Lessons From Young House Love: What Renting Can Teach You

Sherry and John Petersik of Young House LoveYoung House Love is a popular blog that follows the design and do-it-yourself adventures of two young home owners, Sherry and John Petersik. We wondered: What did these former renters-turned-homeowners learn from their time as renters? One of the biggest lessons: How to make a small space seem larger.

RentedSpaces:You went from apartment life to house life. What was the biggest transition going from renting to owning?

Young House Love: The idea that we owned everything! The walls were ours to paint -- heck, they were ours to knock down if we wanted! It really was a shift in thinking -- to go from working around strict renting rules to grasping the idea that we could change the entire floor plan and function of the house without answering to anyone. It's freeing, but it's also sort of paralyzing in the beginning. This is always why we recommend living in a house for a bit -- to see how you really use each room before making major changes that may not be as functional as you thought (if you didn't spend time living in the space first to suss out what you really need your house to do).

What design or life habits did you pick during your time as renters that have proven helpful?
How to pare down and live only with things that we love from our days of renting. There's no room to hold onto random items that don't mean much, so every accessory (and even every book or item of clothing) that we held onto was something that we really wanted to have around. Renting also helped to stretch our creativity when it came to putting our own unique "stamp" on the space. We created large-scale DIY art with affordable art store canvases, since we couldn't paint the walls, and even learned how to upholster a boldly colored lime green headboard to brighten up the builder-beige apartment.

Your blog, Young House Love, focuses on renovating a house to fit your style and taste. What are some favorite examples of design solutions that you've used to maximize the sense of space?
master bedroom designOur first rule is that every item should have at least two functions. Padded leather storage ottomans can double as a place to sit, as well as a spot to stash a ton of stuff out of sight. Another great trick is to make rooms multitask. For example, we added a dining area to the corner of our living room, which created an open loft-like feeling from a formal living space that was rarely used before. We're also big fans of switching out giant space-sucking ceiling fans for smaller scale flush-mounted lights, and even replacing closet doors with breezy curtains for more of that airy vibe. Even as a renter these may be things you can do while you're a tenant -- just keep the fan and the closet door on hand (perhaps slipped under your bed) so you can rehang them before you leave. It's definitely worth the customized and stylish effect you'll instantly accomplish for the entire time that you call that space home.

You recently converted a guest bedroom into a dual-purpose space. It was a challenging makeover, too -- it needed to function as a playroom for your new daughter, Clara, and as an office. Can you tell us about design considerations when it comes to multi-functional spaces?
We're actually still in the process of completing that big multi-functional office/guest bedroom/playroom makeover, and we're having a great time figuring out what needs the room must meet. We've found that by systematically writing down those needs it's easier to figure out exactly how to accomplish them all without sacrificing style (or breaking the bank). For example, when we compile a list that says the bed needs to sleep two people yet have a very small footprint when it's not in use (to provide maximum floor space when we use the room as an office), a sleeper sofa or Murphy bed floats to the top as a great solution to that little room riddle. We also plan to bring in bookcases and storage boxes galore to organize all of our office supplies, files, and paper clutter -- and of course we'll add a chic pendant light and some great large-scale art to keep the room from feeling too business without enough pleasure mixed in.

You recently did a post on frugalityas a means to have what you really want. What are some examples of some frugal choices and/or favorite DIY projects?
We love a good DIY project. So from upholstering chairs and painting furniture, to creating the look of custom built-ins with cheap Ikea furniture, we're all about using our own two hands (well, four) to create art, accessories, and other touches that really make a home feel customized and stylish -- all without draining our wallet. To check out a slew of our favorite DIY tutorials (many of which are perfect for renters) visit our How To page full of ideas and easy instructions. And remember: Making something yourself doesn't mean it has to look crafty and homemade. There are so many chic and deceptively expensive-looking upgrades and projects that you can tackle for that high-end look on the cheap.
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