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Before and After: I Made Over My Rental’s Entryway for Under $200


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It’s no secret that New York City apartments have weird layouts. Entryways, in particular, can be challenging. They are often cramped, oddly long and narrow, or downright non-existent. So, I was thrilled when my boyfriend and I found a place with a hallway wide enough for a credenza and a shoe rack last year.

Getting the rest of the apartment in order took all my creative project energy. So, our entry sat neglected for the first year–an underutilized and poorly designed space. While your entrance may seem like more of a utilitarian space, and therefore lower on the priorities list to put time and money into, it’s also the first place you (and your guests) see when they come into your home. 

Our hallway was bumming me out because it lacked good lighting and color, but also because I had also set it up to fail in its duties. There was an entire wall that wasn’t being used, and the accordion hook rack I purchased for jackets barely fit our own coats, hats, and bags, with no room to spare when we had guests over. When I had finally had enough time and energy this past winter, (which is the time of year most of my bigger home projects finally come to fruition), I devised a plan that would have a big impact without costing a ton of money. It was also simple enough that I could do most of it myself, on my own timeline. 

Here are the inexpensive (and rental-friendly!) changes I made to my entryway:

I knew I wanted to add some color to the walls, and I toyed around with the idea of wallpaper, but cost (even for peel-and-stick) and my indecisiveness got in the way. Instead, I settled on a three-quarter height paint job in deep greenish blue (Dragonfly by Behr, $40 per gallon). Many designers suggest pairing dark rooms with dark paint and bright spaces with light paint, and I tend to agree. Our hallway gets very little to no natural light, so I wanted a darker color, but I split the difference by leaving the top of the wall white. A couple of drop cloths, a chalk line, and a few hours of podcasts later and my walls were complete. Cost: $40

To solve the quandary of the poorly utilized wall, I bought three classic shaker peg rails from Amazon ($22 x 3) and painted them the same color as the wall. Next, I hung them on the line where the paint stopped so they felt like they had always been there. Now there is MUCH more space for coats, hats, and pretty baskets, which I can use to stash accessories. The week after we installed the hooks I had a birthday party and put them to the test with many heavy winter coats to great success. Cost: $66

Nothing screams “rental” more than those godforsaken boob lights (or a similar cheap flush-mounted lighting). As I researched replacements, a lot of the flush-mounted options I loved were way more than I wanted to spend on this project. I finally found some affordable ones via the always inspiring Valeria (@rebeccaandgenevieve); they’re simple but make a statement. I grabbed a set of two ($39). I am proud to say I taught myself how to change out a light fixture! Now every time I walk down my hall I don’t flinch at the lighting. Cost: $39

There was a chair in our front hall, but because the wicker on the seat needs to be replaced, there was nowhere to actually sit and put on shoes. So, I decided to turn an old trunk my boyfriend had into a bench we could actually use. I used a paint sample I had, so this didn’t cost me anything, but you can buy a sample pot for less than $7. The pink I used is sophisticated and a little muddy in a good way, so it didn’t feel too precious. For the cushion I used a piece of MDF board cut to size, foam, batting, and a piece of vintage upholstery fabric that I had to create a cushion. I didn’t use the fabric as a jumping off point when I chose the paint color but I may as well have—the teal-ish in the stripes is almost the same shade as the wall. Cost: $15

Style with art and accessories

The finishing touches on any makeover are the little extras that add character and interest to the space, but you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff: Shop your own house instead. For example, I already had three framed prints (I cut them out from these John Derian journals) and a slew of other art that I hastily hung when we first moved in. After I painted and added the hooks, I rearranged the framed art carefully; now it all feels more intentional and designed. I also added a rug I had previously bought on Etsy, this newly-purchased lamp from Amazon ($39), and the box under the lamp that mirrors the pattern in the rug. Pro tip: It’s nice to have patterns and colors that echo each other in a smaller space; the eye is drawn to them and it just feels right. Cost: $39

Using what I had and investing in paint, hooks, and lighting I made a huge impact on my home — all for less than $200.


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