NTS Renters

Imani Keal, Washington DC

Imani of Imani At Home is a home & lifestyle creator based in Washington, D.C. A thrifter, a dog owner (of Salazar Slytherin the Second) and a lover of Gin Cocktails. Imani is also a proud renter,

‘I spend a ridiculous amount of time upgrading my rental apartment and spending time with my friends and family’.

The home is 45sqm and is a studio with one bathroom, a separate kitchen and dining, two closets, and four windows!

When I was moving, I wanted something close to nightlife, but not all up in the mix.
I love studio spaces and they just so happen to be the most inexpensive places in DC.
That said, I think small space living is perfect for single people who work & party a lot. It’s big enough for me to host friends, but not so big that it’s hard to decorate and maintain.”

Living in the apartment for 3 years, which was initially white, minimalist and grey,  Imani decided to DIY every inch of 45sqm apartment, which over time has been turned it into a vibrant space that reflects her, and that she truly loves to call home. 

The vibe of the apartment is warm maximalism, with a lot of, well, ‘things’, a lot of texture and a lot of patterns. Imani feels that she was always going to gravitate toward Warm Maximalism; ‘the vibe chose me. I didn’t choose the vibe. 

The apartment started, white, minimalist, and grey, and then as I got more comfortable with who I am, and what I like, it shifted into the wild space we know and love’.

Imani’s landlord has been open to the changes that Imani has implemented which has meant Imani has had the opportunity to really make the rental feel like home. 

I’m able to paint, change a light fixture, and drills holes. I just have to change it all back when its time for me to move out. I decided a long time ago that my security deposit was with God, so it doesn’t exist and I don’t care about it.  That said, most of my DIYs are within my lease and I’ve gotten written permission from my landlord for a few of my projects.’

The entrance of the apartment is decorated with black dalmation spots, painted by Imani for a bit of fun. An Ikea stall cabinet (Imani’s favourite item in the home) which holds all her shoes and daily things she needs. Opposite to that is a closet that holds all her DIY supplies. 

As you step deeper into the apartment, you are greeted by a big comfy couch, coffee table from market place and rug from eBay. Above the couch, there are two DIY pieces that Imani made. Below the TV is a French provincial dresser that doesn’t match anything else in the apartment but gives the eclectic feel that Imani loves.

As it is a studio apartment, the bedroom and living room are all in the same area. The bed is tucked into one corner and is an Ikea bed with one side having a very high rail which acts as a barrier between the entry way, living room and bedroom and doubles as a drying rack for laundry. The dining room is decked out in wild peel-and-stick wallpaper with a Scalamandre print made popular by Wes Anderson.

It is really important for Imani to have sentimental pieces in her apartment. In the dining room, there is her grandmother’s china cabinet (Imani’s other favourite item in the home) and on the opposite side of the wall is her grandfather’s cane which she had custom framed.

To enter the galley kitchen, you pass through built-in bookcases. ‘I was obsessed with the idea of having a pink kitchen, so I went all out with Monticello Rose by Benjamin Moore. I used this contact paper from Amazon as a countertop and backsplash and I love it. I’ve been obsessed with Calacata Viola marble for a long time and wanted to replicate that look in a renter-friendly way.’

Imani also added some custom-cut shelves to the wall above the stove to house all her crockery and changed the handle of the kitchen cupboards to antique bronze handles for a personalized touch.

A separate hallway leads to the main closet and bathroom. Imani added a fun patterned wallpaper to make the closet more interesting. 

The bathroom was a standard 1940s style, which isn’t really Imani’s style, so she installed two sets of different wallpaper; the top half has another Scalamandre patterned peel-and-stick wallpaper, the Dune Leaping Cheetah print and the bottom half is painted beadboard wallpaper and painted a dark brown color.

Imani’s rental studio apartment is the perfect size for her. It is large enough to host friends and family and have a dog but not so overwhelming to furnish or live or clean. When it comes to choosing, and designing your rental space, Imani has some clear tips for those looking to replicate what she has done.

‘Try to inject storage into all your design choices. Everything has to do double duty in a small space. Don’t paint everything white. For starters it’s boring and it doesn’t make your apartment feel bigger. Peel-and-Stick wallpaper is always the answer. Ask your landlord.I love DIY, but you do need to respect the rules they have and learn how to work with them to create the space you love. Changing light fixtures will take your space to a new level, so always get rid of the boob lights.

Images by NeverTooSmall