We often feature homes that have been completely gut renovated, even spaces that were built from the ground up. But the reality is that many of us live in rentals – which comes with its own set of challenges. ‘How to make it yours’ is at the top of the list of issues renters have to deal with, given that many landlords have strict rules against painting walls, hanging curtains, as well as installing new light fixtures. In this feature, we’re showcasing the home of interior designer Laura Hur who doesn’t just help us understand the aesthetic concept behind her rental home in San Francisco, but also offers real-life tips on how to make an impermanent space yours.
“My husband and I moved from New York City to San Francisco in January 2019, along with our daughter who was only three months old at the time,” she said. “We moved because of my husband’s new job assignment, and we knew it was only going to be a relatively short stay of two and a half years. We really wanted a true San Francisco experience, and fell in love with this Stick Victorian row house. Stick Victorians are all over San Francisco, and are typically narrow town homes with squared bay windows built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We had considered moving into a fully remodeled Victorian, which had the original facade but an entirely updated interior, including a loft-like open floor plan. Even though the remodeled home had an arguably better layout and significantly more square footage, we decided on our home because of its history, the ten foot ceilings, the garden, and the surprising amount of natural light it gets as a result of numerous skylights.”
The historic charm of this Stick Victorian row house reflected Laura’s personal love of all things old – as a designer she had collected plenty of antique pieces over the years that brought her a sense of connectedness to different eras and influences. Although the home was over one hundred years old, it was in great condition. However, like many renters, Laura’s hands were tied when it came to making some minor changes that would further complete her vision of their new home. “I really wanted a neutral and bright space, with layers of textures, and envisioned textured, creamy white-walls as the starting point,” she shared. “To my disappointment, our landlords would not let us paint a single wall. All of the walls are the same beige color throughout. The color isn’t terrible, but there’s way too much of it.”
Laura, however, found a way to work around the wall color limitations: “In the dining room, beige walls became the backdrop for crisp, white furnishings, a textured off-white jute rug, and additional woven, natural materials — as seen in the dining chairs and light fixture,” she explained. “It wasn’t the textured, creamy white walls I envisioned, but I was able to introduce white in other ways, which gave the space a modern edge, and provided a neutral zone to install a gallery wall.”
In her daughter’s room, Laura had a vision of installing jungle-themed wallpaper, yet it presented itself as an impossible option given the few years that they’d spend there. “For a more cost effective take on the jungle theme, I installed an unfinished wood shelf from Home Depot about a foot down from the ceiling, and ran it the length of one wall,” she said. “I then purchased a bunch of long trailing plants – such as Pothos, Ivy and Spider plants – and covered the shelf with them. This became a really magical moment in her room, which was more budget-friendly than my original design direction, and has the added benefit of keeping the air clean – a big plus with all of the smoke we have had from the recent wildfires.”
One thing, though, that their landlords thankfully did allow was switching out the light fixtures. This gave their home a more designed feel throughout. “Updating the lighting immediately elevated the entire space, improving the vibe and quality of light,” Laura said. “My daughter’s favorite thing in the room is her Noguchi pendant, which she calls her ‘small light ball’, and talks about how mama and dad have a ‘big light ball’ in our bedroom – she’s not wrong!”
Other details such as the artwork and pillows, are a way that the designer personalized her home: “They are easy to bring with you when you move, and fun to style in different ways as you change homes. My most exciting art additions to this home include the large Joelle Somero piece over the sofa, the LRNCE textile art, and the Octavia Tomyn piece in my daughter’s room, which was a gift commissioned for her, and hopefully something she continues to enjoy as she gets older.”
Although Laura has made her San Francisco Victorian row house a beautifully designed home for her family, it will likely evolve over time. “Every space I have ever lived in is a constant work in progress,” she told us. “I am always moving things around, trying a chair in a new corner, a new light fixture here, moving artwork there.”