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High-Impact Decorating Tips That Will Transform Your Apartment

Your apartment doesn’t have to be a cookie-cutter, boring space. While you can’t make permanent changes to it, there are still plenty of ways to turn it into a cozy home where your personal style truly shines. From window curtains to colorful rugs and wall decorations, here are some high-impact tips for overcoming décor challenges in your apartment.

Treat the walls

Light, neutral colors are the go-to for landlords – white, beige, or very light grays, to be exact. That’s not a bad idea per se, as these colors match with everything and make apartments look bigger and brighter. However, if you’re sick and tired of neutral shades and you just want some color, there are simple ways you can brighten your walls without having to beg your landlord for permission to paint.

One very easy, inexpensive, and artistic solution is to use fabric as wall décor. You can use any type of fabric – an oversized scarf, a small rug, or any other attractive piece of cloth featuring colors and patterns that you love.

Decide which wall you want to turn into the main focal point of the room. Drape the fabric over a portion of the wall, hanging it with command hooks. Make sure that the fabric’s colors and patterns harmonize with other decorative elements in the room. Don’t overcrowd the focus wall – an eye-catching fabric is all that’s needed. You can add a simple accent, such as a string of fairy lights, if desired.

 

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Splurge on high-quality window coverings

Never underestimate the ability of well-chosen curtains to completely revamp and “dress up” a home! Window coverings can make a room bright and cheerful, or alternatively, tranquil and cool. Curtains and drapes provide that sense of intimacy and coziness you’re craving, so take your time and choose the right ones for each room.

Think about what you want to achieve before purchasing your new window treatments and take the local climate into account. If you’re living somewhere warmer, you probably need blinds or thick, lined curtains to filter the bright midday sun. However, if you live in a colder province, where sunny days are in short supply, you should consider light, flowy curtains and bright colors (i.e., yellow, orange) to bring some extra warmth into your home.

Combine blinds and curtains to enjoy both shade and sun, depending on the season and time of day. Choose a solid color for the blinds and reserve prints and patterns for the curtains, as prints on both can be overpowering. To make small windows look larger, choose floor-to-ceiling curtains that are wide enough to extend past the window frame, covering part of the wall on both sides.

Deal with your clutter

Apartments usually lack in the storage space department, but that’s no reason to let clutter take over your home. You can allow a little bit of clutter here and there – a stack of books on your coffee table, or some extra blankets on the sofa – because that’s actually cozy and cute. However, a home where every available surface is crowded is anything but inviting.

Take a day, or an entire weekend, to get your clutter under control. Go through your clothes, papers, and miscellaneous items, and throw away or donate everything you no longer use or need.

If, let’s say, you’re living in a tiny apartment, chances are you have too much stuff and too little space, even after you’ve purged your non-essential possessions. One solution to this problem is renting a storage unit. Choose one as close to your apartment as possible, so you can grab stored items as needed without having to worry about long back-and-forth commutes. Smart use of a storage unit can decrease the amount of expensive living space you require, while adding room for your belongings.

Get creative with rugs

Colorful rugs are the perfect antidote for boring, uninspired floors! Instead of a single big rug in the living room, consider using a variety of smaller area rugs. The same goes for hallways – several non-identical rugs aligned on the floor create a more spacious and dynamic look than a single rug that fits perfectly from wall to wall. As an added bonus, smaller rugs are also much easier to move in and out of your apartment. Who wants to drag around a huge, heavy rug that may not even fit inside the elevator? Small, playful rugs are both stylish and practical, making them ideal apartment décor.

 

Revamp the bathroom

Bathroom décor calls for a touch of decadence. Get bathroom accessories that will make you feel as if you’re spending time in a luxurious spa. A bathtub pillow for extra comfort and an over-the-bathtub caddy for a book and a glass of wine will enhance your bath-time experience.

Complete your sumptuous bathroom makeover with a large, fluffy bath mat and high-quality, soft towels. A water-resistant wireless speaker will help you relax and listen to your favorite music or podcast without worrying about your phone taking a dive.

Don’t settle for an average-looking apartment. A little bit of time, a few bucks, and some creativity are all the ingredients you need to transform your apartment into a stylish, comfortable home.

Originally published in the RentCAfé blog.

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News & Notables

Questions to Ask Before Signing Your Lease Agreement

Finding that perfect apartment is cause for celebration, and one of the next steps to make it a renter’s new home is to sign the lease agreement. But before renters sign on the dotted line and enter into a rental agreement, there are some important things they need to know and understand about this legally binding contract.

What are the lease terms?

The Resident Manager will generally go over the terms of the lease prior to the renter signing it, but it is still a good idea for the renter to review the lease in detail. Before signing a lease, renters should make sure they ask questions and understand lease terms related to:

  • Duration of the Lease

Many leases are for one year but there are also short-term rentals of six months or even month-to-month. Renters should ensure that the agreed-upon duration of the lease is indicated in the leasing agreement. Once the lease is signed, the renter is locked into that time frame.

  • Fees

Fees are usually listed on the first page of the lease agreement. These fees can include, but are not limited to, an application fee or credit report fee, parking fees, and Notice to Assign fees.

  • Move-in and Move-out Clauses

The move-in date will be specified on the lease as well as the advance notice required for moving out at the end of the lease. The notice for moving out is typically 30 to 60 days. If appropriate notice is not given, the lease could automatically renew, or the tenant could lose their security deposit.

What are the policies on breaking the lease early?

Life is not predictable, and a new job or personal situation may require a renter to move before their lease is up. Many leases contain an early termination clause that outlines the process for breaking the lease and any fees associated with this situation.

There are more options for such situations: the tenant may be required to pay a penalty that’s roughly the equivalent of two or three months’ rent; they may forfeit their security deposit; or they might even be required to pay rent until the property manager finds a replacement tenant. Apartment properties have different policies on breaking the lease and renters should make sure they know what they are.

Is the security deposit refundable?

Before signing a lease, renters should also ask about any circumstances that would cause them to lose their security deposit. Damages exceeding normal wear and tear can result in losing some or all of a renter’s security deposit.

A tenant may also lose their security deposit for breaking the lease early. Some properties offer a “security fee” which is generally less than a security deposit. Properties offer the fee as an option for renters who prefer to pay less upfront with the trade-off being that the security fee—unlike a security deposit—is nonrefundable.

Are utilities included?

The cost of utilities and the payment procedures vary from one apartment complex to another. Ask about what—if any—utilities are included in the monthly rent before signing the lease. If water, electricity, heat, internet, cable, and/or trash pickup are not covered by the rent, find out the average cost of each utility bill in order to more accurately budget monthly spending on these costs.

When is rent due and how are rent payments made?

The process for paying rent differs among property management companies. Some companies accept payments online while others may require the tenant to drop off the payment at the office or mail the rental payment to a specific address. Renters should carefully read the lease to determine payment processes, accepted methods of payment, and the date the rent is due each month. Another important question to tackle is when a payment is considered late and whether there are any fees charged for late payments.

Is renters’ insurance required?

Some leases require tenants to have renters’ insurance. Required or not, renters’ insurance is a good idea, since it protects personal property such as furniture, clothing, and electronics from theft and damage. Renters’ insurance is not a big-budget item for renters.

How are maintenance requests handled?

It is also important to ask if the building offers 24/7 maintenance and/or on-site maintenance staff, as well as how maintenance requests should be submitted. General repair requests may be handled differently than emergency repair requests. Before signing a lease, renters should make sure they clearly understand the processes for submitting emergency and non-emergency maintenance requests, and obtain the appropriate contact information for each situation.

What is the community’s guest policy?

Many apartment communities have guest policies. Some leases only allow guests to stay for a specific length of time and may require the tenant to notify the property manager about longer-term guests. Renters should discuss the guest policy with the property manager prior to signing the lease to make sure they understand the rules, so they don’t inadvertently violate the terms of their lease.

Asking these questions prior to signing a lease can result in a smoother apartment rental experience, and ensure there are no surprises on rental agreement terms, rules, policies, and requirements.

 

Originally published on RENTCafé Blog.

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News & Notables

Prepping Your Apartment for Winter Weather

As much as many of us would like to extend summer (or fall) for another couple of weeks, the cold weather will be upon us like a blanket (of snow) before we know it. Before the first winter storms hit, make sure your place is ready to handle all the wind, snow, and sleet they have to throw at it by following these basic apartment “winterization” tips.

Save Your Money

It may seem an impossible task, but you can reduce your energy consumption during the winter months. Keep heat inside your apartment by closing your blinds and curtains during the nighttime hours and on cloudy days. If you have hardwood floors, putting rugs down will actually help to prevent heat from escaping. Additionally, you’ll want to keep your thermostat at the lowest comfortable setting. If you’ll be out of your apartment for several days, do not turn your heating system off completely – this could result in frozen pipes that will burst, causing flooding and headaches for yourself and your fellow residents.

Get Cozy

One of the best parts about the winter months is that you can warm up under warm blankets on the couch while drinking hot chocolate. Consider investing in heavier bedding, such as flannel comforters or down duvets, that will allow you to keep your thermostat turned down during the cold nights. Keeping wool throw blankets on the back of your couch will not only add a cozy and festive touch to your decor, but will encourage you to cuddle up in it rather than turning up the heat.

Examine Your Windows

The windows in your apartment can be the biggest source of cold air leaking into your apartment, whether you have them open or not (and if you do have them open, only leave them open for a short period of time. Those frozen pipes again!). Put your hand near the opening to feel for drafts. If you have any concerns, speak with your Resident Manager about having your windows resealed or shrink-wrapped.

Another great way to help keep warm air from escaping your apartment is by hanging some curtains made from a heavier fabric or layering curtains, and making sure to close those curtains and blinds at night. During the day, blinds can be left open to help allow the sun to naturally warm your apartment.

Invest in a Humidifier

Cold winter weather means you may also be dealing with drier-than-usual air. Balance the dryness in your place by using a humidifier that revives some humidity into the apartment, says Apartment Therapy. You may choose to have one for each room or simply one for your bedroom and use it while you sleep at night — your chapped lips and dry nose will thank you!

Get a Sturdy Rubber Doormat

You may look forward to the first snowfall of the season, but after being outside all day, it’s easy to potentially track in mud, salt, and snow. You may want to swap out your doormat with a sturdier version to wipe your feet on before you enter your apartment and potentially keep a second doormat in the entryway where you can store your boots when they’re not in use. This may help prevent the salt and melting snow from being tracked throughout your apartment.

Winter Storm Emergency Kit

While keeping a basic emergency preparedness kit on hand is always a good idea, if you live in an area prone to snowstorms, you may also want to keep a separate winter storm emergency kit in your apartment. Some items to include are a flashlight, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a multi-purpose tool, sand, rock salt or non-clumping kitty litter to de-ice walkways, and warm clothing.

If You See Something, Say Something

Stay safe throughout your apartment building by letting your Resident Manager know if you see anything that could be hazardous to yourself and other tenants, such as a patch of black ice near the front door or large icicles near entryways. Spot a fellow resident struggling to get their groceries from their car to the front door in the snow? Lend a hand. Looking out for each other will help everyone get through the cold Canadian winter.

Get a jump start on these items now, and you’ll be ready to welcome winter and all that comes with it!

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News and Notables

Save Money While Living With Roommates

It is true that having your own apartment can be incredibly liberating! But for many of us — especially those of us living in cities where the real estate market is essentially laughing at us — this is not an option. For the time being, a large majority of the “new renter” population will have to make do with roommates. Having a roommate is increasingly popular among millennials simply because this is the easiest way to cut your expenses and tighten your budget.

Living with roommates you don’t know is always less fun than sharing a space with your friends, but no one said you can’t have a good relationship with your neighbors and help each other to save some money.

Life with roommates can be a profitable venture, but in order to see that return, you should always be open to compromise. Be prepared to split the house responsibilities down the centre so your household can run more efficiently.

Use Wholesale Accounts

Costco is not just for big families anymore. Having a membership in a wholesale store is actually great when you live with roommates.

When you buy everything in bulk, you always get a decent discount and the pricing becomes more attractive. So the best option for you and your roommates will be completing a full list of the products and groceries you all need and buying everything in one store using your membership pricing.

Choose Who Manages the Budget

If you know for sure that you tend to waste your money on things you can avoid consuming or buying, you and your roommates can start your group budget.

This kind of business requires a high level of trust in each other; enough to allow someone to handle your money. However, having one budget for various household expenses, including groceries, can significantly boost the contents of your wallet, and allow you to organize your finances ahead of time. When you choose one person to handle all matters related to money, you ensure that every expense will be documented and reported. It means that you will be able to see where your money is going and how it’s being managed.

Some of you will say that it’s kind of a big burden for someone to watch a common budget and write down the expenses. In this case, it is recommended that you schedule and change the guy/girl in charge of money once per month, or once per quarter. As a bonus, you can have a small separate budget where you all chip in and use the money later for a common journey or a party, but that’s totally optional, and it all depends on how much money you want to save.

Cook at Home and Establish a Meal Plan

Since you’ve decided that you want to save money, you’ve got to understand that spontaneous visits to your favorite restaurant or café are not the best option for your new meal plan. Turning around the habit of eating out and cooking on your own will save you a lot of money. Living with roommates will definitely help, because now you can cook and share dinner together.

If you can fit it into your budget, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, but be weary of falling into a pattern.

Buy Snacks in Advance

There is nothing more painful for your budget than constantly spending money on expensive treats and snacks. We all know how this happens, and how easy it is to buy something tasty while watching a movie or working on a project.

When you decide that you need a snack and go out on a search to the closest store in your neighborhood, you can be sure that you’ll spend more than necessary. When it happens once, you won’t really feel it, but your debit card will.

Incorporating snacks for the whole week (including weekends) on your grocery shopping list will help you avoid those unexpected sweet tooth cravings.

Share One Netflix Account

Netflix is a great and cheap alternative to the cable TV. Yes, you won’t be able to watch the latest episode of Colbert live, but you’ll still be able to access a huge library of awesome movies, Netflix Originals and TV shows.

These days, having a Netflix account is a must. The coolest thing about it is that Netflix allows you to create profiles for each roommate, family member or friend.

You can chip in and pay for one account, create a few taste profiles, and everyone will enjoy great movies and shows for only a few dollars per month.

Exchange Furniture With Each Other 

Every roommate will have their own decoration ideas for their own rooms. Since most of the times we tend to move into the furnished place, your roommates may have chairs, tables or other furniture that won’t fit the room’s design. Need a chair? Talk to one of your roommates, chances are he/she has one that will fit nicely in your room. It’s a win-win situation: you’ll get the desired chair, and your roommate will get extra space in their room.

Share Furniture and Decor Expenses

Common areas, like the kitchen and living room are a different story. Since these are shared spaces, it is important to collaborate with and include every member of the household. This is where you decided collectively how money should be spent and who should purchase what. But make sure everyone has a vote here if you want to avoid bad feelings and possible confrontation.

The internal debate of living with roommates vs. living alone tends to be a never-ending one. But if you can find some pretty awesome strangers with the same (or similar) financial goals, you can take advantage of the opportunity to save money and get a head start on your future.

originally published in Rentberry.


News & Notables

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Home & Life

Waste reduction is one of the most important steps we can take as individuals to cause less harm to the environment. But living in a pre-packaged world can make the task seem daunting. The good news is there are plenty of ways to reduce how much waste we produce on a personal level. Here are seven simple and efficient ways to waste less, reuse more, and save some money in the process:

Plan your meals before you shop

Planning your meals comes with several advantages. Since you’ll only buy as much as you need to cook the pre-planned meals, you will be wasting a lot less packaging. Also, if you’re deliberate, you can purchase more fresh produce, avoiding the metal and plastic packaging preserved groceries come in. You’ll also waste less food, which not only means less food thrown in the trash, but also less greenhouse gas emissions from the farms and factories your groceries come from and you’ll waste less water. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save!

Use the “first-in, first-out” rule

When you get home with a fresh batch of groceries, place them at the back of the shelf and put the older ones at the front so you won’t forget to use them. Whether we’re talking fridge, pantry, or freezer, placing newly bought items at the back will keep the foods with closer expiration dates at the top of your mind and remind you they need to be used first.

Switch to plain food items

There’s nothing like a bowl of granola or yogurt with fruit and oats to kick off your day in a healthy way. But too often, to satisfy our breakfast cravings, we purchase flavored yogurt, ready-made granola, several types of oatmeal, and much more. Instead of getting several individually packaged and pre-mixed items, purchase the plain versions of as many foods as you can, get some fresh or freeze-dried fruits, some flavorings like honey and peanut butter, and mix your own at home. You’ll waste less packaging and food and end up with healthier and cheaper meals.

Get refillable containers & on-the-go cutlery

How many plastic or paper coffee cups do you use every week? How many small water bottles do you buy? How many times have you used single-use sandwich bags or cling film? Ditch everything that you get single uses from and purchase durable containers for your lunches or sandwiches. Furthermore, get reusable on-the-go coffee mugs for your hot drinks as well as for water bottles for your cold drinks. When it comes to cutlery, get metal or wooden spoons, forks, and knives for your workplace, and buy some reusable straws!

Take your own packaging to the store

Just like you can use durable containers to store your foods and drinks on the go, you can get plenty of reusable items to shop with. Instead of getting paper or plastic bags at the store, get a reusable plastic bag made of recycled plastic, woven polypropylene, or nylon. Cotton totes aren’t your best option since it’s more damaging to produce them than just to get plastic, but they’ll do in a pinch. You could also get a couple of containers to avoid the plastic bags in the fresh produce section or skip individually packaging them altogether – if they’re not going to make a mess in your bag, just put them in there as is and gently wash them later. Lastly, if you can, find stores where you can buy items like oatmeal, cereal, and so on from a dispenser and bring your own containers.

Maintain and repair your things

This one is self-explanatory: don’t throw things out just because they’re broken. Take them to get repaired, or, better yet, hone your skills and learn to repair some of them yourself. This applies not only to appliances and furniture but to clothing as well. You can find plenty of guides online which will help you learn how to design beautiful patches, to stitch up clothes without leaving a trace, and more.

Sell or donate things you don’t use

Finally, if you have to get rid of something and it’s still in working condition, don’t just throw it away. Earn some extra cash by selling it or do some good and donate it! Either way is better than adding more waste to the planet’s landfills.

Originally published on RENTCafé Blog.


News & Notables

7 Apartment Essentials for New College Students

Roughly 20 million students will be heading to college this fall. For first-year students, thinking about the upcoming semester is exciting — and stressful. You’ll be moving on and living on your own. If you’re moving to an apartment, it means you’ll need to buy a variety of items that will help you to live comfortably.

Along with the main essentials like bedding, bathroom, and kitchen supplies, there are lots of little things you’ll want that you might not initially think of. Instead of stressing out about the little things, here’s a list of other college apartment essentials to help you get ready.

Reusable Plastic Containers

Bring on the meal plans!

Realistically speaking, although your main diet will probably consist of ramen noodles in a styrofoam cup or a quick bowl of cereal, having some type of plastic storage container saves a lot of money and eliminates wasting food. You’ll want to save any and all leftovers you have because food is expensive and re-heating a meal is way faster and easier than cooking a whole new one.

Power Bar with a Long Extension Cord

Most college apartments have few outlets in every room and some of them aren’t easily accessible. On top of that, if you’re sharing those outlets with a few roommates, it reduces the number available for your use. To avoid a fight to the death with your roommates for the last open outlet, get a power strip with many outlets. Make sure it has a cord that’s at least three or four feet long so that you can plug it behind any furniture while still having easy access.

Foldable Drying Rack

For those sweaters that need to air dry or those days when you don’t have enough quarters to pay for a dryer, you’ll need a place to hang-dry your clothes. Your roommates probably won’t want a load of your laundry laying on the couch and kitchen chairs to dry. Instead, invest in a foldable drying rack that you can store under your bed or in your closet and pull out when needed. It only takes up a few feet of space, so you can easily dry all of your laundry in your room without anyone else seeing it.

Streaming Stick

Most college apartments with TVs in them don’t always have cable or even a DVD player. Instead, you’ll likely be stuck crowding around a laptop with your roommates to watch your favorite Netflix show. Make it easier for everyone with a streaming stick. It’s better than using a regular HDMI cord because nobody needs to give up their computer to plug into the TV and everyone can enjoy watching movies on a bigger screen.

Fabric Steamer

Washing clothes can be expensive at your college apartment and you don’t want to wash something if you don’t need to. If you’ve only worn a shirt for a couple of hours, it doesn’t necessarily need to be washed, but it might be a little wrinkled. Or if you’ve put off doing laundry for weeks on end and you run out of pants to wear (we’ve all been in this situation), you might start to panic.

A fabric steamer will come to the rescue in situations like this and save you time and money. Plus, it has other handy uses besides steaming clothes, so it’s an all-around winner.

Filtered Water Pitcher

Unless you’re really lucky, you’ll probably only have access to tap water in your apartment at college. It doesn’t taste great, but what can you do!?

Instead of drinking water that tastes funky, get a water pitcher with a filter. It will make your water taste 10 times better, and as a bonus, you can keep it in the fridge and always have cold water. Some water pitchers even have filters that add flavor so you can drink delicious water all the time. And remember, 6-8 a day keep the doctor away!

Step Stool

Step stools are necessary when you live on your own (especially if you are of the shorter variety)! The possibilities are endless: change light bulbs on your own, reach that bowl you only eat soup in, or stock your shoe collection on the top of your closet shelves (just me?). If your bed is on risers, you can store your step stool underneath. So instead of learning to do bionic jumps to get what you need, just use a step stool. No matter how tall or short you are, it will make your life so much easier.

Follow this list and there’ll be no need to sweat the small stuff. Getting ready to live on your own can seem intimidating, but if you’re prepared, you’ve got nothing to worry about!

Originally published in apartmentguide.com.


News & Notables

7 Ways to Create an Entryway (When You Don’t Have One)

In a typical small apartment, it can be difficult to find the right balance between style and functionality, especially if you want to design an entryway with little space on hand. Whether you’re dealing with an open floor plan or cramped walls and narrow hallways, you’ll inevitably come across some challenges when it comes to transforming your rental into an ideal home. The secret to achieving a welcoming entrance to your apartment is to maximize space and make it bright and airy, since it’s the spot that greets both you and your guests. A touch of creativity always saves the day, so here are seven ways to turn your non-existent foyer into a delightful entryway:

Add Mirrors 

Carving an entryway in an already cramped apartment can make your place look smaller. Create the illusion of more space by hanging up a supersize mirror, which will fit even in the narrowest of entryways. Not only is it a stylish option, but it’s efficient as well – it will amplify natural light and brighten your entrance. As you can easily feature a chic mirror as the central attraction, make it the focal point of your entryway and let it be the star of a welcoming home.

Create Division

An open floor plan layout is like a blank canvas for you to express your style, but it can be daunting to figure out how to pull it together without defined areas. To make sure your home has warmth and intimacy starting from the entrance, focus on creating an appropriate entryway. The most fitting way to handle an open floor layout is to divide it from the rest of the space by using pieces of furniture to create a partition. Section off a small area in front of your door by using a chic cabinet or a shelving unit where you can nicely exhibit your books and accent pieces.

If you want to go for the most budget-friendly option, define your faux foyer simply by positioning your furniture in the right spots. You can place a couch or loveseat parallel with the door and maybe add some storage behind it for some bonus space.

Use Rugs

In case you haven’t noticed, rugs have a magical power when it comes to creating the illusion of a separate space. If you put a carpet or a runner by the door, it will create the aspect of a distinct entryway. Make it the center of attention by choosing a vivid pattern or a bold color and tastefully merge it with the design of your home. However, you should keep in mind that people will step on it with their shoes on, so pick one that doesn’t look dirty after a few uses and that you can clean with ease. Patterned rugs and dark but lively colors are a great option, as they are more forgiving.

Put Up Shelves

Convenience and practicality are key when it comes to designing the perfect entryway. Since it can be difficult to keep everything neat and tidy when you’re always in a rush, the first thing you should consider is a way in which you can make the most of your space while keeping it aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t have enough space for a front hall closet but you still want a bit of functional storage, add a couple of floating shelves on which you can put your mail and keys when you get home. Add a couple of hooks nearby to hang your jackets and bags and, voilà, you got yourself a trendy and practical entryway. Always make sure to double check with your Resident Manager before mounting anything in your suite.

Include Plants

We’ve said it before, and we’re not shy to say it again: nothing says Home Sweet Home better than a little bit of greenery in your space!

Plants will create a smooth transition from outside in, and it’s easy to come up with ingenious ideas to arrange some pots for an artsy entrance. Choose plants that do well in low light, such as a delicate Peace Lily, a couple of Lucky Bamboo stalks or some sturdy cacti. If you don’t have enough space for the pots, try hanging a couple of vining plants, like the fast-growing Ivy, to liven up your wall. Either way, plants will certainly bring more energy and charisma to an ordinary entryway; or if placed near or in front of a mirror, they will augment and brighten any space.

Design An Accent Wall

The secret advantage of having a small entryway is that you can get away with a bold, graphic wall. Embrace your artsy side and create a gallery wall, with pictures or pieces of art that contour your personal style. Whatever you choose, make sure that the entrance of your home reflects your personality and emanates good vibes. If strong, vivid design is overwhelming in other areas of your apartment, making the entryway stand out will surely give it a special appeal.

Make it Comfortable

If you’re not too short on floor space, try to include a bench or a stylish chair to your entrance hall. Choose an item that will match your taste and budget, and that will add a touch of comfort to the entryway. If you want to get the most out of it, invest in a bench that has additional storage underneath to keep your shoes organized. Whichever option you go for, as long as you have a nice little space to tie your shoes in, even the smallest of entryways will feel whole.

Creating a charming and practical entryway can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Challenge yourself and your creativity to work! Consider these tips, individually or combined, to design yourself a well-organized and beautiful entrance hall that will make your home feel charming and inviting.

Originally published in RENTCafé.


News and Notables

Tips For First Time Renters

Renting your very first apartment is a natural stepping stone after moving out of mom and dad’s house. The freedom of moving out on your own is very exciting, but it does come with a lot more responsibilities as well.

Being a first-time renter is a really big deal. You’re on your own and can do what you want when you want. It also means paying for services (like utilities) that you’re not used to paying. Make your first apartment living experience a great one. Follow these first-time renter tips so you can enjoy (and find your way through) all the aspects of being a renter!

TIP #1: BUDGET WISELY

Putting together an apartment budget can help you save up for your first apartment. Continuing your budget plans, even after you move in, is a great way to grow your savings for rent, utilities, home décor, and more.

You never want to spend more than you can realistically afford on rent for your first apartment. Spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent. The 50/30/20 rule is another budgeting technique to follow, so you can save for the security deposit or first month’s rent. Remember to include all of your monthly expenses, and make room for unexpected costs when creating a budget.

Living with a roommate will allow you to split your bills, helping you save money and stay within budget.

TIP #2: DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS

While scouting for apartments, think about the checklist you made regarding your needs. You did make one, didn’t you? Your apartment needs are very different from your apartment wants. They’re your must-haves, the features that will make you the most comfortable at home.

If you don’t own a car, you’re going to need an apartment in walking distance of public transportation.

What you prefer to have in your apartment or apartment community is considered a “want.” They’re on your wish list if you will, but you can live without them. Amenities like a swimming pool or chrome finishes typically fall within this area. Determine what your needs are first – and then be elated when your apartment comes with some of your apartment wants! It’s a great feeling when the universe works its magic for you.

TIP #3: KNOW WHAT UTILITIES ARE INCLUDED (AND WHICH ONES YOU NEED TO COVER)

Some apartments may come with included utilities and others will not. If included utilities are important to you, add it into your search since the cost can affect your budget. Talk with your resident manager about the utilities that will be added to each rent payment so you can budget accordingly.

TIP #4: KNOW THE BUILDING’S PARKING SITUATION 

Parking can sometimes be a hassle when you live in an urban area. Lots that fill up quickly and lack of space for overnight guests and visitors can be overwhelming without doing any due diligence as a first-time renter. Speak with your resident manager about the parking situation at the apartment building. Below are some questions you should consider asking that’ll benefit you and your visiting friends and family:

  1. How much does parking cost per month?
  2. Where can my visitors park their cars?
  3. If I have an overnight guest, will I need to get them a visitor’s pass for their vehicle?
  4. Will I have my own assigned spot in the garage?

Many apartments close to the downtown area have parking rules for their residents’ guests. Be sure you know the rules about visitors so that yours don’t accidentally take someone’s assigned spot or get towed!

TIP #5: FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE APPLICATION PROCESS

Renting an apartment for the very first time can be confusing. First-time renters generally don’t know all the jargon and rental lingo used in an application as well as how to apply for an apartment.

This “process” is actually pretty simple, generally involving filling out an application, a credit check, and paying a security deposit. The turnaround time for approval is quick. Today, renters can know if they’ve been approved in 48 hours or less!

New renters with no credit may need to have a guarantor (or co-signer) fill out a form. This person will undergo a credit check since they’re the ones guaranteeing that rent will be paid on time. You’ll want someone who you can trust as a guarantor, and they may even be able to offer you some apartment living advice and ways to build credit!

TIPS #6: READ AND UNDERSTAND THE LEASE

Initialing here, signing there on a lease agreement will give you all the feels: joy, excitement, and maybe even a little nervousness too. It’s your first apartment on your own. But while you may not be able to contain your feelings, don’t ever feel rushed into signing a lease. Read the contract in its entirety and note the concerns that you see.

Understanding the apartment lease agreement is beneficial for you. Request a copy if you need to refer back to something. It will tell you when rent is due, what the late fees are, and how to submit a maintenance request, among other things.

TIP #7: GET RENTERS INSURANCE

You’re new to this, so let me help you out. You should get renters insurance because it protects your belongings from theft and fire! A renter’s insurance policy includes property coverage, personal liability coverage, and temporary housing if the original dwelling has been deemed uninhabitable. Make sure you ask if the insurance coverage you’ve signed up for covers you in instances such as your car getting broken into. The benefits of renter’s insurance are great, not to mention peace of mind for you and your family – get a policy!

TIP #8:  BEFRIEND YOUR NEIGHBOURS

Befriending your neighbours is an excellent way to get the most out of your first apartment. Getting chummy with your neighbours can open up the lines of communication about having friends over later into the evening, so you can inform them about the noise ahead of time and avoid a passive-aggressive note on the door in the morning (but also be respectful of the quiet hours at your apartment). You’ll be more comfortable asking for neighbourly favors, such as getting the mail when you’re out of town. If you ask for these favors, though, make sure you can return the favor!

No need to worry – you’ve got this first-time renting thing. Living in your own apartment will be a great experience; it just comes with some additional responsibilities. That’s all. Once you start living in your new home, you’ll get the hang of it!

Originally published on Apartments.com.


News and Notables

Decorate Your Apartment With $500 Or Less

With all the costs that come along with moving, decorating can seem like an out-of-reach expense. The problem is, nobody wants to look at blank walls all day, or hold onto old, outdated furniture. Truly transforming your apartment into something you can call your own involves putting your personality into it.

You don’t need to shell out thousands at a high-end home furnishings store to find decor that reflects who you are. Wonders can be worked with just $500! Here’s how you can turn a relatively small sum of cash into apartment magic.

1. Change your furniture, piece by piece

Start reinvigorating your apartment with small furniture changes. A simple upgrade of your current couch or area rug can drastically change the mood in your suite. Start by looking for mid- or end-of-season sales or clearance events at online furniture stores, or at popular home furnishing chains. If you crave the thrifty steals, used furniture shopping will be sure to please. Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace are just a few of the online hotspots for secondhand gems. Don’t forget to peruse the selection at local thrift furniture stores for some great deals.

2. Go for small, standalone objects

Vases, picture frames, throw pillows, and even books can make great affordable room decor pieces. A small vase on an end table can add a much-needed splash of color to your room, especially if you fill it with flowers. Picture frames come in all sorts of adorable colors and patterns; why not grab a couple and create a miss-matched collage on a bare wall? Throw pillows are totally underrated, but they are very versatile and they can add that spark to an old, lumpy couch. A good book can be great for your brains and your bookshelf. These items can be very inexpensive and are guaranteed to make your space pop!

3. Get art that you’ll love forever

You don’t need to be an art collector to get a few interesting pieces for your walls. Sure, some paintings are sold for hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, but more affordable ones at home furnishing stores (like Homesense), can make you look like an art and decor expert (hold the beret). Set aside some money for a few art pieces, which can last for years and move with you, from apartment to apartment. Framed prints and paintings will be well worth the investment.

4. Buy plants

Image result for cactus plant in apartment

Plants, especially small ones, can affordably add extra decorative flair to your apartment. You can find cacti, aloe, and other tiny plants — some pots can be as small as four inches across — at any plant store, home improvement stores (during spring and summer seasons), or even a supermarket. With just a small budget set aside to bring some green friends into your home, you might find yourself with a new favorite way to spruce up an otherwise uninspiring space. Be sure to water your plants as recommended and expose them to a proper amount of sunlight — read up on plant care if you don’t opt for fake plants.

5. End with removable wallpaper

Image result for removable wallpaper

Removable wallpaper is far more low-maintenance than traditional wallpaper, which can leave damage. It’s also trending like crazy! Incorporating removable wallpaper is an easy way to brighten up an accent wall or transform an entire room, no matter the size. Once you’ve applied it to your walls, your room will look entirely different, and if later on, you decide to redecorate or need to move, you can remove it without damaging your walls.

How should you split your $500 budget?

There’s no one proper way to split your budget among these categories. You might find yourself only wanting to buy enough plants to take up $25 of your budget, freeing up more money for the less affordable categories. Maybe you’ll creep into the triple digits on wallpaper costs, or maybe you’ll stumble upon the perfect sofa bed that costs more than half of your $500. Ultimately, as long as you prioritize capping your decorating budget at $500, then no matter how you divide your money, as long as you’re investing in the changes most important to you, then you can drastically change your home without breaking the bank!


News and Notables

Practical Tips to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly

There’s plenty of advice online when it comes to making the home you own more eco-friendly, but what can you do when you’re a renter? Luckily, there are many techniques and products you can use to lead a more environmentally-friendly life, even if you live in a rental. Here are a few practical ways to be greener if you live in an apartment.

1. Lower your energy and heating/AC usage

Brown Wooden Window Frame

From a habit-forming point of view, you should first remember to switch off whatever appliances and gadgets you’re not using. To make this easier, you can plug the ones you’d normally switch off, say, when you’re going to work, into the same outlet.

At the same time, and this one is a must for green apartment living, dress accordingly if it’s cold outside. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run your heat, but instead of consuming enough to keep your apartment hot enough for beachwear, you could make it comfortable while saving on your bills and helping the planet as well. Speaking of clothing, if it’s warm out and you have the space to install a dryer or clothesline, you can air-dry your clothes instead of running the dryer.

On the product side, the first thing you should do is switch to eco-friendly appliances, energy-efficient gadgets, and eco-friendly fixtures (if possible, of course).

2. Shop mindfully

Blue Fabric 3-seat Sofa

Whenever you work on the interior design of your home, try to purchase items that were previously used. Whether you plan an antiquing or flea market day or spend some time browsing Craigslist for a new couch or shelf, buying used items won’t just mean you’re reusing resources – your place will have a more unique feel as well. If you need new things, look for quality and durability, and make sure your new furnishings will last for years to come.

The same goes for bedding and other textile items. Go for organic cotton if you can afford it, and again try to make sure you buy quality fabrics that won’t need replacing every couple of months.

3. Try natural cleaning products

Clear Glass Bottle on Table

Using harmful chemicals to clean is harder on our environment than one may think. Not to mention harmful to your personal health. When you wash away dirt, you are also sending these harmful products into the water supply. That means water will take more purification before it is safe to use again.

When it comes to upkeep, consider swapping chemical-heavy cleaning products for ones based on natural ingredients, or even making your own. For most day-to-day cleaning tasks, natural products like vinegar, citric acid from citrus fruits and baking soda can be used in place of caustic chemicals to great effect. This may come as a surprise, but there’s a homemade solution for almost everything that needs cleaning in your apartment.

4. Cook smart

Green and Orange Vegetables on Black Frying Pan

It’s easy to be smarter in the kitchen, which can lead to a far more eco-friendly home. One important example is that you can lose a huge amount of heat if you open an oven door during cooking. Even if the oven is only open for a short time it will then need to use a significant amount of energy heating back up.

Another big problem is the coffee pods waste. They could be contributing to a global environmental disaster, with billions of the sleek aluminum and plastic capsules ending up in landfills each year. Drink your coffee from a conventional drip coffee maker.

5. Promote clean air in your apartment

Green Potted Plants Near Closed Window

The air inside your rental can be 2 to 5 times more polluted and toxic than the air you breathe outdoors. We go for regular health check-ups, pop prescription medication daily, stress over allergies, but neglect the quality of the air we breathe 24/7.

For starters, make it a point to ventilate your kitchen during meal prep, as cooking can be a major source of indoor air pollution. Keep the fan on when you take showers, or try to vent out the bathroom after your shower (if you don’t have vents in your bathroom). Steam and extra moisture in the air can cause mold and mildew to build up.

Houseplants are perfect for small spaces, both aesthetically and when looking to rejuvenate the air in your space. The best plants to filter toxins from the air are the Peace Lilly and the Lady Palms (or the Broadleaf Lady Palm). The Areca Palm is great for darker rooms or rooms that have just been painted.

Just because you live in an apartment doesn’t mean you are doomed to an unsustainable lifestyle. Do some online searching, and be conscious of your day-to-day life within your rental. Making some minor, consistent changes will have you living a greener life in no time.

Originally published in RENTCafé.