More apart­ment renters adding per­sonal touches

Ev­ery­thing from ac­cent walls and wall­pa­per to light­ing and fix­tures is fair game

Houston Chronicle - - STAR - By Diane Cowen STAFF WRITER

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.” Sign up for Cowen’s Ac­cess De­sign news­let­ter, de­liv­ered straight to your in­box ev­ery Tues­day, at hous­ton chron­i­­cess­de­sign.

Julie Soe­fer

The South­more apart­ment of Karen Pu­laski in­cludes a wall­pa­per ac­cent wall and up­graded light­ing.

Michael Wyke / Con­trib­u­tor

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.

Julie Soe­fer

Karen Pu­laski used a printed im­age as wall­cov­er­ing in a book­case, at left, to cre­ate a cus­tom look in her apart­ment.

Michael Wyke / Con­trib­u­tor

The bar by the kitchen in Zach Crager’s apart­ment fea­tures art of Leonardo Di­Caprio in “The Great Gatsby.”

Michael Wyke / Con­trib­u­tor

Crager in­stalled ar­ti­fi­cial turf on his bal­cony.

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