5 Design Solutions for Your Rental Apartment
Britta Butler shares her design tips for transforming a rental apartment into a home.
Make Your Apartment a Home
We have come to that time of year again, when so many people have to say goodbye to friends who are leaving Hong Kong. It is just the nature of this place, and something that is generally accepted as the price we pay for the opportunity to live in this amazing city.
A side effect of this transiency, however, is that your apartment is almost necessarily a temporary home, and this can often leave you feeling highly unsettled – even if it is subconsciously. It is important, therefore, that the place you hang your hat is somewhere that makes you feel grounded, stable, and relaxed. So what can you do to make this (often) temporary home feel like “home”? I always tell my clients to look to design for the solutions. They need not be pricey fixes and are often quite simple.
This is one of the easiest and best ways to make a rental apartment feel like your own. Hire a painter and change those drab beige walls in your bedroom to a deep, vibrant hue. Choose a side of your living room and turn it into an accent wall. You can even paint your front door (with the landlord’s permission of course), and have a new colour greet you as you come home on one side, and another as you head out.
2. Hang Pictures
The number of clients’ homes I have been in with nothing hanging on the walls is always surprising to me. Your walls are a blank canvas-be the artist! Art work is a great way to personalize your space and make it feel less temporary. It also does not have to break the bank: head to the Art Village in Shenzhen. You can pick up an original artwork by an artist in residence (not everything in Shenzhen is a fake!) for a fraction of the cost of buying something from a gallery in Central. Then have it framed there and shipped directly to your door from China within a day or two. Voila!
An oft-neglected area of design when moving into a rental flat, but one that can make such a big difference in terms of creating a feeling of home and permanence, is lighting. Don’t leave that bare bulb on your ceiling for the duration of your lease! Dress it up. What is your personal style? Is it Modern? Classic? Contemporary? The light fixture might not be the first thing that you notice when you walk into the room, but it will be one of the things that ties the space together. Best of all, it’s an investment that you can take with you when you do move.
4. Don’t hate on IKEA
The bane of most newcomers to Hong Kong is the seemingly mandatory trip(s) to IKEA. Nothing can make your space feel less like home than outfitting your entire flat with flat-packed furniture. But don’t despair – IKEA can actually be a good roommate if you know how to handle it. Go ahead and buy that Expedit Bookcase, but leave out a few of the shelves to give it a less uniform display. Use the larger openings for showing off some personal photos or a piece of art. While you’re at it, paint the back of the shelf a different color. Now you’ve got yourself a customized bookshelf that reflects your personal sense of style. Do a google search on more IKEA “hacks”. The point is to have fun with it, and since the pieces do not cost an arm and a leg, you can afford to get creative.
5. Collect while you travel
Apartment living can feel anonymous and monotonous, as so many Hong Kong high rises are cookie cutter, so decorate your space with found objects from your trips. Chances are, part of the appeal of living in Asia is the many opportunities for travel. That carving you picked up in Vietnam or the sculpture you bought in India should have pride of place in your home. Enlarge some of your photos and have them printed on canvas to put on your walls (see #2!).
At the end of the day, whether you are in HK for 2 years or 20, while you are here you will want to make the most of it-as you should! And when you come home after a long day (or night) out, your apartment should be a place of enjoyment, restfulness and refuge from this intensity. It should feel like home.
Britta Butler is a designer and founder of bsquared design ltd. Whether undertaking a single room renovation or an entire home, her personal approach to design is one of exploration and problem-solving, and she achieves a great sense of personal satisfaction in being able to create spaces that her clients love to live in. Visit her website email her at [email protected]