Affordable upgrades that improve rental life and boost home style

After more than thirty years of home ownership, I love being a renter. The to-do list for the Man of the House (MOTH) and myself has been reduced to almost nil. Purging and editing our possessions has been hugely liberating. It’s also untethered some capital, and given me more financial freedom.

Along the journey, I’ve stumbled across a few simple ways to make a smaller-footprint, potentially short-term rental space more comfortable, functional, and beautiful without over-spending or getting weighted down with more stuff.

Consider the daily practices that help start the day well, like a thoughtfully-designed shower fixture. I recently tested an Engage Magnetix from Moen. The six-setting unit has a rain-shower head with a magnet that locks a separate hand-held sprayer to it. Because there’s no cradle or clip, removing and replacing  it is a literal snap. A generous metal hose makes it easier for folks—especially those who are older or have limited mobility—to reach all their bodily bits. It useful for kids and pets too. MOTH installed it in about ten minutes, and said it was super simple. Don’t forget to box or bag the existing shower head and place it in a cupboard, so it’s ready to switch out when you terminate the lease.

About $135 at Lowes and Rona, this shower unit is excellent value.  Here’s my idea of a clever, space-saving coffee maker—another great morning partner.

Windows dictate privacy, so covering them is a priority. If you’re not ready to commit to spending large on short-term window dressing (good call, btw) maybe opt instead for inexpensive bamboo blinds. They do allow some light in, so if you like the subtle texture but want more coverage, consider adding liners (sky-blue cotton is a nice touch). There’s DIY instruction for how to do that online. A low-investment way to treat a wall is to use a dowel to hang a vintage rug that’s still handsome but too fragile for the floor. MOTH and I did this very successfully with a Turkish rug passed down through several generations of his Chicago family. (Below, at right.) Also easy—stitch three or four loops along one side of an interesting quilt and hang it with small nails or tacks. Clean any rug or quilt before hanging to reduce dust.

Keep only essential cleaning supplies. A new generation of highly-versatile stick vacuums with detachable hand-held units save space and offer improved battery run-times and functionality over earlier models. LG’s new-to-Canada version—the CordZero A9—comes with two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that run up to 80 minutes. A five-step system is said to filter out 99.99 per cent of dust and indoor allergens. Sold exclusively in Canada at Costco ($700).  For all-purpose cleaning, I like Branch Basics.

A modular hydroponic farming system like Rise Gardens sounds like a good fit for renters like me. It grows herbs and leafy salad greens indoors all year long. I’d be delighted to have fresh greens for eating and herbs for cooking that I used to grow in the backyard. Rise works with an app to manage lights, track progress, and signal harvest time. It’s self-watering and self-fertilizing. An LED panel provides the broad spectrum of light plants need to grow, but placing the vertical unit near a window gives it a boost. Seeds and accessories are sold in bundles or on a subscription basis.

P.S. It’s important to stay friends with the property owner or manager. So do check your contract before embarking on anything major, and ask if you are in any doubt.

Vicky Sanderson

A self-confessed Opinion-ista, Vicky Sanderson has been writing and talking about décor, design and lifestyle issues for almost two decades, and has tested just about every home product known to humankind.

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