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5 EASY AND AFFORDABLE RENTAL-FRIENDLY UPDATES

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

This time of year always makes me want to switch up my home decor. Luckily, we’ve still got plenty of projects to work on here – but if you’re in the mood for something that freshens up your space, below are my favorite weekend projects that are big on impact but still simple, affordable and rental friendly!

CREATE AN ACCENT WALL:

Hands down my favorite way to make a big statement in a room without a huge commitment. My go-to has always been a rich, dark color – in my first NYC studio apartment I carved out a “bedroom” nook with a deep charcoal grey color behind my bed and it felt so cozy, but in this apartment I love our navy wall that leads into the entryway). And if your landlord approves it – I can’t recommend wallpaper enough. More expensive than a can of paint but SO much fun and personality can be added via print on a wall.

SWITCH YOUR HARDWARE:

I found the below nightstands at Home Goods – and while I loved that they were simple, narrow and included a drawer, the original black knobs made them look cheaper somehow. I found these agate and wood rectangle knobs at Anthropologie, swapped them out in 5 minutes and it elevated the whole look. Plus no one else will have the exact same nightstands now! An under $20 upgrade that makes me happy every time I see them.

The Steele Maiden: Fall Reading List

CHANGE YOUR LIGHT FIXTURES:

The only thing I truly disliked about our current apartment was the stock, rental light fixtures. If you’re a renter you know the kind. Those sort of gross flush mount ones that barely put off any light? Yeah.. get rid of those. I store mine high up in a closet so that when we move I can throw them back on and take my new lighting with me wherever we go next. While you’re at it? Add a ceiling medallion. I found this one for around $20 at Home Depot and it adds an instant bit of old world elegance to the place. Another 5 minute project that makes your place look really finished.

JUST ADD PLANTS:

To be honest, it’s really taken me a solid year in this new apartment to feel like I’m developing a green thumb. It takes daily maintenance. But the rewards of walking in to your home and seeing LIFE all around you is huge to me. Plants are proven to help filter the air in your home and definitively make people feel happier. Grab a new green friend this weekend, put it in a pretty pot and voila!

DIY A CUSTOM HEADBOARD:

I wanted the look of a custom headboard but didn’t want to commit to the price. So we found a cheap upholstered headboard online, covered it in batting from the craft fair and then wrapped it in a beautiful rich velvet fabric I had (and secured with a staple gun on the back). The entire project cost $100 but looks so much more expensive then that.

The Steele Maiden Book Club: Chapter Three

SHOP THE STORY:

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DIY FIREPLACE MAKEOVER WITH HOME DEPOT

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

I’ve been bursting to share this project with you guys! This all began months ago, flipping through design books and swooning over incredible fireplaces. Staring at the decorative fireplace in our living room I couldn’t help feeling like it hadn’t quite reached its full potential. And so my little dream of a fireplace makeover began. And also where The Home Depot came in. I was thrilled to sign on to partner with them on this project since they’ve always been our go to source for home DIY projects throughout the years. For the complete play by play of how this whole thing miraculously came together (just $300, a few splinters and a swear word or two along the way…) – visit my full post on The Home Depot blog.

BEFORE:

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

AFTER:

The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home DepotThe Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot The Steele Maiden: DIY Fireplace Makeover with The Home Depot

And just for fun – a few things we learned along the way. In case you’re inspired to tackle your own rental-friendly DIY fireplace makeover (or really any other home project your heart desires).

THINGS WE LEARNED:

  1. When all else fails – search for a YouTube video or sand it down a bit more. Ha.
  2. Measure twice (or three.. or four times), cut once. Something my Dad (the ultimate DIY-er) ingrained in me very early on. I can’t tell you how many times we checked measurements on trim for this and thankfully never made a mistake in cutting.
  3. Working with brick (and old apartment floors!) is tricky since you’ll never get a perfectly level surface or straight edge. Instead of letting it drive you crazy – make friends with shims. There’s a couple of them hidden throughout this fireplace.
  4. A lot of people find DIY home projects with their partner to be a recipe for disaster. We’ve found having a really clear plan (lots of lists and sketches), talking through each step before we begin and encouraging each other when the other starts to lose hope (somewhere in hour 35 I promise it will happen) goes a long way.
  5. Most importantly – don’t let the fact that you’re a renter stop you from maximizing your home’s potential. Sure, we likely won’t live here forever so someday we’ll have to leave this fireplace behind and technically we invested time and money into someone else’s place. But in the meantime? It’s ours and I have a smile on my face every single time I walk in the door and see this fireplace. Totally worth it in my opinion. Same goes for bothering to paint the walls in a rental, switch out a light fixture or upgrade drawer pulls. The littlest changes can have the greatest impact and make your time (however fleeting) in a rental infinitely more enjoyable.

Thank you to The Home Depot for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

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BLACK FRIDAY/CYBER MONDAY HOME SALES

The Steele Maiden: Holiday Decor Entryway

I didn’t plan on doing a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale post this year (I think it’s honestly fairly easy to find what stores are having sales and I really don’t want to encourage people buying a ton of things they don’t even need..) – but that being said I’m really in the market for things to keep furnishing the new apartment this year and there are some awesome home-related sales that I wanted to mention in case you’re looking to do the same thing. With 25% off my favorite source for rugs and 40% off one of my secret go-to spots for furniture, I thought it was worth posting about. Hope this helps you score a great discount on something you actually really need and will use/love this year.

ANTHROPOLOGIE: 30% off sitewide

I’ve been eyeing one of these mirrors for the bedroom for over a year now and 30% off is definitely the best price I’m going to get. I also love Anthro for stocking up on candles and vases and really special holiday decor.

LULU & GEORGIA: 25% off everything with code BESTEVER

This is my favorite source for beautiful, good quality rugs that don’t break the bank. I have this great faux cowhide rug that I love from them and am on the hunt for a pretty pattern for the living room. They’ve also got a really fun selection of wallpaper (this is a contender for the statement wall I want to do behind our bed).

WEST ELM: Buy more, save more sale up to 30% off with code SAVEMORE

This is a great time to grab bedding (like their belgian linen), lighting (this one is in our entryway) or big ticket furniture (this leather armchair has been on my apartment wish-list for easily like 4 years).

WORLD MARKET: 40% off furniture + free shipping over $49

World Market has been a secret source of mine for super affordable furniture now for years. Our old dining room table came from there and my current desk chair (still available in this pink color that would be so pretty in a nursery or as a fun accent) and both held up really well for the price. I love their selection of couches, end tables and headboards if you are looking for a good IKEA alternative.

TARGET: Up to 40% off home + extra 15% off furniture & rugs with code TURKEY

Target is another great design resource if you’re on a budget – they’ve got things that honestly look just like West Elm for a fraction of the price. My favorite floor lamp is from there and I can never resist their home decor.

 

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STEELE MAIDEN AT HOME: WHAT’S NEXT IN MY APARTMENT MAKEOVER

Steele Maiden At Home: What's Next in My Apartment Makeover

Ever since the Entryway reveal (full post here) I’ve been itching to tackle another home project. Since this is more of a slow burn rather than a marathon (meaning I want to carefully finish each room exactly how I want it instead of racing to finish just so I can share here or be ‘done’), I figured in the meantime I’d share a little bit more about what I’m thinking of next and things that are in the pipeline for the apartment.

Kitchen: 

The obvious constraint here is that it’s a rental, meaning the cabinets and the countertop have to remain as is. But to counteract the slightly off-white counters I painted the backsplash area the same deep navy as the entryway and love how it made the whole area seem richer. I’m considering updating the drawer and cabinet pulls and the most major project is potentially adding a faux backsplash tile behind the stove. Thinking this would be tiles adhered to plywood and then attached to the wall? Something fairly non-invasive. Still scheming here but the thought of adding a pop of pattern really tempts me. Otherwise, on the hunt for a cool wall clock or piece of art to anchor the area and maybe a small rug.

Steele Maiden At Home: What's Next in My Apartment Makeover

Bedroom: This area is definitely a work in progress. So far the standout is this custom blue velvet headboard that my parents (and Grandmother! Hi Mom-Mom!) and I put together the last time I was home in PA. I had fallen in love with the fabric (from Calico Corners – where my Mom works) but wanted to avoid the cost of custom upholstery and didn’t want to DIY from scratch – so I purchased this inexpensive headboard from Wayfair and then simply added batting and staple gunned this fabric around it to cover. Voila!

I’m still in desperate need of small nightstand/side tables and sconces to go above and am really wanting to wallpaper the wall behind the bed as a major accent. Since, again, it’s a rental I’d need to get the owner to approve that or go the removable route. Although I can’t find any I love quite as much as this paper from Anthropologie. It feels like something you’d see in a boutique hotel somewhere near a beach – which is essentially exactly what I want the bedroom to feel like. An idyllic escape and endless summer.

Steele Maiden At Home: What's Next in My Apartment Makeover

Living Room: This area has probably made the least progress but I’ve got big plans. That involve some bigger ticket purchases like a couch and arm chair, finding a piece of large scale art that I love and swapping a rather clunky large bookcase for something like a console and open shelves that feel visually lighter and a fireplace renovation. Remember those kitchen tiles I mentioned? I want to build a faux hearth in front of the brick fireplace to expand it. Hoping by year’s end I’ve got these things going.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with everything I want to do around here, but alas – Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is a stylish small apartment. Here’s to crossing off one thing at a time!

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BEFORE AND AFTER: APARTMENT ENTRYWAY MAKEOVER

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

Welcome to the apartment entryway! There’s been quite a bit of radio silence on the blog between this spring and early summer but this entryway project felt like it really got the creative juices flowing again and I’m so excited to get back to sharing regular content with you all. Starting with this little space. It’s the first in the apartment to be “done” and even though it’s not a large area, I do think the changes made a big impact. Keep scrolling to see the ‘before’ and full ‘after’!

SHOP THE STORY:

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway MakeoverThe Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

The entryway leads into the living area and so I wanted it to feel a part of that space (and the things I have planned for it), while still feeling like it served distinctly as an entry space. This meant I wanted a last minute place to check my lipstick and somewhere we could hang our keys and jackets on the way in and out.

The first thing to go was the ‘rental white’ paint color. I can’t stand it and so my Mom (an absolute master painter) generously lent her skills to repainting the living room and entryway in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Shoreline’. The facing wall I painted this deep navy teal (I had literally been dreaming of painting a wall this color for years) and love how it turned out as a nice rich accent.

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

The mirror in the entry is actually a window from the barn at my grandparent’s old house (where my Dad grew up). My parent’s salvaged a few of them before my grandparents moved and my Mom had mercury glass mirror put behind it. I love that it feels like a little piece of my Pennsylvania home here in New York. Above it hangs a sign saying ‘Entreé‘ which means entrance in French and was a sweet housewarming gift from a dear friend.

Another thing we replaced were the light fixture (reference the ‘before again… eek) and the door pull on the coat closet. Small changes that make a really big difference. I added matching knobs to the wall as makeshift hooks beneath the mirror.

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway MakeoverThe Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

The bar cart is filled with lots of personal touches that I love – the photo hanging above it is from a perfect night spent wandering the canals in Amsterdam while the Buffalo Bill image framed below is actually a playing card from a deck picked up on our trip to Wyoming. It’s the Ace of Hearts which we decided was a good omen – to leave the house with luck and enter with love. The illustration framed in the lower part of the bar cart is a map of the Cotswolds from the cutest country Inn we stayed at there last Fall. And the bar cart itself is a $15 flea market find from when we lived in Los Angeles (it’s a vintage typewriter cart).

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover     The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

I wanted the downstairs living area space of the apartment to feel like New York in the Fall (crisp, rich colors and textures yet an overall warm and inviting feeling) and I think that the entryway is a good start to that. More to come!

The Steele Maiden: Before and After - Apartment Entryway Makeover

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