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7 Unexpected Features You Should Look For When Renting

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

As interior designers who specialize in working with renters, we sometimes have clients who accidentally choose really terrible properties to live in. Some buildings are decked out with nice features, but are still missing key components that majorly affect your quality of life! That’s why I wanted to put together this post – to tell you about 7 unexpected things you should look for when picking your next rented home. Do yourself a favor and read on so you don’t end up in a crappy rental apartment!

Everyone knows about the importance of great lighting, location, appliances, A/C, laundry, building amenities, etc (all included in our free printable rental tour checklist). But surely there’s more we should be looking out for? Ohhhh yes, there’s a lot more

This room had zero hardwired lighting. Outlets near the headboard were critical for the plug-in sconces and pendant light.

1. Outlets

One of the biggest issues in renter-friendly design is how to manage cords. Cords that crisscross the room are ugly trip hazards that look super messy. So the more outlets you have, the better! Specifically, look for: outlets in the ground (the best for floor lamps); outlets on the wall where you think your bed’s headboard will go; outlets near where you want to put a desk; bathroom outlet placement; and if there are any outlets in closets.

2. Storage (and How it Functions)

In general, more storage is always a good thing… but we’ve also seen some really tricky storage spaces that are a pain in the ass to use. So an apartment gets major points for storage that is actually accessible and usable! Things to avoid: doors that hit and therefore block each other; sliding doors that stack (so the doorway can never be fully cleared); and narrow, deep spaces where you have to empty the whole thing out to get to the back. Some things to seek out: deep closets, built-ins and/or closet organizers, and closets with outlets.

3. Attractive and Functional Cabinets

When looking at properties, make sure to closely examine the cabinets. You can cover cabinets with removable contact paper, but it’s laborious and expensive – so I really recommend that renters look for spaces with attractive and well-designed cabinets. Try to avoid places with oddly shaped/sized cabinets (like corner cabinets with lots of wasted space) or finishes that look cheap or ugly. Instead, favor apartments that have cabinets with adjustable and removable shelf heights or cabinets with outlets.

Painting this unit completely transformed the space! It was previously a very dark and ugly tan color. Now it's fresh and inviting thanks to flexible landlord policies.

4. Flexibility from the Landlord

To us, it’s very important to pay attention to the landlord’s policies. We definitely prefer working with properties where you can paint walls and put holes in the wall. If you are looking at rentals that are one-offs (i.e., not big apartment buildings) then pay attention to the landlord’s openness to you making improvements in the space. These policies matter for your ability to redecorate, obviously, but they’re also a sign that your landlord values the long-term happiness of each tenant – and who doesn’t want that in a rental!?

5. Ceiling Height and Material

Ceiling height is important when you are living in a small space. It can be the difference between a feeling of spaciousness and one of claustrophobia. Ceiling material is important too because you might want to hang lights or plants in your space… and if there’s no overhead lighting in a room, you may really need to add it. Concrete ceilings, for example, can be a cool design feature, but this hard surface can be prohibitive for hanging lighting or decoration.

6. Size of Elevators, Doors, and Stairwells

News flash: if you have a tiny elevator or narrow stairs, it’s going to be really hard to get large pieces of furniture into your space. You would not believe how often furniture retailers have to cancel a delivery because they can’t get items up the stairs! Don’t do yourself dirty and pick a place where you’ll struggle to get anything in or out.

Even though this unit was tiny, we loved the layout and the vintage charm.

7. Good, Usable Layout

Check the size of rooms, but also how they will accommodate your belongings. If you need a king bed to fit you and your pets (hello, that’s me), then you best believe you need to measure the bedroom to be sure it’ll fit. Also, think about how you will use the space and if you’ll be able to maneuver through it smoothly. We’ll take a well-designed layout over extra square footage ANY DAY.

So now you know! These seven things are really important for your overall quality of life in your rental apartment. If the unit has been designed with these factors in mind, it means that the proper care was given to fulfilling renters' needs. They're not a sure-fire guarantee that you'll be happy in the building, but they do make a serious difference! Also, check out this amazing resource when picking your next rented home.

The rental search can be overwhelming. Do you need help with what to look for and what questions to ask building management? Download our free printable!

xox Emma


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