouldn’t mind it if that’s the direction it goes. I don’t really want to be you know, I don’t expect to be like it’s my only job. I think it’s really fun and rewarding. And it would be great if I made some income. But it doesn’t really matter to me because I can see that so many people that I admire. It’s not their whole thing. They do other stuff, too. And that’s a lot of like living a creative career is a lot of times you make income from lots of different areas and that can be very frustrating to some people or can feel very natural to some people.

Elsie: So I agree. Okay. I have one more thing I want to say. Okay. This feels. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Important. So the best piece of I saw my life was from Carter Bryant and he was one of my best friends in Springfield. And he said…

Emma: What does he do? You need to tell people.

Elsie: Oh, he. OK, so Carter’s the creator of the Bratz dolls.

Emma: Mm hmm.

Elsie: So, yeah, he was like my first friend, who is a real millionaire. And he taught me so much. I tried to do a toy line when I was in my 20s and it didn’t get picked up or bought. But it was such a big, great learning experience for me. And I still have the prototypes in my garage.

Emma: He was so supportive. He’s such a cool guy.

Elsie: He helped me have my pitch meeting and he was just a wonderful person. So, yeah, when I had my boutique that and my tax debt and lots of problems, I was I had technically like from the outside looking in. I had a dream job that made people jealous and made people inspired. But I also was really unhappy and really stressed because it was a it was like I was staying up all night trying to make four paintings so that I could make $400 so that I could pay my next bill. Every week was like that. It was just very stressful. So anyway, he told me that I needed to set like think of my business as a table with four legs and I needed to have four income streams that were all very solid so that if something happens bad in the future with one of them, which it will we just had that this past week with our AirBnB businesses . It’s you know, it’s like gone from like the bad low time of the year to like we’re literally not going to make any money for a couple of months. We’re actually going to pay money to keep them going and pay these extra mortgages. It’s like, you know, if that were our only business, it would be incredibly devastating, you know? But, you know, because we follow this advice with the legs of the table, then there’s three other legs there which can still make a standing table. Not maybe a great one, but it’s not gonna ilke, immediately crumble. So anyway, that was the best business advice of my life. And shortly after that, we started our E course program, which was our first place where we really made some solid money. And then after that we started our first app. We started writing books and we started monetizing our blog in different ways. And eventually, you know, we have a business that is pretty stable, even in a very shaky time of crisis.

Emma: Yep. Yep. Which we’re very grateful for. I mean, it’s it’s both it’s luck and hard work, you know. Yeah. And we’re really grateful.

Elsie: But take that advice, if nothing else. Find something you love. But it can be one of four parts. It doesn’t have to be the whole entire thing just by itself. That is a very, very, very hard way to live. Yeah. Hopefully that’s helpful. Thank you for writing us, Rebecca.

Elsie: Yeah. Thank you so much for listening. If you’re enjoying our podcast so far, it would mean a lot to us if you would share it either on Instagram, on Twitter or whatever kind of social media that you love to use. Personal recommendations are definitely the number one way that we grow. So even just texting it to your friend or your mom, if you think they would enjoy it would mean a lot to us. And don’t forget to subscribe.

Read More
  • Such amazing decor inspiration. Love the bright colours and how well everything matches. Definitely the best decor ideas for renters. I couldn’t resist myself and I redecorate the kitchen in a rental flat and I encourage everyone to do so if they have permission from their landlord.
    Here is a little inspiration with video included, about how I redecorated the kitchen http://missmv.com/rental-kitchen-makeover-with-a-small-budget/

  • OMG – thank you so much for responding to my question! I about burst into tears when I heard it. I really loved your advice but will have to go back and listen again later, once I’ve calmed down – haha. Thanks for taking the time to give such a thoughtful answer – this totally made my week!

  • I love how you guys are on fire with releasing podcast episodes! Can’t wait to listen! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.