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Apartment living: How to do it better

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Just because you rent doesn’t mean it can’t be homey

As housing prices in the GTA continue to rise, more and more of us are living in rental homes longer. In Toronto, that often means living in a condo suite. And while newer condos often have plenty of amenities like great appliances, hardwood floors, fitness centers and meeting rooms, the truth is that they can sometimes feel a bit small and sterile – not exactly the ‘sanctuary’ all the home decorating magazines promise.

But it doesn’t have that way!

9 tips for turning your rental condo into a real home

1.  Don’t think of it as ‘just a temporary place’

Sure, your life will probably eventually change and you’ll need or buy a new place, but most people end up staying in a rental home at least 3+ years. So stop thinking of your apartment as just a pit-stop on the way to the rest of your life, and start thinking of how to make the most of the time you have there.

2.  Find out exactly what you can change (and what you can’t)

Check your lease agreement or speak to your landlord/property manager and find out exactly how much ‘customization’ you can put into your home. Are you allowed to paint the walls? Add light fixtures? Change kitchen hardware? Keep in mind that most landlords tend to be supportive of updates if they have some confidence that you’re not going to paint the walls black and change all the fixtures to pewter skull heads – they may even offer to help.

3.  Start with curtains

It’s likely that your apartment came with some kind of window blinds that are doing an okay job of keeping out the sunlight and peeping Toms, but the truth is that nothing will transform your space like properly-hung curtains. They can disguise weird windows, make the ceiling seem higher, and make a bedroom way more cozy and quiet at night. Best of all, they’re removable, so you can take them with you when you go.

4.  Put something interesting on the walls

Whether you prefer a big art print, a gallery of personal photos, or floating shelves, you might be surprised to discover just how much more stylish and homey your place will feel when you get rid of the plain walls and make them a little more personalized and interesting. The right wall decor can also bounce light, make ceilings seem larger, and act as dividers in spaces like living/dining areas. And don’t forget that framed wall mirrors can give the illusion of space and light.

5.  Invest in the right furniture

Getting the most out of modern condos depends on having a few perfectly-sized and perfectly-functional pieces: Shelving that can be used for entertainment and storage; dining tables that can also function as work spaces or games tables; ottomans for both storage and seating. The good news is that companies like Wayfair (and even the downtown locations of stores like The Brick) now offer compact, well-designed, reasonably-priced furniture designed specifically for city condos where every piece has to work hard.

6.  Adjust the lighting

The right lighting can make almost any space seem more luxurious, cozy and comfortable (think about the spaces you love the most – chances are that ‘lighting’ is one of the main reasons you like them). The good news is that you don’t have to be an electrician to improve the lighting in your rental home. You can speak to your landlord about replacing unpleasant overhead fixtures, but if you can’t change those, don’t worry. With the right combination of floor and table lamps, you won’t even have to turn the overhead lights on. (In kitchens and bathrooms, you can make the overhead lighting more appealing by trying different types of light bulb – it’s amazing how a soft pink light tone can make mornings so much better than that harsh white LED the place came with.)

7.  Create an entry area

A small hall table (or a narrow floating shelf if there’s no floor space) just inside the front door, with a mirror and a couple of hooks for keys or hats, will instantly make your rental home seem larger and function as a kind of transition space that will keep footwear and other clutter out of the main living area. And the interior designer types are right: These ‘transition spaces’ actually work really well in helping your mind shift from ‘being out’ to ‘being home’.

8.  Use the building facilities

In our experience, the people who are most happy in their rental condo suites are the ones who actually use all those facilities that the condos promote: The gym, the spa area, the bike storage, the meeting rooms, the party rooms, etc. Why? Because it makes them feel like they have access to the whole building, rather than being stuck in a ‘box’ in their unit. Just going from your suite to the gym every day can make you feel like part of a larger community.

9.  Get to know your neighbors

One of the very best ways to feel at home – in any dwelling, anywhere – is to be on at least chatting terms with the people who live around you. Sure, you all work a lot and have busy lives, but there’s no substitute for being greeted by familiar people when you get in the elevator. And knowing that you could have coffee with the guy down the hall or go for brunch with the girl on the floor below is a fantastic way to feel like you belong in a place. How do you get to know neighbors in a big city like Toronto? Just as you would anywhere else: Be friendly, say hello, and don’t be afraid to say “Hey, I’m getting coffee next door – want to come?”

Thinking of making a move to a new rental home? Get in touch – we’d be happy to help.
Mary Casey at or call us at 416.213.8881 x228

Today Living Group is a leading provider of executive corporate furnished suites and customized property management of investment condos in Canada. TLG is a proud member of CHPA and The ASAP and has supplier diversity certification from WBE Canada and WE Connect as a proud Women Owned Business.

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