You Won't Believe This Energetic Chicago Apartment Is Actually a Rental
Everything about Annie and Dan Barlow's Chicago apartment exudes happiness. The seventh-floor unit overlooking Lake Michigan captures its occupants' high spirits with vibrant primary colors, dynamic prints and a heavy dose of whimsy (especially in the younger girls' bedroom).
Designer Leslie Martin says it was only a small challenge that the couple, who have three daughters, were renting. "We knew they'd be there for some time so we wanted to make it feel like home," she says. Annie, a personal fashion consultant, had big ideas. "She really pushed me," Martin says. "I'd introduce a color and she'd say let's make it four shades brighter."
Even where the palette pales, bold and oversize patterns ramp up the energy. "I wanted it to be really happy," Annie says, "and not shy in any way."
Designer Leslie Martin calls this black-and-white vestibule a "palette cleanser" between the colorful foyer and dining room. The watchful art is a custom wallpaper panel created by a mural company.
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All the girls have taken piano lessons, and now Annie is giving it a try, too. A tightly massed gallery wall—eclectically framed in black, white and gold—sets a creative mood in one end of the living room.
Martin placed vibrant Christopher FarrCloth wall covering within the trellis-like framework of the dining room's white trim. Mattress-ticking chair seats are covered with matte laminate for easy cleanup.
The two younger Barlow girls sleep in a fairy-tale-inspired room with bunks for sleepovers (or for big sister to spend the night). Trundle drawers maximize storage.
How to Make a Rental Feel Personal, According to This Apartment's Design Duo
Designer Leslie Martin (right) owns M+M Interior Design with her sister Kim Meardon. She explains how to make a rental feel personal.
There's no quicker way to give a space personality than to lay on some color. "Most rental units will let you paint, and that's a huge room changer," Martin says. "Paint the walls a color you love."
Change Up the Lighting
"Don't be afraid to switch out a ceiling fixture," Martin says. "You can always take it with you to a new home." Plug-in sconces, she adds, come in tons of styles and are another way to add character to a space.
You might not be able to hang wallpaper, but you can get almost the same effect with a wall-size piece of art. There are lots of companies that can blow up any image you like, Martin says. "Get some trim from the hardware store, paint it and use it to frame the image. It can make your walls really personal."