Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guest Post: Decorating Within Your Landlord's Rules

Today, I'm very happy to announce my first ever guest post on Something Ivory! Mary Katherine, along with her parents and siblings, is an old family friend, and I'm so excited to be sharing my blog with her today.

She has written a very fun, lively post on how to create a cozy, pretty home while renting and living within someone else's constraints. But I think her tips are great for anyone looking for new ideas on how to liven up a space, decorate on a budget, or create a new look with minimal adjustments and labor.

Thanks so much for this great post, Mary Katherine, and I do hope all of you enjoy it!


Hello! My name is Mary Katherine and I am excited to be guest-posting on Something Ivory today. Kate and I have known each other since we were babies but fell out of touch about a decade ago. We reconnected through Pinterest (of all things!) and have had a wonderful time getting to know each other as adults. I was recently touched by the post on November 6 about her husband's birthday because the Anne Bradstreet poem she shared happens to be hanging on my fridge right now. 

My husband and I are blessed to live in a place where we are permitted to paint and hang art on the walls.  It has fun architectural details and hardwood floors. But for the first two years of our marriage, we lived in a plain, boxy apartment where we could not paint and had to be approved for every nail. Whatever your constraints, there are ways to bring chic and homey details to your space.  

1) Remove cupboard doors to create the look of open shelving

My kitchen had a gigantic cupboard with overlapping doors.  In order to get to anything on the left side, I also had to swing open the heavy right side. The cupboards had been repainted multiple times, so I had to scrape some paint from the screws, but with a few twists of a flathead screwdriver, they came right out. I chose to display my favorite every-day dishes, along with my prettiest cookbooks for a pop of color. 

The second photo shows a built-in cabinet in our dining room which became so much more functional and beautiful when I removed the doors. Here I display our china, crystal, and bar items. Most landlords won't mind you removing the cupboard doors as long as you carefully store them (with the hardware in clearly labeled plastic bags) in the back of a closet.

2) Break up a plain wall with statement art

I framed twenty vintage book covers and hung them in a grid. It is still my favorite wall in our apartment. Do you need something larger, or light enough to hang on a few thumbtacks? I found a fabulous tutorial at Sugar Bee Crafts for creating a 3x4-foot black and white photo for under $15.

3. Use curtains to add interest to a space

Not allowed to put holes in the wall? That's trickier. Think window treatments. Big, blossomy white sheers can hang easily on tension rods. You could even carefully remove a cramped closet door and replace it with a pretty curtain to create a more open, less boxy look in a room. 

I do have a confession to make, though. Since Andrew and I adopted two cats from the local humane society a few months ago, we haven't even tried to keep window treatments in our living areas. I had these two panels in storage and pulled them out for the sake of a photo.

4. Create vignettes on your bookshelves

One last way to add depth and texture to your home is to create vignettes with beautiful books and accessories on bookshelves. They are a great place to display souvenirs and antique tchotchkes. Break up the vertical line of the books with a small painting, or by stacking some of your favorite books horizontally. This bookshelf is in our bedroom and features a signed copy of Rifles for Watie, which is one of my favorite childhood novels. It is the first birthday gift Andrew ever gave me, when we had been dating about six months.

If you don't yet own your home, what creative ways have you brought your personality to the space? 

Mary Katherine Givler lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Andrew. She loves decorating on a budget, fashion, blogging, and is currently participating in National Novel Writing Month to break through a rough patch of writer's block. You can find her blog and other online profiles here, or follow her on Pinterest.


  1. It's interesting that you two hadn't been in touch in so long...and you grew up to be women who have similar tastes and interests. If you hadn't told me this was written by a guest blogger, I would have assumed these photos were yours!

    1. Yes, I think we're very much kindred spirits. I haven't mentioned this to her but I'm hoping we can someday soon reconnect in person, but for now, the internet will do!

  2. I love the open shelves idea. If you can not be proud of your doors why show them, right!? Get rid of the doors and put stuff on the shelves that you like to see, I can't believe I never thought of that! Thanks.

    1. I'm so glad you like it! This is honestly one of the best things I could have done for our apartment. The former doors were SO heavy and had a tendency to swing independently and whack me while I was washing the dishes.

  3. Love the vignettes idea. Personally, I am not good at this type of arranging but thankfully my husband is very gifted in this department! And I love the look of books on a shelf commingled with art objects, pottery, and nature's treasures.

  4. I love the open shelving and the book shelves are my utmost favorite!

  5. I have personally seen the statement art wall in MK's apartment, and it looks terrific. One of the great things about it is that you can match or achieve any desired decor through selection of the type of frame and/or genre of books. Great ideas! RQ

  6. When I saw this headline I didn't think I'd be interested in the subject, but this is a great post. Fresh, smart solutions for common problems, nice writing, really helpful photos. Love your integrated captions on the pictures! Thanks for sharing such great guest talent Kate.

  7. I love the open shelving idea. I wouldn't have thought of that, but it makes things instantly less generic and more personal. Plus, it's more convenient for the shelves you use a lot. Thanks!

  8. Your design instincts are impeccable, both of you. My favorite part of this post is not likely what you expected--I had never heard of "Rifles for Watie," but have just finished ordering a copy for my homeschool girls! : )


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