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Small Space Dwelling: Home Sweet (Temporary) Home

Three simple decor ideas for turning that rental into a homey haven.

All of us want to be able to settle into our homes, to create a comfortable refuge we can really embrace as our own. But since many of us city dwellers rent our places, we can end up thinking of an apartment as more 12-month contract than home sweet home. What’s a renter to do? Here are three simple ideas—all with a small-space spin—that any renter should consider when seeking a sense of permanence in a temporary space.

Adding personal elements will connect you with your space.

Photograph by Rebecca Orlov.

Emotionally connecting with a space is the first step in thinking of it as your home. Curate your own wall gallery with photos of family and friends. To keep things uncluttered and balanced, consider using the same color frames and photo formatting—perhaps all black and white—to create a cohesive gallery.

Remember that amazing trip you took to Europe or the beach vacation last summer? Round up your favorite mementos and create a collection on a surface or wall. To keep small objects from feeling random, arrange them together on a decorative tray.

Old is sometimes better than new.

Photograph by Rebecca Orlov.

Nothing says “not my home at all” like an apartment full of brand new furniture and décor. Whether you have a few pieces of your own or are starting from scratch, fight the temptation to run out and buy a matching suite at your local big-box store. Instead, add furniture with character, a few flaws, and a bit of a story. Texture and material work well in small spaces, adding dimension and a style that is uniquely you.

Even if you’re dealing with brand new pieces, you can create a lived-in look with a little DIY. Consider adding an unexpected element to a new piece, like a funky mirror over a handpainted credenza.

Think about forever pieces.

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user tommerton2010.

Sure, you may only be living in your rental apartment for a short time, but your design elements and style move with you when your lease expires. Big furniture can work in small spaces—it’s all about scale and balance—so don’t be afraid to invest in a large piece that you know you’ll have forever. If you really love it, you can find a way to integrate it into your current space.

Rebecca is a native Washingtonian and currently lives in Bethesda. Find her on the web at or on Twitter at @lovelivesmall.

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