around the house: renter chic

Before we moved here I was excited: a new home to decorate! How fun! Except once I realized how much stuff our little family had (both of us have hobbies, sports equipment, my clothes, his uniforms, rabbit stuff and now the puppy accouterments), and how little space we had since we had to downsize, I got discouraged. I knew logically things wouldn’t go in as seamlessly as they had into our Florida apartment because it was a different layout (much less open), but in my heart I was having a hard time with getting into the spirit of making this place our home. Which means that nearly six months after we moved in there are still pictures to be hung, the dining room set needs to be painted (cream and robin’s egg blue), and the sofa still needs accent pillows. The reason you’ve only seen the mantel area in the house? Besides the kitchen, that is the only spot I really feel is worth showing to the outside world–everything else is still a bit blah and unfinished.

Then I realized the other day why things were still in a half-finished state. I had fallen into that trap one can when renting: “we don’t own it, so why bother?” or “we’re only going to move eventually, so why put in the time/effort/money?”. I think this is especially easy if you live with a sense of impermanence due to a spouse’s job. But this is our home now despite it’s quirks, lack of storage and “cozy” layout. Our bedroom furniture may not fit well into our new master bedroom, the coat closet may be sorely lacking in size, or the dining room may have to share space with the dog’s crate, but it’s still home for right now. Not ideal, not the sort of place I’d buy if that’s what we were doing, but considering what else we could have ended up with it does for now! It needs a bit of personality though…

Which means that I have to get creative in a thrifty way to perk things up around here. I made a teeny list of spots I want to redo or add a bit of flair to. It makes it more tangible and–dare I say–exciting. I want to make this place a bit less “cramped-cozy” and more “homey-cozy”. The sort of place people don’t notice the wonky walls (bad past repair jobs) or the fact that our sofa is really too big for the space. Welcoming and comfortable, colorful and yet calming, a bit quirky too (anyone noticed the Captain America action figure on the mantle yet?).

I think this is a little pep-talk to myself. I get in ruts from time to time and get discouraged easily. This move and first six months have not been a shining moment in my life; and I feel bad that SH has had to come home from super-long days at work and deployments/training exercises to a house that still doesn’t feel like home. I know for him, it’s important to have that sense of calm and stability in his life since his work is so often the opposite. So here’s my little goal for the next six months: work on small ways to make everything fit (it’s like a jigsaw puzzle!), add some more color, finish those lingering projects, and for gosh sakes get the rest of the artwork on the walls (and maybe buy a few new prints on Etsy…)! lol.

First up: covering those ugly accent pillows on the sofa. The slipcover has been done for months, but the pillows remain uncovered. Yes, I’m showing you a picture of my rumpled, dog-slobbered sofa, topped with a quilt that has seen better days. That’s life right now with all it’s little warts and quirks. (See–I don’t have a Perfect Blogger Life by any means! lol.) I have a cute and wallet-friendly idea up my sleeve for those pillows though! (Aren’t they ugly??? Augh!) Stay tuned!

April 25, 2012 · 35 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house · tags: , ,

Annabelle April 25, 2012 at 08:27

Oh my goodness, I had fallen into the same rut with my house. My hubby bought it with his brother, and when we got married we kicked brother out and I moved in. It was a total bachelor pad and I only made changes to one room. The rest of the house still felt like a man cave – and knowing that we would not live there forever I just made myself content, but not really. Well, in a week our house will be on the market and now I have to make some of those changes so someone else will want to buy the place! Too bad I didn’t make those changes earlier so I could at least enjoy them too – I needed your pep talk two years ago ;)


Anita April 25, 2012 at 08:36

It isn’t easy to live in rented space and make it your own! And we all get into ruts, creative and otherwise. I like your self motivational post; it reminds me a lot of pep talks I give myself! I also find that a “behave as if” attitude works; act as if you are having a great time with it, and you just might find that you are!
Good luck with your undertaking; I hope that you’ll share your progress!
xo, Anita


Michelle @ If Toys Could Talk April 25, 2012 at 08:47

I can so relate to this and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been in this rut ever since we moved into our current rental seven (!) years ago. Now my brother-in-law is buying an investment property and we’re set to rent it from him as soon as it closes escrow. I am determined to do a better job decorating this time around. We don’t have much of a decorating budget, but I’m sure I can make something happen!


Gina April 25, 2012 at 09:08

I have a friend in the military and she feels the same way, after thirty years as a military family, she says that houses aren’t important to her, an attitude she had to have to survive, as she has had to move every couple of years. I think good furniture and things that make you smile help the most. I bought really good stuff, antiques that I love and am still not tired of them. The key for me is to buy only what I truly love. The walls may fallen in around a bit, but with a great sofa it’s doable. Good luck, nesting is an important part for a family for sure.


Krizstina April 25, 2012 at 09:18

I have similar issus. Living in a rented apartment, I don’t want to spend the money to make major changes. I also have the pet issue in a small place. Two cats means two litterboxes….. tubs of litter…. toys.. and of course blankets thrown over my seating to prevent hair (and hairballs).

The second the doorbell rings and it’s someone I want to let in, I scramble to pull blankets off the couches, put the room divider in front of the litterbox/bookshelf that holds their stuff, and scan for any hairball soup that might have been left since the last time I checked…….


Emma April 25, 2012 at 09:21

Casey, I just wanted to say how much I love your new layout/header. It’s so pretty! Also I can totally relate to the not wanting to decorate because it’s rented mindset! I can be so hard to make a plce your own without doing anything permanent like painting a room a certain colour or having custom furniture to fit into a room. I think it’s the little touches like putting up photos or cushions or ornaments.

Although the good thing about renting is not feeling tied down to an area and being free to move around if you want and explore a new area.

Emma x


Tasha April 25, 2012 at 09:22

I totally understand what you’re going through. I’ve been in such a state of flux and flurry over the last few months, preparing to move and buy a house and then actually doing it, that it’s been getting me down that I haven’t had time for things I want to do… like decorate to make it feel like our home (though soliciting opinions on my blog for decor was helpful, lol. and I know I shouldn’t feel that way after only a month!), get back to knitting and sewing, figuring out places I can actually take photos in the house and yard, etc. So, a {hug} to you.

I think having a plan does help in a home. It’s so easy to just see all the projects lining up and get overwhelmed by it. I think starting small with a few basics is a great idea. Maybe make a list of the smaller things and the bigger things you’d like to tackle. Can’t wait to see what you come up with for your pillows!


Lauren April 25, 2012 at 09:26

I feel the same way about my rental house – when I first moved in, I was all gung-ho about getting it set up all cuuuuute & started painting & all that jazz… but now I just can’t bring myself to bother. Especially since I know I’ll be moving as soon as the lease is up. I don’t mind making big changes on a rental – I want my home to feel like home – but when I know I’m moving in 6 months? MEH.

Making baby steps is the way to go, though! Maybe I’ll make baby steps with you hahaha. Because… I need some throw pillows for my (tiny, doesn’t match anything) couch :)


LBC April 25, 2012 at 09:29

I’m currently living in my childhood bedroom (long story, not very interesting) and squeezing all my hobbies into is a nightmare. I’ll be dancing in the streets when I have my own place.

The up-side is that I could paint the room, which I did 3 1/2 years ago when my plans were very different. But then I never really moved back in. I mean, I did, but I never re-hung any pictures, never got my filing cabinets (which, thankfully, are in a different room) set up to use, etc. So I had piles of stuff all over the floor. I swear the reason the carpet wasn’t dirtier when I vacuumed was that it was so covered in clutter the dust couldn’t reach it.

Anyway, I finally freaked out and did a big clean-up last month. Took several kitchen bags of little-worn clothing to Goodwill. Threw out papers that I thought I’d use/reread but didn’t. Set aside a big box of patterns to re-eBay. Rearranged and hung pictures, including some that I had only recently gotten framed. Dusted. Vacuumed.

Gina’s right about getting furniture (bedding, pictures, other “movables”) that you love, because you can take furniture with you. I love mine, what little of it I have, and it makes the room feel a lot more anchored and a lot less makeshift.


1congn1to April 25, 2012 at 09:47

It’s been almost 4 years and a half that my boyfriend and I are together. Lately, I found myself really looking at everything: painting colors, decorating tips, furniture, … It won’t be long before we’ll take the next step: living together. Because I’m always looking forward to it, it never crossed my mind that once you really live together and have that little space you can call your home, that you could loose the excitement of decorating your own home.

Sonce my boyfriend’s in the military to, we’ll probably move every few years. So I don’t know how you feel yet, but reading your post made me realise that perhaps it won’t be as perfect as I always picture it. Perhaps I just don’t want to put the effort in our home if it isn’t ours and we might move. But yeah, you should take it slow, do it bit by bit, and before you know it, it’s all done!

BTW, I loved the pictures of your previous home!


Stephanie Ivy April 25, 2012 at 10:00

Oh my goodness yes. I have completely fallen into the same rut, only I’ve been in my apartment for (gulp) five years. I grew up in the one house my entire life, so renting was really one of those — why make it nice if you don’t own it mindsets. But I was miserable.

I just finished my bedroom; I’m doing serious redecorating with my style and not listening to my parents who have in the past tried to talk me out of things or slammed my style. It’s so nice, even if it’s only the one room done so far.


YarnUiPhoneAppv2.3 April 25, 2012 at 10:12

I wouldn’t be so hard on yourself…I’ve been living in my place a long time…it’s still not ‘properly decorated’ but it’s my home, and where I sleep at night. As long as I get a deep, decent night’s sleep, I’m happy. I’m also surrounded by my WIPs, so really I’m content as long as I have MY Stuff near me. Can never be too far away from my stuff. Hee hee.


Portia April 25, 2012 at 10:19

Aw Casey I totally relate. When we moved to our current property, we downsized from a 3 Bedroom detatched Victorian cottage, to a VERY compact 2 bedroom bungalow. I literally wept at the prospect of moving here and didn’t believe it could ever feel homely. That was over 2 years ago and I’m pleased to say it DOES feel like home now, even with it’s shortfalls in terms of space. I’ve spent ALOT of time trying to fit everything in and make the space work for us. Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking of starting a series on my log sharing some of the solutions that I have found that work for me. I’ve even gone as far as to design a little header/button graphic here:

So there may be some posts of this nature popping up on my blog soon.
On the subject of graphics/design etc, love the new pared down look on the blog. Such a sweet colour palette too! Looking forward to seeing what you do with your space :)
Love n hugs


Seraphinalina April 25, 2012 at 12:07

You are clearly not alone. Decorating is so far down my list of interests I think laundry comes ahead of it. When I moved in with my now-husband, it was into his one bedroom apartment. I didn’t see the point of unpacking my stuff that was already tucked away in my parents house so the only thing I added was a sewing machine. We’ve been in our current home for over 7 years now. We’ve painted a few rooms and bought furniture to fill spaces or replace what needed to go, but truly sitting there with a plan to make my bedroom an oasis of calm? Ah, no. I’d rather host while it’s not perfect than wait for everything to look showroom ready. I need that kick in the pants too.


Laura April 25, 2012 at 13:13

We’ve been in our rental for 2 years now and I’m just starting to make it our own. I kept telling myself we’d be moving soon. I am now realizing that it will probably be at least another year, so I might as well get on with it and make it home!


Shelley April 25, 2012 at 13:26

am in almost the same position as you – we moved just before christmas and it still doesn’t feel like home. Even though we own this house (after 8 years renting) we’re now so stretched with the mortgage and bills, we have very little cash to make any major improvements. Don’t you just feel disheartened? Well, i’m certainly going to stay tuned for your thrifty ideas to punch up your decor – i may be stealing a few of the ideas too! x


Carolyn April 25, 2012 at 13:43

I can also relate – but in an opposite sort of way. My husband is in the military and although we were very fortunate that he got a 2nd posting in the same place last summer, we neither expect nor want (for the sake of his career) for that to happen again. We do own our place, my husband bought it at the start of the first posting in our little city, but it’s a condo – so very apartment-like (I am SO sick of living in apts by now btw). However, I’m super gung-ho about decorating while my husband is not. We plan to buy a proper house next posting and he wants to wait until then to start trying out decorating schemes. However, it’s always been important to me to derive aesthetic pleasure from my living spaces and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to try out different ideas from apt to apt. I want to start doing things ‘properly’ in our condo and I try to tell my husband that we can look at our current place as practice for when we a) have an actual house; and b) are able to settle down in one spot for a while.

Perhaps ‘practice’ is how you could look at your place as well. You have the freedom to try out whimsical ideas because you aren’t going to be stuck with them for the long haul! I’m also getting into planning for change in advance. For example, this spring we’re going to upgrade from 2 hand-me-down loveseats to 1 new loveseat and 2 small armchairs for the living room. The armchairs are from Ikea and inexpensive, but potentially investment-like pieces in that slipcovers specifically for them are also available. I got just 1 slipcover and will use it as a pattern to make other, fun ones. This will make them fairly easy and inexpensive to change when we move or I just get bored. Gina’s post above about getting furniture you love also resonates strongly with me. My husband and I are actually still newlyweds and we used money we got from the wedding to buy a high-quality antique dining suite we found for a really fantastic price. The set is a little big for a condo (esp the sideboard), but I don’t care, I love it!


Carolyn April 25, 2012 at 13:45

P.S The lovely and fresh colour scheme of your new layout has just inspired me for my sewing space! Thank you!


Chili Pepper April 25, 2012 at 14:10

OH MY WORD! Please do tell me how you came across the quilt in the last picture. I am currently working on a quilting project that is more than a hundred years old. My grandmother pieced the top together from scraps, even some old feed sack fabrics and worn out clothing, when she was the age of my third daughter. For whatever reason she never finished it. She has been dead for twenty years but the job of finishing this quilt was passed on to me. The fabrics and design are very unique. My three oldest girls were shocked when I showed them that picture. You can see a bit of mine in this post… The pieces on yours are narrower and where yours are more quarter circles mine are full fans but the overall feel looks as if the same quilter could have done it. If you scroll down a bit in this post there is a picture of it (although it isn’t finished yet so I don’t have a full picture) and maybe get some idea what I mean.

Happy decorating,



Tiffany Jo April 25, 2012 at 14:12

I know exactly how you feel. I’m about to get married, and moved from a huge house apartment, to my parent’s house, to a tiny apartment that my future husband will move into with me. Just the size transition has been terrible, plus being a first-year teacher and moving at the same time was insane but necessary. I have moved 11 times since I moved out for college, and it would have been so hard to adjust without my own furniture. Everything I have is my own, and I have things that are either inherited, thrifted, garage sale finds, or cheap antique store finds I re-did, and everything I bought because I absolutely loved it. It would have been so hard to move without owning my own furniture. Everytime I move I just set things up–the same things I’ve had forever–and settle in. I’m quite partial to my area rugs, and putting them down just makes me feel at home. It’s like my own personal flooring that follows me around everywhere. Weird, I know, but they make me feel great. Now, to just reduce the amount of clothing before “Honey” moves in……


quietandsmall April 25, 2012 at 14:48

in september, we moved from a spacious loft apartment into a much smaller, 4 room railroad-style apartment. after all the downsizing (we sold/donated about 50% of our stuff!) and searching for ways to creatively increase storage space (vertical, go vertical!), it finally feels like home. one that keeps needing updates (my fabric stash is bursting from it’s corner!!), but home. painting rooms isn’t much fun, but for me, goes the farthest for making an apartment feel like our place.

good luck for fixing your home into what you envision, i can’t wait to see the end result! the nice thing is that once you realize you’re in that “it’s not ours, we can wait” rut and make some progress, you want to do more. then more. then more. then you’re done!

have a lovely day!


Kristen April 25, 2012 at 17:29

You might want to check out some of the military-specific ideas for house decorating, especially if you’re in it for the long haul. When I married my husband (Navy!), he was thinking he might like go career, so I looked up a bunch of ideas on how to effectively move every few years. There were a *ton* of recommendations on the military family websites. Some that were particularly intriguing were:
1. Buy wall decals for instant, non-hole wall decoration–these were especially implemented in children’s rooms to ensure continuity between moves. Some people created chair-rail borders.
2. Make furniture “footprints” out of old sheets so you can figure out where the furniture will fit before the movers arrive. (You could possibly even do this when looking for a place, if your agent has the time.)
3. Use spring rods for curtains so that they can go up quickly to provide a sense of home. These are especially effective in the kitchen (over the sink, even if there’s not a window–put a mirror there) and kids’ rooms (again). If you use light-weight curtains, they can work in living rooms, etc., too.
4. Organizational/storage furniture is great, but make sure it’s quality hardwood; Ikea furniture doesn’t always survive more than a few moves because some is made from particle board.

My hubby has decided that five years is enough, so I never got to implement these ideas, but I thought I’d pass them on. Good luck with your decorating!


Cassie Stephens April 25, 2012 at 17:45

Oh, Casey, I can soo totally relate to this. We’ve been in our house for year(sssss) and I’m still working on it. And I used to beat myself up about it constantly. But I think working on one’s house is like working on anything that requires creativity: You can’t force it. Good ideas come organically. You’ll see something that will inspire an “a-hah!” and you’ll be off and running with a new layout or decor idea. When I lose interest in decorating, it’s because I’m working on something else…which might inspire decorating ideas. So, don’t be so hard on yourself! It will come together eventually and it will be perfectly suited for you all. Mavie too ;)


Pansy Lane April 25, 2012 at 18:46

This is my life! I have always done this. I’ll make things all lovely-looking to an extent, but then I lose steam because we’re just going to move anyway. We’ve been in this house for almost a year and the bedroom is still a mess and there are several other projects I still need to do, but whatever! This time I don’t care if we end up moving next year, I want to make sure everything is lovely and home-y while we’re living here.


Lexi April 25, 2012 at 20:57

Sounds as if so many of us are in this same spot. I moved into a new place around three months ago and was so excited about decorating it, but after being sapped of all my energy through the actual move and catching up with work, I totally lost my homemaking mojo. I too need to make cushion covers and get organised with some cold-weather curtaining, as the first chilly days have hit and I’ve realised that my beautiful art deco building kinda becomes arctic. Thanks, Casey, for the reminder! I will make my own list this afternoon!


Amber April 25, 2012 at 21:05

I too can relate to your situation. When my husband and I first moved in together we lived in his one bedroom apartment and my things went into a storage unit while my clothes went onto a wobbly clothing rack in the kitchen. When we moved to our new apartment all of my things that were in boxes in storage went into the second bedroom where they stayed put for six months. I finally unpacked and edited out all of the things I could stand to part with but now that I am getting more organized we are already planning our next move. I have yet to feel a sense of home and I haven’t felt that since I left home to go to college. We are hoping to find something permanent in the near future and finally get away from all of the cardboard boxes that have littered our lives these past several years. So what I’m trying to say is I understand where you are coming from and kudos to you for your self motivation!


Heather April 25, 2012 at 21:14

I have similar feelings in my place from time to time, but we own our home, but both agree that it’s not our “forever” and “perfect” place… which really does make it hard to invest money into things or try and make things the best they can be, when you know it may not be worth it at this location.

I’m really excited to see your projects and ideas, especially how to encorporate differing tastes (love the Captain America action figure) and stay on a thrifty budget while getting everything to fit. Sounds like such a fun game when you relate it to a puzzle, love that analogy and the idea of everything fitting together just so.


Lisa April 25, 2012 at 23:29

Something I did when I was military and moving a lot was have the whole house the same color scheme so that I could use night tables as side tables in the living room, throw pillows in the bedroom, etc. In the next place – everything is interchangeable.


LollyWillowes April 26, 2012 at 02:35

I know that feeling, it’s not good. It’s hard to make a rented place feel like home, especially over here because it’s so hard to get one that isn’t already furnished and they have so many do’s and don’ts, you really struggle to have a normal life and if you have animals it’s almost impossible to find a rental. We lived in one once that had been left exactly as it was when owner moved out. Truly awful taste, damp, cold and ugly. I felt like I was trespassing because all their furniture, ornaments and pictures were still there, it was weird! Couldn’t wait to escape it. Still not happy where I am, don’t like the house or the area, ho hum.
I do hope you manage to get it gussied up, it’s so important to feel you have a nice nest. Good luck with it.
Pretty quilt, too.


Katie April 26, 2012 at 04:44

Would love to see updates of what you do – we finally bought our first house and I’m having hard time making it all work, as everything we own is random stuff from other houses we’ve rented.


Jessica April 26, 2012 at 17:22

For the past several years I’ve subscribed to much the same renter’s outlook on decor – especially when hit with ten mile long contracts dictating the thousands of things you can’t do, but with our most recent move a few weeks ago and the belief/hope that this move will be our last for quite some time to come (fingers crossed), I’ve also started nesting more and am trying to create (albeit on a major budget) a home that I love and which makes me smile every morning when I greet it.

I think that every home is a perpetual work of art in the making, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speed up the process sometimes! :)

Wishing you nothing but the best with your decorating adventures,
♥ Jessica


Lisa Suit April 26, 2012 at 21:08

Love the Captain America on the mantel, was the first thing I noticed in the pic :) Also, I love that quilt! :)


AustigardFactory April 28, 2012 at 15:02

I can totally relate to this! It’s inspiring and refreshing how honest you are. We just bought our very first apartment, and only now am I inspired to spend time/money/energy on redecorating. But it SHOULD be likewise with a rented place! A home is a home :)


Patricia April 28, 2012 at 16:00

when I was young due to sad cercumstances for my mother, widowed at 40 with 4 children, we moved into a different apartment every year. The places we lived were only one bedrooms, above stores, up laneways, you get the picture. The one thing I remember was the feeling in our tiny homes. My mom always made it cozy and clean and we were well fed, bless her heart. Try not to stress. You can have the largest most expensive furnished house but believe me when people walk through your door there is a sence of the souls who live there and your home probably already has this. Try this experiment the next time you visit another persons home. What do you feel when you walk through the door?


ConstantlyAlice May 1, 2012 at 10:22

Ummm..I kinda love that you have Captain America prominently displayed..


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