For the better part of their 20s, New York natives Lauren Lemkowitz and her husband, Jake, always lived in extremely average rentals where they “basically had to succumb to our landlord’s taste,” says Lemkowitz. Over the years, the designer found herself making small swaps, like changing out the kitchen cabinet pulls and doorknobs and, of course, “exchanging that terrible boob light that’s in every single apartment across the United States,” she says with a laugh. After upgrading the fixtures in their current Queens apartment, which the pair share with their 2-year-old, Luca, for under $300 total, the couple took their passion for reversible renovations and founded Rental Re/Do this past June. On their site, you can personalize a kit with chic hardware, lighting, and planters. “Renters want choice,” notes Lemkowitz.
So far, all the items are exclusive to Rental Re/Do, and everything except the pendant light is either made in Denmark, Sweden, or Mexico City. While you can pick as few pieces as you need, if you loaded up your cart with new handles and sconces to outfit your whole space, installing everything would still only take a matter of a few hours. “All you really need is a Phillips-head screwdriver,” says Lemkowitz.
You won’t find furniture or silverware here. “We’re only concentrating on high-touch items,” she explains. Rental Re/Do’s unexpected hero? The door levers. “You don’t notice your apartment’s doorknobs every single day, but when you do, you’re like: They need to be replaced!” she says. Unlike the round silver metal ones you’ll find in most rentals, their black and brass upgrades are all about streamlining the details. Psst: They take all of 10 minutes to install.
Also in the mix: various styles of cabinet hardware, ranging from farmhouse drawer cups to walnut wood knobs, exposed bulb flush lights, a lantern pendant lamp, and indoor-outdoor planters with built-in drainage. The latter option was inspired by Lemkowitz’s days as a project manager at a landscape design firm. “Plants are the cherry on top of the cake in a space,” she suggests. “I truly believe they make you happier.”
The only item that requires the help of a professional is the lighting. “It’s very easy to install, but most landlords will want you to hire an electrician, so really consult with them before you do it,” she adds.
Not up for a DIY? Never fear: Kick-start your project with HomeAdvisor’s directory of electricians in your area.
Lemkowitz had a hunch black fixtures would be their best-sellers, but it’s been a different story: Everyone’s gearing up for good vibes with antique brass. “It’s been a huge hit,” she says. “People want a modern apartment, but there’s this draw to adding pops of color and warmth. It’s a playful element.”
What’s to Come
Dimmers, dimmer plates, USB port outlets, bathroom faucets and showerheads, and potentially window treatments are on the horizon for Rental Re/Do. “Good lighting, and the ability to control it, is the number-one thing you need to have in your space,” says Lemkowitz. Plus the couple is working on a series of instructional videos to make all your little swaps a breeze. “Your rental can look better and you never have to touch your countertop or cabinet color,” she says. Ready, set, reno.