More apartment renters adding personal touches
Everything from accent walls and wallpaper to lighting and fixtures is fair game
Karen Pulaski’s move into The Southmore was part of a transition to a new chapter in her life. She didn’t want the trappings of a house but wouldn’t give up her sense of style.
Zach Crager has never owned a home but knew that living in a cookie-cutter apartment building wasn’t for him.
They’re both renters and live in apartments decorated in a way rental units ordinarily are not.
For Pulaski, leaving her West University Place home and renting a 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom penthouse in the Museum District was a modern move. One of her daughters is in college; another is a senior in high school and loves bringing her friends to their sophisticated apartment with sweeping views of downtown and Hermann Park.
Newer high-rise apartment buildings are being built with huge windows, balconies and amenities that may make renters feel like they live in a hotel, but even those billed as “luxury” dwellings often have
ordinary lighting and plain white walls.
“It was finished, but all the light fixtures were very (ordinary). There wasn’t any color so I put in some antique light fixtures and put in some modern ones,” said Pulaski, owner of the Tribute Goods luxury bedding company. “I added wallpaper to accent walls and put mirrors on certain doors so that it hides the ugly door behind it. It wasn’t that hard to make it mine.”
Today, many apartment managers are willing to let tenants personalize their spaces — provided they’re willing to return it to the way it was when they leave.
That means painted accent walls must return to their original color, wallpaper has to come down and lighting has to be swapped out again. If you don’t, they’ll send you a bill for the work they have to do. In most cases, they’ll even expect you to patch holes if you hung a wall-mount TV.
“Right now, renters are looking for clean and modern. They love light gray, tan and white and make it unique playing with any colors. They want a lot of natural light, and you’ll see that throughout the market,” said Natalie Cunningham, leasing specialist at The Southmore.
While there’s plenty of room for people to make changes, few actually do, Cunningham said.
Crager is a regulatory tech at energy company Hilcorp and wears bow ties to work every day, cares about his style and cares about home décor, too. He enjoys watching HGTV, especially Chip and Joanna Gaines’ show “Fixer Upper.”
He lived in a 30th-floor studio apartment at Aris Market Square downtown for a year before moving to another apartment on the same floor that’s nearly 900 square feet and has a 200 square foot balcony. Even in his studio, Crager had custom wallpaper designed to make the space reflect his personality.
When he shifted to the larger place, he bought new furniture, more art and had Limitless Walls make custom removable wallpaper that looks like the bare concrete walls in the building’s lobby.
“I asked a friend’s wife how it looked,” Crager said. “I said, ‘If you were a single woman, what would you think?’ I didn’t want it to be too manly. I wanted to have some nice things.”
His living room is more of a man cave, with an 82-inch, wall-mount TV and pop art of actor Jack Nicholson blowing smoke rings and wearing a purple jacket and The Joker cuff links. At the back of the nearby kitchen, Crager set up a bar with a wine rack, bar essentials and another large piece of art, Leonardo DiCaprio in a tuxedo making a toast as Jay Gatsby.
“I grew up on DC comics and movies, and The Joker is big to me. I saw the Jack Nicholson picture and thought it was a cool, manly photo, it’s about as cool as you can get for a guy,”
Crager said. “‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of my favorite movies, and that (painting) is basically ‘cheers to everyone who’s ever been against you in life.’ ”
He installed artificial turf on his balcony so that when he sits out there to enjoy the view it feels a bit more like the great outdoors. And to achieve a more spa-like bathroom, he had bamboo mats made to fit the seat and floor in the shower.
Crager signed an 18-month lease, so he knew he was making changes he’d live with for a while.
Pulaski did even more in her apartment, installing regular wallpaper in several places, including the back of a bookshelf where she had a printed image attached with Velcro.
The move has been good for her family, including their two dogs, Riley and Waffle, who enjoy their own social life there.
“West U is fabulous, but it wasn’t happening for me anymore. No one swam in the pool, but it had all this maintenance. In my mind, I knew a lovely family would find our house and enjoy it, and that’s exactly what happened,” Pulaski said of her move. “The lifestyle here is turnkey. We have views of downtown and Hermann Park, and I’ve never experienced Houston like that. You wake up to a great energy.”
She’s been in the apartment for just over a year and a half, and it’s part of a five-year plan for her. Her home décor is an eclectic mix of everything from antiques to modern. She reupholstered some furniture for the move, including a piece now covered in washable faux fur.
“All the kids just want to pet it,” Pulaski said of the sofa. “I’m at that stage where to me, real luxury life is one where you can really live on your stuff and it’s still beautiful and no one is in trouble if they accidentally spill something.”
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The Southmore apartment of Karen Pulaski includes a wallpaper accent wall and upgraded lighting.
Zach Crager had custom removable wallpaper designed to create the look of bare concrete. He wanted the walls of his 30th-floor apartment to match the lobby at Aris Market Square.
Karen Pulaski used a printed image as wallcovering in a bookcase, at left, to create a custom look in her apartment.
The bar by the kitchen in Zach Crager’s apartment features art of Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Great Gatsby.”
Crager installed artificial turf on his balcony.