HOW TO: Furnish a Rental Unit On a Budget

Lauren Warnock and Jasmine Glover of design firm Project Interiors have designed some pretty luxurious spaces—a modern estate in northern Wisconsin, an urban penthouse condominium and a sprawling suburban McMansion. But the two also know when to pull back on the reins a bit to outfit smaller scale (and smaller budget) projects. The rental apartment they recently completed for a unit in the new 1647 North Milwaukee building by LG Development is one such example: The duo flushed out a floorplan for the 900-sf space in two weeks time, sourced from budget-friendly retail vendors, and chose our GRAY sofa in Pebble Weave-Dove as the main source of seating. All said and done, the final design reflects a cultured, personal vibe with layers of texture, historical decor items and a mix of man-made and natural elements (we dig those wood stump stools!) “The space is for a savvy millennial with a creative spirit, and someone who digs entertaining,” says Lauren. Adds Jasmine: “Our inspiration was a curated collage…. a collection of art and furniture, both new and old. The vintage pieces were key to introducing some soul; they are pieces with a past. Incorporating things that are from travels, local artists and street markets makes the space feel layered.” Below, Jasmine (left) and Lauren (right) offer their professional advice on decking out a rental apartment quickly and inexpensively.

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Project Interiors’ Tips:

  • Use a variety of sources. Prevent your space from feeling like it’s straight out of one showroom or store.
  • Find multi-functional pieces. Example: a cabinet or credenza that offers storage and a surface for a television to rest on, or a high table that is both a place to work and eat.
  • Shop online for things with longer lead times first. We sourced from Interior Define, France & Son and Deny Designs, then hunted and gathered the accessories and finishing touches from our favorite local companies like Gold Leaf Design GroupHangout Lighting and Hymay Creative.
  • Measure twice, buy once. Get out a tape measure and a roll of painter’s tape and plot things out on the floor of each room before ordering. Pick pieces that fit perfectly with enough room to move around them, and have the appropriate scale to avoid the cluttered or congested look.
  • Scope out second-hand options for hard goods. Check out vintage deals on Craigslist or local resale shops and give tables, lamps and decor items a new life.
  • Purchase any upholstered items (sofas, chairs or beds) new. You’ll want to buy any upholstered items new for sanitation reasons, but get the best value by looking for local sample sales, or online sources with flexible return policies and free shipping as a way to cut costs.
  • Pin it. Start a pinterest board to collect your ideas, like fun do-it-yourself and repurposing projects.
  • Think creatively and unconventionally when it comes to decor. A rug can be transformed into a great headboard or art work! For this project, we filled out the gallery wall frames by using samples of some our favorite wallcoverings, tearing out pages from a cocktail table book, and scouring local outposts for artful finds.

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