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What's Up Magazine

Design for Rent: Interior Design Tips for Smaller Spaces

May 24, 2016 04:57PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Tashica Morgan

Whether you have a mortgage or are renting, you want your humble abode to truly feel like it is yours. But how—especially if the space is temporarily yours? Renters (even owners) tend to fall trap to the short-term mentality and never consider adding that finishing touch. Sure this may not be the forever-home, but it is the for-now home. Don’t let the fear of cost, time, and most of all, permanency stop you from enjoying your #currentsituation. We present both quick and simple design shortcuts, as well as interim solutions, to help you feel comfortable in your space.

Living Room

Light it up. No light source in living room? No problem...light pendants and light fixtures have come a long way from hardwired and all the electrical work therein. Plug-in sconces, light-cord kits, and even plug-in pendants can put a spotlight on your space. You can add a mixture of style, light-levels, and types of lighting without needing to know where the electrical box is located.

 All the art please, hold the frame. Today’s “gallery walls” have evolved and relaxed some, and don’t have to be so “serious.” Play it up. Try push-pinning a series of candid black and white photos on an empty wall, or tack art to pre-framed corkboards, making it interchangeable. And one more thing to keep in mind: art can be anything; so don’t just stop at photos and canvases. Try other things, like organic elements or a sentimental object: driftwood or an old wrought-iron house number from your childhood home can all be mixed in, creating your very own masterpiece.


Switch out. Cabinet hardware may be small in scale, but so grand in impact. Try changing out old hardware for new. Most kitchen cabinets already have existing knobs and pulls, making it really easy to just switch over to new ones, and then an even easier to transition back to the old ones when it’s time to move.

Backsplash not backburner. Backsplashes are a great opportunity to give life to an otherwise humdrum kitchen—what once upon a time needed contractors and plans, can now be done by you. Simple things—like painting a pattern using just painter’s tape, adhering stick ’n peel wallcovering, or, if you want to get a little fancier, apply faux tile sheets (made of stickable vinyl front tile designs)—can give the look and presence of a stylish, personalized kitchen, plus it requires little labor. Not to mention it can be removed just as quickly as it was put up.


Mirror, mirror on the wall. Bathrooms come with lots of standards; standard sinks, standard tubs, standard faucets—you get the point. Though I don’t recommend changing any of those out, I do suggest replacing the standard mirror with one that has more character and depth. There are mirrors with wood frames, brocade edges, etched patterns—you name it.

Don’t hang the towel. Change up from the mundane, and consider other ways to store your bath blankets. Try lining up a row of towel hooks—there’s an array of styles and designs, one out there to match anyone’s aesthetics. If the space allows, try a small étagère, or even metal stool and allow your towel to dry in style.


Take the bored out of boards. In the past, office spaces have been considered utilitarian and cold, but now, an office is where you make it. Desks do not have to be ordered from the desk catalog—try out a dining table in your space (but don’t let your dining room become your office). Occassional tables also work, especially if the space is small, even a pub table with a counter stool chair can suit your business fancy. And if your space is really limited, a gateleg table that can open into a work-top and then go away when the job is done “works.”

Working overtime. Many homes have rooms that work as dual spaces and serve multiple purposes. The trick is to have function meet design. If your office has to be your place of dining, then manipulate rather than extrapolate. Use a decorative tray that houses your laptop and important documents—this “softens” and contains the look of clutter while allowing easy transport when needed. Another tip—instead of having piles and stacks of papers all over your coffee table (or side table or floor), have decorative baskets designated for certain documents (it’ll keep you organized and provide some design candy all at the same time). And if you aren’t crazy about baskets, try wall files—they come in all types of material, from wood to galvanized metal, all stashing places for your work and bringing some mass appeal to your walls.


About the Author

Affectionately known as “Talko,” Tashica Morgan is a stay-at-home-mother of three under five and a converted Annapolitan, originally from the Nation’s Capital. A touted local celebrity and seen on HGTV’s Design Star, she’s a seasoned designer and familiar face in the interior design community. Follow her on facebook and instagram @thatssotalko or email her at