How To Make The Most Of A Small City Rental

Large Framed Art Print // Pendant Light // Area Rug (similar) // Coffee Table (under $100!) // Couch // Chair (similar) // Throw (similar)

Gabby & Her Home

Teacher by day and blogger by night, Gabby Mbeki originally created First and Warren in August 2014 as a way to share her story about being a 20-something living in Boston. Her sense of style is on point, and we love catching up on what she’s loving at the moment and her whereabouts in Beantown, including her own apartment. She proves that you don’t need a large space to have a place that looks and feels like home, even if it’s only a rental. There are changes and additions that can be made to enhance any space and make it your own. From choosing the right furniture to painting an accent or statement wall (or better yet, applying removable wallpaper!), Gabby explains the choices she made when designing her small space to make a big impression. Get the scoop on Gabby and her stylish apartment below!

You’re a teacher by day and blogger by night—you must have your hands full! How do you balance your two passions?

I think for me, it is allowing myself to set my own “deadlines” especially during the school year. My career as a teacher is my top priority 10 months out of the year, so I have to be willing to give myself room to focus on the classroom first, and be OK with putting the blog on the back-burner sometimes. It took me awhile to get there. I would always feel as though I was disappointing my readers if I did not have content out by a certain time frame, but then it became less about what I was writing about and more about pleasing them, and that was not the reason I got into blogging. I think it is important to forgive yourself and set goals for yourself that are reasonable. That is part of the reason why I at least try to be consistent on my Instagram, because then my readers get glimpses of what is going on, on a smaller scale. Instagram Stories has been especially life-changing for me in terms of sharing my thoughts, but also generating content with purpose.

TV Stand (alternative)

“I would always feel as though I was disappointing my readers if I did not have content out by a certain time frame, but then it became less about what I was writing about and more about pleasing them, and that was not the reason I got into blogging. I think it is important to forgive yourself and set goals for yourself that are reasonable.”

Tell us about your space! What neighborhood do you live in? How long have you lived here? What’s the best thing about living alone?

I actually live right on the border of two areas, Allston/Brighton, and for the longest time my area has been known as “college kid” central. The train that is near my home has stops right through Boston University and ends at Boston College. However, my street has mainly older adults and young professionals, which is perfect for me because that means it is not too loud on the weekends (most of the time). I really dislike moving, so once I settle in a place, I try my best to put some time in there. This will actually be my fourth year in my current apartment, and I love it. I enjoy living alone to an extent because it allows me the freedom to decompress from my day especially because I am in charge of 20 10 year olds, but I think you really learn about yourself when you live alone. I think I am much more aware of my bad habits, because I am not always on my best behavior (or as much as I would be if I lived with three other people). And because I am more aware of this, I try to correct any bad habits (although there is also nobody to hold me accountable for not doing dishes right away or leaving the TV on all night—sorry, Mom!). I honestly do not know if I could have a situation where I lived with roommates again. It would be a huge adjustment for sure.

 Cat Home // Chair (similar) // Pendant Light

What are your favorite spots to eat, shop, drink and spend time in your neighborhood?

I do spend a lot of time in Beacon Hill because I work there on the weekends, and I enjoy walking around the historic neighborhood and catching glimpses of the cobblestone streets and row houses lined with perfect window boxes. It is pretty picturesque, and one of my favorite spots right now to eat is located there: Florina Pizzeria—it is where I can get a quick pasta dish for a good price and feel full for days. I enjoy grabbing a cocktail at Banyan Bar + Refuge—its Sad Panda is my go-to (it is a gin-based drink with lime, watermelon and aloe!). Most of my shopping choices stem from hitting up Madewell because I can find comfortable teacher-appropriate outfits, but I do enjoy boutique shopping at places like Olives & Grace, December Thieves and Follain.

Bed //  End Table (similar and under $100)

“Once I settle in a place I try my best to put some time in there. This will actually be my fourth year in my apartment, and I love it. I enjoy living alone to an extent because it allows me the freedom to decompress from my day especially because I am in charge of 20 10 year olds, but I think you really learn about yourself when you live alone.”

Shelves

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Do you have any hacks to maximize small-space living?

Storage is key. I was fortunate to get a place that has a lot of closets, so a lot of my items are out of sight out of mind. However, being practical about what you need is important, and also being creative to use what you have in your space. Something as simple as removing the doors on my cabinets on the kitchen allowed me to put my microwave up, and in turn, give me more counter space.

How long has it taken you to decorate, and what was the vibe you were hoping to achieve with the space?

When I realized I was moving back to Boston and was going to live by myself, I started out first with a bar cart and glassware. I found an IKEA hack on Pinterest and felt as though the first item in my first adult apartment should be bar cart. A friend of mine was nice enough and let me borrow her couch, but the living room just felt empty.

Over the first year, I began to slowly add items to the space, with the rug being first. I think it was the rug that determined the rest of the feel for the space. I would describe it as “casual glam,” which I think is how some of my friends would describe my own personal style. After doing the accent wall this summer and changing out the pendant light in the living room, I feel as though I can officially say my living room is complete. It felt finalized and new again with a nice coat of paint that added color to the space. I think some people are afraid of painting their apartment, but I think it’s OK to compromise and just do a wall. It did not take very long, and can easily be repainted when it’s time to move out.

Electric Kettle // Metal Watering Can

We love your black-and-white patterned accent wall! Tell us about it—is it wallpaper? Do you have any other tips for decorating a rental that make a big impact without being a permanent change?

Before I got the “Stamped Triangle” wallpaper from Chasing Paper, I had washi tape up as a way to decorate the wall without destroying it. I found this black-and-white lined tape and just did stripes down the wall. It was OK, but I wanted more. A friend of mine told me about Chasing Paper and its removable wallpaper and I knew that’s what I wanted.

It took me a while to decide on a style, but I love the one I chose, and It was quite easy to install. It was only slightly tricky because of the big doorway to the kitchen, but nothing a precision knife could not fix. As I mentioned before, you would be surprise what you can achieve in your apartment space if you do some research. My curtain rods happen to be tension rods, therefore no need to drill screws into the wall, but you also have to be willing to invest into solid pieces. Many of my items come from places like IKEA, H&M Home and HomeGoods, but I did spend money on what I felt were necessary items like my bed. But being from Connecticut where there was always access to tag sales (or garage sales), I was able to get some of my furniture that way as well.

Mirror // Removable Wallpaper // Doorbell (alternative) // Artificial Plant

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What are you reading right now?

I am notorious for reading too many books at once, but I am currently listening to the audio book of Hunger by Roxane Gay, and re-reading A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle in preparation for my classroom read-aloud for the kiddos starting in October.

What’s your favorite way to spend a Friday night?

Lately, it’s curling up on my couch and listening to my favorite podcasts (currently loving Unhappy Hour with Matt Bellassai) with a glass of rosé in hand.

Tell us about your beauty routine; what are some of your favorite products?

As I have gotten older, I have been much more involved in my daily skincare regimen. I currently love using TATCHA Polished Classic Rice Enzyme Powder. It literally makes me feel like I have a new layer of skin on my face after I use it. The Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes for when I am on the run and perfect after spin class, and Orgaid Revitalizing Organic Sheet Mask is always part of my Sunday self-care day and gives me a nice glow after use. I do not wear much makeup during the week because I feel as though it’s unnecessary for the classroom, though I do make sure I fix my brows with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz before I even step out of the house.

How do you sparkle?

I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, so I asked my friend, Bethany Everett, who I met through Instagram, and she said the following: “[You are] real…honest would be [more] accurate. You’re also loyal almost to a fault, but that’s what makes you a great friend. And you are the queen of matchmaking,” which I think is her way of saying that I love bringing my friends together from all aspects of my life. I am big on wanting all the close people I know to become friends themselves. It makes me happy when that happens, and it in turn validates my importance to them for me in a weird way.

Large Framed Art Print // Couch

Like this home tour? Check out: Step Inside A Dreamy 1940s Sausalito, California, Home // Elizabeth Jindrich’s Home Blends Old World Elegance With Modern Charm // Ashley Kane’s Sophisticated Gray And Gold Home Tour

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Author: Caitlin Kruse

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