HI, BUDS. In case it wasn’t clear from the headline, I’m experiencing a universal renter dilemma and I’m hoping you can weigh in and help me out. When you’re personalizing your home, is it better to ask for forgiveness or permission?
Here’s my current situation: I, like most people, have always lived in rental units with pretty strict “no alteration” leases. And true to form for someone who works at a design blog, I’ve ignored parts of these — my walls are dotted with nail holes (like Jess’ living room above) and your girl has hung her fair share of shelves.
But now, I’m DEEP in the throes of my own MOTO (pro tip: don’t try to take on 3 rooms at once! What was I thinking?!) and I’m running into one tiny problem. My landlord won’t let me touch the trim, cabinets, or doors. I’ve been verbally cleared to paint walls, add wallpaper (as long as I remove it), and make holes…but basically, anything painted with a semi-gloss is off-limits.
And y’all. This is driving me NUTS. My apartment, though filled with 1930s charm, is also filled with cracked and chipped paint on my windows, doors, and baseboards. Beyond just aesthetics (and an interest in not living in an apartment with window frames that make me feel like Miss Havisham), I love a bright space and would love to do some accent trim, like Sara wrote about in this post and Julie did below. If I’m in here for the long haul, is it worth just fixing now and asking forgiveness later?
I spent about 4 years in my old place and felt pretty cavalier with my minor alterations as I figured my holes and changes would be written off as “normal wear and tear” after I’d moved out of the unit. And for what it’s worth, I was right — I received my security deposit returned in full, though I imagine some landlords may not be so kind.
So THIS is where I need your help. Have you altered an apartment and gotten backlash from your landlord? How did you manage? Did you agree to change everything back upon move out? (And if you’re a landlord, how do you feel about tenants taking it on themselves to make their apartment their own?)
When I looked back at our MOTO archives, I was pretty surprised to learn that a majority of us hadn’t cleared our plans with our landlords (with the exception of Arlyn, who is obviously an angel) — but in a nice twist, our property managers often loved the changes we made. One of our landlords even used photos from a MOTO project with an unapproved paint job to secure a new loan for the building.
But we’re still just talking about paint here — what about the other shifts? Where do you draw the line? Is painting okay, but wallpaper too much? Is switching out lighting fixtures or ceiling fans okay, but only if done by a trained electrician? Is it worth it to swap vertical blinds for curtains if it means drilling into the wall? Can I store my screen patio door in my garage and swap out my shower door for a curtain? I DON’T KNOW. PLEASE HELP.
I’m really struggling because I don’t want to create a design plan, get my hopes up, ask for permission, and get rejected. And for what it’s worth, even when we do ask for permission, sometimes plans for collaboration go awry — remember Orlando’s kitchen? He had come to his landlord with an incredible reno plan, she had approved, and then he was left paying for the whole thing out of pocket. How far would you go to make a rental your own?
I guess a lot of this really comes down to how often your landlord is in your apartment, right? Kinda like if a tree falls in the forest, except “if your landlord never sees your changes and you switch things back before moving out, did it ever happen?” Does your own level of responsibility factor into this? Do you think my landlord, knowing I work this job and have access to my incredible team, would be a little more flexible? (Is that even a fair card to pull?) What about the “I’ve lived here for a year, paid rent on time, and never broken anything, and so you can logically assume I’d probably do a good job and leave this place better than I found it?” card?
ANYWAY, I know people have real problems and that me not being allowed to touch the semi-gloss paint in my apartment is not ACTUALLY important, but now that we’re home so much (or, at least, I’m still home a lot…I don’t know what y’all are up to, but hopefully you’re home and safe, too!), these are the little tweaks that would make living and working here SO MUCH more enjoyable. So PLEASE — I’m throwing out the SOS here. Tell me about your rental tweaks that went great AND tell me about your horror stories. (Mom, if you’re reading, feel free to chime in too.) Give me all of your tips, tricks, advice, and things you would do (or wouldn’t do) again.
Do you ask for permission sometimes for the big tweaks, and plan for forgiveness for the little ones (a girl’s gotta hang that art somewhere, right?!). Or are you the type to just install a new sink and toilet (…like a certain EHD alum) and hope for the best? HELP ME. THANKS.
Opening Photo Credits: Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Makeover Takeover: Jess’ Long Awaited (Small Space) Living Room Reveal + Jess’ MOTO: You Have To See How She Hacked Her Rental Kitchen With DIYs