Renters can personalize their space, too

With rental properties booming throughout Grand Forks, many renters look for ways to make their space their own. "Whether you live there for six months or two years, you should always make it feel like home," local interior designer Allison Comst...

Anna Huss personalizes her space
UND sophomore Anna Huss personalizes her space with homemade crafts and photos from home.

With rental properties booming throughout Grand Forks, many renters look for ways to make their space their own.

"Whether you live there for six months or two years, you should always make it feel like home," local interior designer Allison Comstock says.

As the owner of interior design and floral shop, AllisoNicole's, she says she deals with a wide range of clients with large and small spaces.

For renters, she suggests adding color through fabric. She likes to use throw pillows, blankets and rugs to add color to small spaces.

Her own home reflects this. Leaning on an animal print blanket draped over her red sofa, she describes how color can be used to give character to a space, even if the renter can't paint the walls.


"What's really fun is mover's wallpaper," she says.

This removable, reusable wallpaper is renter-friendly, according to Comstock. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. She says anyone can order it from her store.

She says it can be used to create accent walls, a technique she likes to use in smaller spaces.

Recently, she says, she worked with a small space using mainly warm fall tones. To keep the space bright and give the illusion of a larger space, she used color accent walls and reflective surfaces.

Comstock says mirrors not only give the illusion of a larger space, they also reflect light, helping brighten often dark apartments.

For additional light, Comstock recommends lamps. She suggests thrift stores and garage sales as great places to find lamps to update and personalize.

Comstock has a number of do-it-yourself-on-a-budget project ideas, such as piecing together a rug from samples with carpet tape. She recommends getting multiple carpet patterns in the same color family.

She's also likes to marry modern and vintage styles by updating outdated furniture. But she says buyers should be careful when they redo old furniture.


"If you don't know how to do it, it can come out very black and white; the styles won't mesh," she says.

She recommends taking a vintage piece and painting it with bold colors or taking a small chair with "good bones" and recovering it in a bold fabric.

If you want to do shabby-chic, she says, you have to commit. Otherwise it comes out more shabby than chic.

Comstock enjoys several trends, but at the moment, she likes chevron and Aztec prints. But she cautions that people should not overdo trendy prints on large pieces of furniture, as it won't be in style forever.

With that in mind, she encourages renters to try out trendy décor and move to something more classic when they buy or build a home.

Plan ahead

Whatever the style, Comstock emphasizes planning ahead. Often she finds people living in small spaces have furniture that is too large for the space. She encourages measuring furniture and the room to see what fits the space. She also cautions renters to think carefully about how they will get furniture inside their home. Winding staircases and narrow doors often pose a problem.

In small spaces especially, Comstock says, cluttered decorating seems to be a problem.


She advises, "just because there's an empty space on a wall, doesn't mean you need to fill it."

To cut clutter in other ways, she suggests closet and under-the-bed organizers. She also recommends revamping the clothes closet each season to store off-season clothes and reevaluate the organization.

Finally, she highly recommends electric fireplaces for renters, as a cost-effective way to warm up a space literally and decoratively.

If professional advice is not included in a renter's budget, websites such as offer do-it-yourselfers a place to get information and instruction.

Crafty and homey

UND students living in Fulton Hall such as Anna Huss, sophomore Occupational Therapy major, find it a useful place to get craft ideas.

Using rustic twine and clothes pins, Huss found a way to display her favorite photos from home.

"I think students should bring things that remind them of home," she says. "They should make it their own since it's the only space they've got on campus."

She also uses a vinyl wall decal to dress up her sitting area.

She calls the pale couch under her window a great find, since it adds seating for her friends when they visit her room.

Paired with the coffee table, it also gives her a place to work on crafts, such as her couch pillows, which she sewed last year.

Many students in the dorm decorate with hand-made crafts.

Neat and functional

Sophomore pre-nursing student Amanda Johnson has a T-shirt quilt acting as a backdrop for her desk.

Johnson loves keeping her space organized. She says the key is keeping like things together. For instance, she keeps her dresser in her closet under her hanging clothes, then shoes and accessories stay nearby.

"It helps me think. My mind is clearer when my room is clean," she says.

She calls her room a sanctuary for study and hanging out with her closest friends. Her whimsical decorations include a sailboat model and stuffed Tiger named Hobbs.

She says, besides Hobbs, her favorite thing is the futon.

"The futon is essential," she says.

UND-themed bachelor pad

While Johnson keeps her futon out against the wall, junior pre-med student Cody Dessellier keeps his under his lofted bed between surround-sound speakers. He says it's a great place to watch movies. Just above the futon, under the bed, he placed white Christmas lights.

He says he goes to Wal-mart after Christmas to get good deals on lights to brighten up his room.

Around a large UND flag at the foot of his bed, he placed a bright green string of lights. He also has plans to add LED lights to his bookcase to highlight his memorabilia.

Behind his photos and souvenirs, he covered the green corkboards with plain silver wrapping paper. He suggests this as a cheap way to cover unwanted wall features that cannot be removed.

Like Johnson, he emphasizes that he likes to keep his room as clean as possible.

"When a small space is messy, it gets smaller," he says.

To keep his room looking neat and streamlined, he hides his closet with a curtain his grandma made for him.

Another way he keeps the space neat and functional is with a coffee table he found used on

The top of the table rises up to reveal storage underneath. It also serves as a laptop desk for doing homework when paired with his futon.

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