Design for Renters: Reversible Interior Design | Albie Buabeng | Skillshare

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Design for Renters: Reversible Interior Design

teacher avatar Albie Buabeng, Writer and Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What You'll Need


    • 3.

      Changing Out Hardware


    • 4.

      Swapping Out Lights


    • 5.

      Installing Temporary Wallpaper


    • 6.

      Patching Walls


    • 7.

      Final Thoughts


    • 8.

      Q&A with Emily Henderson


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About This Class

Whether you’re renting your home or just struggle with committing to an aesthetic, reversible design has your back!

Albie Buabeng is queen of reversible design: when she had her daughter, Albie and her partner were living in a studio in Hell’s Kitchen, and Albie turned all of her design know-how into making that studio a true home for her family. As a long-time renter, Albie knows first-hand the struggle of trying to make your home feel like you when you’re also trying to make sure you’re not going to lose your sweet, sweet security deposit — and what she learned through her experiences, she’s now passing on to you!

Now a homeowner, Albie knows these design tips and tricks are useful for folks who own their homes, too; after all, who doesn’t like to change it up sometimes? In this fun, hands-on class, you’ll learn:

  • The basic tools you need to have in your home
  • How to swap out your light fixtures
  • The best way to patch your walls
  • The joy of temporary wallpaper

… and more! Join in and explore the world of reversible design!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Albie Buabeng

Writer and Designer


As an interior design content creator and freelance writer, Albie specializes in connecting her decor-obsessed audience with beautiful pieces and functional design to transform their ordinary spaces into extraordinary dreamscapes, and she has had the honor of working with clients and brands all over the country. Summer 2019, she released her first published book, Curate The Home You’re In: Effortlessly Create Your Everyday Dreamscape. The self-published title has served to encourage homeowners and renters alike to fall in love with their spaces again. 

After nearly three years of leveraging the power of online interior design, she has shiftedher passion for designpreneurship in the digital space by founding The Design Influence, a podcast and online comm... See full profile

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1. Introduction: I've rented all of my life so for me, I just want to demystify all of the ideas of what you can't do and show people what they can do. Hi, my name is Albie, and I'm an interior stylist and decor specialist. I specialize in decoding spaces and curating them for the way we live now. Today I'm going to be sharing with you my favorite tips for reversible design. No matter where you live, you can have a great home and undo it later whether you change your mind, have commitment issues, or just want your security deposit back. Most of what we fear, whether it's our landlord saying no or destroying something, just starts with the willingness to take that chance. In today's class I'm going to take you through a few projects, starting with smaller projects that are really simple swaps, going all the way through to larger maybe weekend projects, but all within the realm of being reversible. To follow along you don't have to be the handiest person, although it does help. The simple tools that you'll need for these projects you can find at any home improvement store or really just home store in general. That's everything. I'll be showing you hands-on how to execute these projects in my own home that we just bought. Let's get started. 2. What You'll Need: I'm really glad you decided to join the class. Now let's get started. In the class today we are going to tackle three projects plus I'm going to show you how to undo or reverse your project. Starting with changing out hardware, which is something you can do whether it is changing the hardware on your door or changing the hardware on your cabinet, we're going to go up to swapping out or installing lighting that you can remove later. We're going to install peeling stick wallpaper and then when we're done, I'm going to show you how to undesign everything you did. Some basic tools you're going to need are going to be a screwdriver, whether it's a Philips or a flat head, is going to be as to what types of screws you're removing if you're replacing hardware. You can also get a really compact drill. This isn't the most expensive or most high-end drill. You can pick it up at a store like Ikea and then just change out the parts to make up for having two of these. You'll need tape measure. It can be big or a small. You'll need something to make sure you have straight lines, a level. To draw straight lines, you'll need a pencil or a sharpie. Going into the wall, so it's make swaps to your lighting, you'll need to be able to find a stud, which is basically a fancy way of saying the wet in the wall, so stud binder. For your removable wallpaper you will need something to make sure it is being smoothed out and you'll also need something to cut. For the items that were hanging, depending on the types of wall you'll have, you'll need some screws and possibly some anchors. Of course you're going to need this things you're replacing, so you're peeling stick wallpaper. When I'm shopping for peeling stick wallpaper, one of the first things I like to do is check out traditional wallpaper manufacturers. Nowadays, a lot of them offer peeling stick options for their designs. But if you're new to the world of wallpaper, you can also check out major retailers like Home Depot and Amazon for everything; from simple contact paper for smaller projects, to large murals to cover an entire wall. Your hardware, and this can be door hardware, cabinet hardware, any hardware your heart desires. Lastly, you'll need something to undo it all and that is going to be a simple wall patch kit. In case you don't have some of these items, there are a few ways that you can substitute. For example, if you don't have an actual level, you can always use tape to be your guide. Now that you know what you need, go grab you tools, and let's get started with changing out your hardware. 3. Changing Out Hardware: First up we're going to do a really simple reversible upgrade and that is changing our hardware. Now when you think of hardware, you might just be thinking cabinets, but really it's anywhere that there's a screw involved. That could be door knobs, that could be your entrance knobs, that could also be your switch and light plates. As long as there's a screw that you can remove with a screwdriver or a flat head, this applies. Changing on your hardware, whether it's your front door or your kitchen cabinets, is such an easy way to personalize and add a little bit of your own flair to any space. It's a really quick solution that's easy to undo and can also travel with you from home to home. Just remember when you're switching out your hardware, keep the old hardware, whether it's in a specific baggy or using the packaging of your new hardware, you want to make sure you have the old one available for you to put back when it's time for you to leave. When you're thinking about hardware depending on where you're putting it, you have quite a few options. When you're thinking about kitchen cabinet, bathrooms, closet doors, you get to have a little bit more fun and be playful with the colors and patterns that you choose. There are a lot of options that look custom without the custom price tag that you can get at a number of home improvement stores as well as online. So if you're switching out light plates and switch plates, you're going to want to keep in mind that you want it to look like all the light plates and switch plates in that room, and not just the one. The same would apply to doorknobs, to bedrooms and front doors and exits like that. I'm going to switch the hardware on our new closets. This is such a simple way for me to elevate the entryway of our home while we still figure out what we want this to look like in the long run. For this, all you're going to need is a screwdriver. Depending on the screws, you might need a Philips screwdriver or a flat head and your replacement hardware. That's it. Now that you've gotten the old hardware out, don't forget to put it someplace where you can find it later. Depending on where you're changing your hardware, you're also going to want to double-check the size of the hole to make sure wherever you get to replace it will also fit. You're going to use a screwdriver to hold the screw and place in the back, and then just screw on the knob. In my case because the knob is smaller than the replacement, I would have to go in and do some touch-up paint, but otherwise, we're all done. Now I want you to go around your house and see what hardware changes you can make. Don't just limit yourself to the cabinets in the kitchen. Think about the bathroom, your dressers, your light plates, your front door, your closets. The possibilities are limitless as long as you have a little bit of time and some new cool hardware that you want to see you around your house. Next up, we're going to step it up a notch and install some reversible lighting solutions. 4. Swapping Out Lights: Now, we're going to tackle some reversible lighting solutions. What makes this reversible is the fact that it is plug-in, so that means no hard wiring, no electrician required. All you need are the right tools and this can be done with a skans and this can also be done for appended solution. First, you're going to need your lighting, in this case, we have the skans. You're also going to need you're screwing tools. Whether those are your manual screwdrivers or your drill, you're going to need you're screwing kits. If you're going to be going directly into the wall or if you're going into a stud, you'll need the appropriate kit. Lastly, at least in my case, you'll need a level to make sure that the light is straight and then a marking tool to make sure you know where you're going to put your holes. Reversible lighting solutions are one of my favorite go-to ways to elevate any space. Lighting is like the jewelry in any room you go into but whether you own or rent, you may not always have the luxury of wanting to deal with the actual electrical aspects. We got this skans when we live in our apartment and it was the perfect alternative to having nightstands in our master bedroom. This allowed us to have a light on each side of the bed without taking up any surface area on the nightstand, which we could then use for our phones, books, or anything else that we wanted to do. Now, that we own we're still going to be using these skanses, and even though we can run electrical through the wall and hardwire it, that requires a lot more time, a lot more labor, and a lot more money. This is still a perfect solution for us to get the additional lighting that we want without going through those more permanent steps. Now, if the skans is not for you, you can also do this with a pendant which is great for any room that doesn't have overhead lighting or anywhere that you want an alternative to recess lighting. You get a pending Swag kit which we'll also plugin and you can hook it to the ceiling with a ceiling hook and swag it right overhead just like you would a traditional pending. Whether you decide to do this on your wall or on your ceiling, the first thing you're going to need to do is decide where you want your light and where you can put your light. Depending on where you live, you may or may not need to use a stud as your grounding source. There are different stud finders. What I love about this one is that it actually stays on the wall because it's magnetic once it locates a stud. Other stud finders beep or light up when they locate a stud. Knowing that I have a stud here, I know that this would be a great place for me to put my light. If this isn't where I want the light and I feel like it would be best suited for my needs, I can always go directly into the wall. Whether or not you're using a stud would be the difference between these two kits: stud, no stud. The great thing about these kits is that they give you different sizes and the ones that's perfect for not working with the stud, it gives you different anchors. The anchors are important because you don't want your late to fall. Now that you know where you're going to anchor your light, you are going to mark the spots and in my case, I would mark the two holes where I wouldn't need to screw into the wall. Knowing that I have a stud in this location, that is where I would make those marks. This one is installed on a stud. Once we were able to locate it, we just marked where the screws are going to be, [inaudible] and then install the lighting. Without a stud, I would be using this kit. For this, you're going to need your drill tool. The bit that comes with the anchors, you would install, tie in, and then drill the hole directly where you make your markings. Once you have your holes in place, you'd put the appropriate size anchor depending on the weight of your light. Mine is pretty heavy, so I tend to go towards the green which holds the most amount of weight. Each kit will tell you the weight maximum for each size. With the anchor end, you can then screw in your light, plug it in, and now you have a new light source. I hammer helps to get the anchors in. Is not required, but it is definitely helpful. This goes faster with an electron drill but can also be done with a manual screwdriver. Can I go get my electric drill though so I can wrap this? Voila, following those tabs I just installed the skanses and now we have no lights. Next step we're going to tackle removable wallpaper. 5. Installing Temporary Wallpaper: One of my favorite reversible design solutions is peel and stick anything. Whether it's contact paper for my countertops or removable wallpaper for my walls. Yes, you can paint and painting allows you to change the colors. But the great thing about wallpaper is that it allows you to introduce patterns and textures that you otherwise would not have access to. Some of the reasons that I love using removable wallpaper as an alternative to painting is for the patterns, and the textures, and the designs. Creating these types of options while you're painting can get really complicated and really expensive. When you're going with just a flat pant, sometimes you have a hard time deciding on a color. Using wallpaper, even paintable wallpaper, lets you also play around with your color options before you land on one that you love. This also includes the fifth wall, the ceiling. It is okay to wallpaper your ceiling in the same way you would wallpaper your walls. Not all wallpaper is created equally in the same way then not all walls are created equally. Some wallpaper you'll find are thicker than others, and others are a little bit on the thinner side. This is going to matter because it's going to be really important to determine if you have smooth surface walls, textured orange peel walls, or really heavily textured walls like popcorn ceiling. Depending on the type of wall you have, that will make a big difference in choosing your wallpaper, the thickness, and the adhesive type. Your most common walls are going to be textured in some way, the orange peel texture. It's not as heavy as popcorn ceiling, but it's not completely flat or smooth. Most removable wallpaper these days provide adhesive grip that can hold on to even an orange peel wall. But this will ultimately be determined by the brand or manufacturer of the wallpaper you choose. The larger the manufacturer, the more options that they're going to be able to provide because they are taking their traditional wallpaper applications and translating them into removable wallpaper. This means you're more likely to find a thicker, stronger, adhesive, but one that is still removable when you're ready to turn over your apartment. If you do find yourself using a thinner wallpaper like the one that we're going to be using today, and your wall is textured, it helps if it has any kind of pattern to it. That will help camouflage the texture that might show through. In addition to your wallpaper, you're going to need some tools. You're going to need measuring tape. You want to measure twice and cut once. The last thing you want to do is make too many incorrect cuts and then end up running out of wallpaper. When you're making your cuts, you want to use a utility knife for the most precise cuts so that you get the most seamless application. To also keep it seamless, you're going to make sure you're using a smoother. As you apply the wallpaper, you want to make sure the patterns lineup, but there are also no bubbles in the wall. Wallpaper with heavy patterns that repeat are going to require a more precise cut, which is going to require more precise measuring. You want to be mindful of where each pattern ends and repeats. If it's not a singular pattern like the one we're using today, you're going to need some match up every single cut. When you're purchasing your wallpaper, be sure to look at the details. The manufacturers will let you know how often each pattern repeats. So whether it's every three feet or every six feet, that is how you'll know where to make your cuts in addition to making sure that you make cuts that are appropriate for your walls. Installing removable wallpaper can easily be done by one person, but is always helpful to have a second pair of hand to smooth out the wallpaper as you unroll the backing. To make sure you have the best application you want to do so on a clean wall. What that means is simply wiping it down with a damp cloth and then drying it to clear off any dust or debris. Installing wallpaper is a lot easier than it sounds. The first thing you're going to want to do is make sure you line it up with the largest part of the walls. From corner to corner, starting from the top all the way down to the bottom. You're going to move across horizontally until you've covered an entire wall. If your wall has any weird cuts like doorways or slopes, you will address those afterwards, measuring and cutting the appropriate pieces. If it is a wall that has any outlets or switches, you're going to want to remove the plate covers beforehand. Once you start to apply the wallpaper, starting at the very top and working your way down, you're going to use the smoother following along, straight down as you pull down the backing. This is where having an extra pair of hands definitely comes in handy because one of you can be smoothing while one of you is pulling down the backing. If it's just you tackling this, you're going to want to give yourself some extra slack and pull down the backing a little bit further down. Apply the wallpaper and then smooth out that section going a couple of inches at a time. Depending on the length of your wallpaper, if you're doing this alone, it's also okay to let it roll all the way down to the floor. This frees both your hands so that one can smooth while the other one is pulling down the backing. Removable wallpaper is also really forgiving if you make a mistake, pill it, backup and reapply, and keep going. You'll see with this one that it has a tone on tone pattern because this is a thinner wallpaper that helps camouflage the Amish peel texture of my walls. See how easy that is. Now, I want you to think about where you could introduce peel and stick wallpaper in your home. Whether it's to do an entire room, an accent wall or the fifth wall. Next up, we're going to do some undesigning and I'm going to show you how to patch up and actually reverse some of the work that we've done. 6. Patching Walls: I went ahead and remove the light fixtures because now we're reversing our reversible designs. As you can see, we now have four holes that need to be patched to put this wall back into top shape. Maybe you are removing them because you're moving out or maybe because you want to move the lights somewhere else. What you're going to need is a wall repair kit. You can get this at any home improvement store and it comes with your putty for patching as well as the applicator for smoothing. There are different kinds of patch kits. Some change color when it's dry, some don't require any sanding. You're going to choose the one that best fits your needs and just how easy you want the process to be. But they all go on the same way. When you're patching the wall, one thing to remember is that you may have to paint depending on the color of the original wall that you patched. If you moved into a home where the walls were a really rich beige, when you patch it, you are going to have to get the paint to color match the wall. But if it was a very light white, there is a chance that you'll be able to patch and lightly buff it and it will blend into the wall. One thing to keep in mind is that you're patching something that you did that made you happy. If you know that you can live with taking 10 to 30 minutes to patch the holes that you made and possibly match the paint, then it is absolutely going to be worth it. Don't let the fear of having to undo the design keep you from actually creating something that you're going to love. The one I'm working with now, this particular spackle does not require sanding. If you choose one that does require it, you're also going to need a sanding block or some thin sanding paper. Either one will work. The sanding is really just to even out the spackle once you've applied it to the wall. Mine doesn't require it, so we're just going to apply a thin coat, let it dry, and most of them are quick dry, less than 30 minutes. This is helpful if you do have to paint once you're done. Because the holes with the anchors are a little bit larger, I had to apply more spackle to cover the area. But as you can see, it seamlessly blends into the wall so no sanding is required. Now we let it dry. What you have now is a surface that's smooth enough to paint on it you need to. The packaging of the spackle you purchase will let you know whether or not it needs sanding. Some are lightweight and they aren't going to need it, whereas others are a little bit thicker and you're always going to need to get that fine finish before you can apply it to the wall. It will say directly on the packaging and that's going to be what helps you decide which one to get versus another. Sanding is going to be especially important if you do have to paint to repair the wall. When you're applying the spackle, there really is no science to it. You want to start with small sections to make sure you cover the hole first. It will naturally go into the hole and you're using the tool just to scrap off any excess. You scrap and reapply as needed until you see that the hole and the surface is fully covered. What I like to do with every scoop, I like to make sure I remove the excess on the other side. After applying it, I remove that excess and use the clean side to smooth it out. Now that we're putting this wall back to its original state, lets take down the wallpaper. It's just as easy, probably easier. All you need to do is find one of the corners of each panel that you applied and pull down. Damage free. Depending on your wall texture and what kind of paint you had underneath the wallpaper, you may find that there are specks that do come off. Just like with patching the holes, the simple coat of paint will solve that when you're done. As you can see, we were able to put this wall back to its original state and undesign it and reverse everything that we did. My challenge to you is to think about all of the home projects you've avoided for fear of the long-term damage. Instead, think about the long-term happiness. 7. Final Thoughts: Congratulations you did it. I'm really happy that you made it to the end with me. But did it really happen if we don't have pictures? I'd love to see what you created today, so be sure to upload everything to your project gallery. Thanks again for hanging out with me. Bye. 8. Q&A with Emily Henderson: Thanks everyone for taking Albie's class. I hope you feel less stressed than you did before taking the class about designing your own home. What I love about Albie so much is that she really takes design and makes it more approachable and less intimidating. Don't forget to check out the other two designers in the Design Showcase, we have Arlyn Hernandez and Mikel Welch, and the links to those classes are in the description below. Thanks, guys. Albie, how are you doing? A bit tired, but good. Let me ask you this, it has to do with your Skillshare class. Now that you are a homeowner, are you having to re-frame how you design, because you've always designed for this reversible design, which, by the way, it's such a genius way to say it. For renters, it's reversible, even for homeowners. Anyway, I want to applaud you and I want to steal that phrase. It's so good. Are you having to think differently now? Yes and no, because I think with the reversible design of it all, is also like a budget consciousness. How much money we can and/or want to put into something, and also just how much time. Some things we know we won't reverse, at the better time or something. It's just forced us to re-prioritized. Would we want to reverse this later? No? Okay, do it permanent. Maybe grab the contact paper and be on your way. Yeah. I'm always impressed, but also, I have a lot of questions about the people that do major renovations in phases. When you see these people, especially online, doing, "Well, this is our Phase 1 bathroom." Wow, they put a lot of work into Phase 1, but it's still better than keeping the original for five years when you hate it, when you're miserably going into it. For us, my phasing is more room by room versus pieces of the room by pieces of the room. We knew certain things we were going to be happier if they were done sooner rather than later, like the laundry, our media room, our kitchen, our living room, because we're going to be using them all the time. I've done a little bit reversible and a little bit permanent. The permanent, I know, that's what we want. We've agreed, we had a family meeting, everyone voted for them. Whereas the reversible stuff they say, "It's not the end of the world, this needs to be re-done in six months." kind of thing. I'm in the throws of writing this book that's due next week, so I'm not trying to plug it right now, but truly, all I think about is renovation right now. There's some more macro design advice that I'm trying to give for people that are starting, and one of them is to try and really live in your space, or at least really picture how you're going to live in the space before you, especially when you're moving walls and all that. I know, for our kitchen, for example, it worked out for us that we didn't do it immediately, because they had done some stuff, and they have things that I know are newer, so like just the drawer systems and things like that. Living with their updates helped me finalize my cabinet design. "Oh, I do like having a drawer on this side." It's not something I had initially thought of. Or, "Oh, I hate having doors on this side." Those little things. If I hadn't lived with their design, and I do believe in living with a space for a period of time, seeing how you live. That really helped us with the kitchen. That's how we decided to just bust open the laundry room door, because we knew the way I go in and out of there, that little doorway would have eventually driven me insane. Whether the appliances were smaller or not, it just would have felt super confining and tight. Those little things, we flipped two rooms because [inaudible] we're like, "This feels better over here." Things like that. I wonder if, because people aren't coming into our homes as much, that we feel, especially first timer or people that wouldn't consider themselves design novices, feel a little bit more willing to take a risk, because they like, "Well, it just doesn't look good, nobody's going to come in and see it for a while." There's two camps of people before: there was the people that loved doing design and really did value what their home looked like, then there's the other people that were paralyzed, they wanted their house to look better, but they didn't necessarily know how to go about it. They just didn't do anything. They cared about their outfits more because their outfits are outside, and their cars, but not their homes, where they're just like, "I just hope nobody comes over." But I think that now, because nobody's coming over, there's a little bit more freedom to just try stuff, because you have to stare at those walls. You may as well make them better for you, and if it doesn't look good, nobody's going to really see it, and then you can change it. I think even though people are coming over, they're just more willing to add that as a necessary piece of their life, as a piece of who they are. Yeah, for them. [inaudible] world, even though we're actually not showing up. There's a bit of that happening, but the pressure for it to be perfect is gone. It's like, "Well, if I cut this wrong, I can re-cut it or I can cover it with something else." I've taken quite the many shortcuts myself, because I know no one will know but me. You're even a blogger and a more public personality. I totally agree, though. You know how I feel about perfection, I don't really believe in it, for me anyway. I don't think it does anybody, mentally, a favor in the design world. Albie, it's so good to talk to you. I am excited about your Skillshare class, so is my audience, they are going to love it. It was nice to see you. I am excited to share. I think everyone will love it, but also just find it useful, at least that's my hope. I'm excited, and I'm glad that I get to share this thing that I love doing with other people as well.