People tend to think of their “dream” homes as aspirational places they’ll only ever visit when they’ve reach a distant career or personal-life goal. But why wait? Just because you don’t own your home doesn’t mean yours can’t meet all of your hopes and dreams. Check out 11 rentals around the country with major style that prove you can have it all by the month, and take away a few key lessons from each.
|Retro Summer Cool in Solana Beach, CA
THE RENTAL: The beach home of Jonathan Lo, the man behind Happy Mundane, which was featured on Apartment Therapy.
KEY LESSONS: Sculptural accessories are an easy and portable way to add personality without lifting a hammer. A carefully curated color palette is a short avenue to a designer look (and in this case, it didn’t even require lifting a paint brush).
|Artful Modernity in Sydney, Australia
THE RENTAL: The Sydney apartment of Vietnamese-born restaurateur Nahji Chu, a.k.a. Misschu.
KEY LESSONS: Don’t feel limited by white walls; a personal art collection and indoor plants can instantly add vibrancy and life to your home. Consider updating basic furniture with a coat of paint to differentiate it from big-box finds.
|Luxe Masculinity in Manhattan, NY
THE RENTAL: Interior designer Ryan Korban’s two-bedroom Central Park South, NY apartment.
KEY LESSONS: Look to sophisticated paint colors and rich textiles and rugs to give your home an air of permanance. If you’re planning to stay for a while, splurging on custom drapery will make it look like you own the place.
|Elevated, Compact Americana in Brooklyn, NY
THE RENTAL: The 425-square-foot Brooklyn apartment of Ralph Lauren window designer Zach Motl.
KEY LESSONS: In addition to multipurpose furniture, ruthless editing is what makes this teeny rental work. If you have a small space, find your style and stick to it, and instead of daring to paint, tell your story with textiles. In this case, plaid, all-American fabrics carry the room.
|Eclectic, Country Glamour in Seattle, WA
THE RENTAL: The Seattle home of interior designer Brian Paquette, which was featured in Rue.
KEY LESSONS: One wallpapered room can make an unforgettable statement; choose the smallest space to wallpaper — it’ll be easier to remove when you leave. Having a natural fiber rug sized to fit your room won’t break the bank (at least not as much as other custom pieces), but it will make the space feel uniquely yours.
|European Chic in San Francisco, CA
THE RENTAL: Interior designer Grant K. Gibson’s modest Presidio Heights, San Francisco rental.
KEY LESSONS: Antiques give a home a sense of history — even if that 1800s secretary desk has only been with you for a short time. Apply a paint color you adore to a room you love to spend time in — painting even one wall can be extremely impactful. If your rental has a funky niche or window seat, have a simple cushion upholstered custom-made; it’ll make your home stand out from similar rentals and offer more utility.
|Fresh New Modernism in Upper West Side, NY
THE RENTAL: One Apartment Therapy reader’s Upper West Side, Manhattan apartment.
KEY LESSONS: Statement furniture, lighting, and artwork, as well as subdued but coordinated palette, are what truly make this space sing. Don’t settle for anything but must-have pieces. Echo the tones in a favorite painting or rug throughout your space to create cohesiveness.
|Colorful and Collected in Sydney, Australia
THE RENTAL: The Sydney home of interior designer Juliette Arent and husband, designer Matthew Squadrito.
KEY LESSONS: Hang artwork from your picture rails, and you’ll be your landlord’s favorite tenant. Embrace your white walls and use them as an opportunity to show of your most colorful and pattern-packed pieces.
|Modern Lines and Edgy Art in Greenwich Village, NY
THE RENTAL: The downtown apartment of Kyle DeWoody, cofounder of the art/design store Grey Area.
KEY LESSONS: Invest in furniture that will stand the test of time. Instead of buying bold pieces that may not suit your next home, purchase solids and neutrals that you can easily remove. Bring in pattern via accessories.
|Color-Happy and Pattern-Packed in West Hollywood, CA
THE RENTAL: The one-bedroom West Hollywood, Los Angeles apartment of interior designer Max Humphrey, a partner at Burnham Design.
KEY LESSONS: Create a wonderfully happy world with bright colors and a fearless mix of pattern — they’re a renter’s best friend. Combat unchangeable details with elegant finds, like a gilded mirror hung over a dated stove. Make an impactful first impression by wallpapering an entryway wall.
|Midcentury Modern Americana in West Hollywood, CA
THE RENTAL: The Hollywood Hills one-bedroom of television producer and interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn.
KEY LESSONS: A double whammy of custom drapes and blinds elevate basic windows to new heights of chic. Painting the ceiling can freshen up a retro space and combat all the whiteness of countertops and cabinets you’re not permitted to replace. Swap out basic light fixtures for statement pieces with standout style.