Over the course of the garden apartment renovation, you all have been so encouraging, and for that, we can’t thank you enough! We’ve been soaking in your feedback and listening to your questions, and a reoccurring theme seems to center around our design decisions in this soon-to-be rental versus our own home. Is there a difference?, you’ve asked. We’ve also heard from several of you that own income properties or hope to soon, and you’ve told us from both sides of the fence how you may choose finishes a bit differently – or, maybe, exactly the same.
For most, the point of owning a rental is to make income, so we could see how less spendy upgrades are more attractive to landlords with multiple properties. When we purchased this house more than 4 years ago, we didn’t seek out a multi-family building, but there were so many other things working for it – the price, the right amount of renovation and, most importantly, the location. So while we’ve embraced becoming accidental landlords (because, yes, we still own our little condo!), the decisions we’ve made throughout the garden renovation still impact us more than, say, if we were just snatching up properties around the city to make a profit. While this won’t be our home, it’s still our house. We live here, too.
When it came to the renovations, we needed to be smart. We’re far from absentee landlords (in fact, we pride ourselves on the fact that we respond to our tenants the same day, if not within the hour), and simply put, durability for the long haul was an important factor in every decision we made – for us and them. Before our former tenants moved out, we asked them – besides obvious cosmetic fixes – what they would change. What could be better? We took their notes to heart, and we were mindful in our decisions, spending more where it mattered and pulling back where we could.
So! What made us choose some things and not others? Would we go back and do anything differently? We weighed the pros and cons of 3 things that we might’ve (sort of) done differently in our home, versus 3 things we would do in any home – ours or otherwise. Let’s dig in!
3 things we would have done differently in our home:
Thing #1: The laundry room. We closed off an opening to the utility room (opting instead for a pocket door in a this newly added mudroom), moved the water hook-up down and to the left, swapped the ceiling fixture for a wall sconce and properly re-routed the ventilation to the outside. Aside from that, we installed beadboard to conceal a foundation issue that was corrected years ago, gave everything a fresh coat of paint and added storage!
We were working with a teeny, tiny room and existing in-wall plumbing, but had this been in our own home, we would have considered a larger plumbing reconfiguration. Maybe there was a way we could have added the stacked washer/dryer to the concrete wall? (But then we would have lost a window and valuable storage space.) In a barely 4′ x 6′ space, we did our best to make it functional and sweet, but a lot more money could have had us moving the walls around a bit more. Maybe. See the full laundry room reveal right here.
Thing #2: Butcher block countertops. We enjoy how butcher block only gets better with age, even using the material ourselves in our own kitchen renovation! That said, in our own home, we used butcher block as an accent countertop and lined the perimeter of our kitchen with strong quartzite. Because we only needed two inexpensive runs of butcher block to get this job done, it felt silly to splurge on a pricier stone, where we would have likely needed to purchase an entire slab (and only use less than half of it and spend even more on the fabrication). However, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t a teensy bit nervous about the abuse it may receive from renters. Although we sealed it with five coats of Waterlox, it’s still going to be a bit of a gamble. In a year (or two), we’ll see if it needs some love, but the good news is that it’s a countertop that can be sanded down and re-sealed.
Thing #3: The bathtub. This is another if money were no object decision. The tub in the garden was rusted and stained, and the design detailing on the exposed side was far from our favorite. To replace the tub completely would have been a much larger job – which would have included ripping out the tile, installing new drywall and, more than likely, replacing the plumbing. Because a new bathtub was purely a cosmetic wish, we instead chose to have it reglazed, a decision that we don’t regret for a second! But. If it were in our home, well, we’d probably be saving our pennies to swap it out once and for all.
As you can see, the 3 things we would have done differently were mostly a result on where chose to save, rather than splurge. We’re more than happy with our choices, and we also don’t feel that our decisions lessened the overall outcome of the apartment! Next, moving on to the …
3 things we did (and would do again) to a rental and our home:
Thing #1: Wood-look tile floors. We hit the books hard on this topic. Demolishing the existing floors in the entire unit and adding new was no small task, and we knew we wanted an option that would last (and last and last). We considered everything from luxury vinyl to ceramic and porcelain, but after interviewing a few contractors and reading through every last article that Google churned up, we landed on these porcelain wood-look floor tiles. They immediately brought a warmth to the unit that was lacking (remember this?!), and if we allow it, they’ll more than likely outlive us! Read all about our tile adventure right here.
Thing #2: Finishes. Before deciding on gray cabinets, brass hardware and marble accents throughout, I had a moment of hesitation. You guys know that these are things we prefer in our home, but would our future tenants like it, too? Solid brass hardware will get a patina with time, a look we personally love. Marble can etch and get dull with use, but again, we live for that character! I actually had a whole Amazon cart of less expensive brass-painted hardware, but I just knew we’d be replacing them in a couple of years when their coating begins to chip. Would some of our splurge-worthy choices be worth it in the end? Scott said it best when he told me, that’s the kind of renter we’re looking for. Someone who loves the brass – and the marble and the ORB! – as much as we do.
Thing #3: IKEA cabinetry/vanity. This was our first IKEA kitchen install, and countless times throughout the process, Scott and I looked at each other and said, can we re-do our kitchen in IKEA cabinets? They’re well made and soft-close hinges are a standard, and although we do love our cabinets, well, we might love these more. One thousand percent, we’d do it again – bathroom vanity included! (After all, you’ve seen that we also chose an IKEA vanity in our master bath!)
There are still a few more full room reveals to share – the bathroom! the kitchen! – but for anyone who chimed in with these questions throughout the renovation, we hope this provided a bit of clarity. And for other landlords out there, please chime in with your own tips and decision making processes. We’d love to hear!