It’s spring here in Chicago (kinda) so it’s time to start putting away the heavy winter coats and opting for light layers instead. This head to toe Rebecca Minkoff look is perfect for these early spring days where it’s sunny in the mornings, but still pretty cool in the evenings.
Unless money is no object and you can afford the deluxe apartment in the sky, there’s a good chance there’s going to be something about your apartment you wish you could change. Whether it’s the bland paint on the walls or the outdated tiles in the bathroom, some things just don’t spark joy …no matter how hard you try.
But rather than get to work making improvements, many renters resolve to “just deal.” It’s not “yours,” you don’t plan to stay long, or you think it will cost too much. None of those things are true if you don’t want them to be.
If you’re renter, there are a lot of budget-friendly options that won’t break the bank, risk your security deposit or upset your landlord. So, let’s get into them!
While it’s the first most people think of when it comes to sprucing up a space, painting also seems to be the thing that most people are terrified of doing—especially renters. Thoughts about lease restrictions, lost security deposits and impending world doom sends all renters into a panic. But there’s really nothing to panic over.
A lot of times it boils down to simply asking. Most landlords are going to be really flexible when it comes to painting. They may require you to paint it back—or at least prime—before you move out, but it’s a small price to pay to live in an apartment that feels like home. But more often than not, landlords are grateful for the “free” upgrades and will even pay you (or deduct from your rent) for changes you make that increase the value or appeal of the property.
That said, in more complicated situations it may require some crafty negotiating. For example, if you’re resigning the lease, you could request to be allowed to paint before resigning. But in my experience, even when my lease put restrictions on painting, all I simply had to do was ask. In the 6 apartments I’ve lived in on my own—in Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City—I’ve never been told no.
But if all else fails and your landlord won’t budge, there are still tons of other options to spice up your apartment.
Paint color: “Quaking Bog” – Valspar Paint
2. Removable Wallpaper
Wallpapering seems to be another topic that makes renters a little nervous. But if there’s nothing to worry about with painting, there’s less than nothing to be worried about when it comes to removable wallpaper. It’s incredibly easy to install and even easier to remove. It won’t damage your walls or leave behind any sticky residue. Your landlord will never even know it was there!
Another great thing about removable wallpaper is that it’s available at every price point. I’ve used removable wallpaper in nearly every apartment I’ve lived—from my (broke) grad school days through “real” adulthood. So, trust me when I tell you there’s something out there for every budget. Two of my personal favorites are Tempaper (the first brand I ever used and recently featured in my kitchen reveal) and Drop It Modern (featured in my bedroom). But there are also other great options like Target, Chasing Paper, Walls Need Love, COLORAY, Wayfair and even Home Depot.
3. Light Fixtures
Landlords and property managers don’t tend to put a lot of thought or money into the light fixtures in rental properties. They tend to be unflattering and unattractive. Same goes for ceiling fans. But luckily, there’s an easy fix for that. Change them!
It’s as simple as removing the old fixture, putting it in a box for safe keeping and replacing it with something a little more your style. I know you’re thinking, “What about the wiring???” That part is easy, too! I did it myself in my office with just a quick YouTube tutorial. IMPORTANT: Just be sure you put everything back before you leave.
If rewiring is too far outside of your wheelhouse, you can always do simple plug-in pendants that attach to the wall with just a few screws. A few really great sources for inexpensive lighting options are Target and Lamps Plus.
BONUS: Changing out your lightbulbs from traditional soft white bulbs to daylight LED bulbs is a little thought about trick that can also do wonders for your decor…and your mood.
Not allowed to paint? Aren’t a fan of wallpaper? Still terrified to replace the light fixtures? Maybe being a plant parent is a better fit.
It’s cost effective and relatively low risk. Sure, if you totally neglect them, they may die. But usually even the most worse for wear plant can be saved with a little love…and perhaps a few YouTube videos.
I’ve really enjoyed owning plants. Check out my 8ft. Bird of Paradise, Nefi! There are so many life lessons you can glean from caring for a plant and they add so much life to a space… literally. They’re also pretty affordable at places like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and IKEA. You can also propagate your own plants from the clippings of pre-existing plants. But if you don’t have a green thumb and need a few tips, head over to my Insta-babe, Carmeon Hamilton’s blog for all of her expert tips.
5. Removable Tile/Backsplash
Of everything on this list, this is one I haven’t personally tried. But I’ve seen it done masterfully. You can take those outdated floor tiles or backsplashes in your kitchen or bathroom and bring them into this decade for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy a home, move out and then gut your entire bathroom.
Just like removable wallpaper, it peels off with no damage to the existing tiles or backsplash and leaves no sticky residue.
As the saying goes, “One man’s trash and is another man’s treasure.”
That could not be more true when it comes to furniture. Places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, yard sales, and flea markets are treasure troves! Particularly in large, transient cities where people come and go—seemingly at a moment’s notice—you can find great and often really unique furniture for a steal.
I particularly love the FB Marketplace. It’s all the same great finds from Craigslist without the anonymity and anxiety. I buy (and sell) things on the FB Marketplace all the time. It’s really one of my favorite secondhand sources.
Another great hack for secondhand shopping is the free section of Craigslist. Admittedly there’s a lot of literal trash in the free section, but it’s also tends to be a last resort for people who have simply run out of time to get rid of things. It’s 4am on Thursday, you’ve got a new job across the country that starts Monday and you’ve got to be out of your apartment by 5pm on Friday? Toss it on Craigslist for free and let the internet do it’s thing! You would be shocked at what you can stumble upon.
Though it wasn’t free, my bar cart was a Craigslist find. If you’ve ever shopped for a bar cart, you know it’s tough to find one under $200 …and the prices can go from ‘reasonable’ to ‘ridiculous’ pretty quickly. So when I saw this genuine Italian bar cart listed on Craigslist for $80, I nearly set my phone on fire typing out an email to the seller. I was in love! We arranged to meet up at her AirBnB property a few days later. When I arrived she actually lowered the price and sold it to me for $60. Score! (I also purchased a ceramic bust from her. pictured below)
Cheat code: I often browse Craigslist without searching for anything in particular. I just set a max price—in this case it was $100–and see if anything cool pops up. Hello, bar cart!
vintage genuine Italian bar cart: Craigslist, $60
7. Bargain Retailers
Don’t get me wrong, I love Z Gallerie, West Elm and CB2 as much as the next person. In fact, there’s a mirror from CB2 in my cart right now that I’m thinking of selling a kidney for. But if you’re fresh out of spare organs and still need to buy things like groceries, you can always find really great pieces at retailers like Marshalls, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Ross, Century 21, IKEA and even Amazon.
Floral Lamp from Marshalls; $49.99
8. Faux Stainless Steel
Just like with removable wallpaper and tiles, you can also use peel and stick paper (or in this case, film) to upgrade your kitchen appliances. Stainless steel film—sometimes in magnet form—is a quick and inexpensive way to spruce up your kitchen and give it a high end finish.
It can be placed over dishwashers, refrigerators, stoves and even drawers!
At the top of the year when everyone was making their New Year’s resolutions (and I was bogged down in a rebrand), I saw a lot of talk about picking a ‘word for the year.’ Though I’m not really big on making resolutions of my own, I did like the idea of sort of picking a theme to set the tone for the upcoming year. That said, I never got around to actually doing it, because like I said… rebrand.
But now that that is done and I’ve had time to reflect on what I envision for myself in 2019, I definitely think the word or theme for me this year is “improvement.” Specifically physical improvement. Over the last few years I’ve pored so much energy into career and finances that I feel like I let myself go. Not in the way most people mean when they speak of “letting themselves go,” but I just mean I put myself—my physical self—last.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a reason for that. In addition to needing to find my financial footing first, I also felt an immense amount of guilt having such a large social media platform and then using it to further push the idea of perfection that social media has become so notorious for. I didn’t want to be one more person on the internet sending the message that . And while some of the perceived “perfection”—edited photos, good lighting, curated feeds—comes with the job description, I also firmly believe that you can always pull back that curtain on those things and reveal that the o-so-powerful Wiz is really just a monthly subscription for Photoshop and a $20 ring light from Amazon.
“There’s a world of difference between unrealistic standards and self-improvement.”
But what about in real life? Could I change the (perhaps nitpicky? *shrugs*) things about myself that I wasn’t quite happy with without being guilty (or at least accused) of promoting unrealistic beauty standards? And if so, how do I pull back the curtain on that process without opening myself up to unwanted opinions about it? Because the unfortunate reality is, the internet is a weird place where people operate in absolutes. If you’re plus-sized and decide you want to lose weight, it means you’re no longer body positive. If you’re skinny and want to change that, you’re unnecessarily vain. Or worse…ungrateful. If you choose to close the gap between your teeth that everyone else thinks is unique and quirky…well, now you’re just plain ole boring. And if you really want to see how fast the sharks smell blood in the water, go under the knife!
Truth? There’s a world of difference between “unrealistic standards” and “self-improvement.” Self-improvement as determined BY YOUR OWN STANDARDS.
So, last year I finally got the Invisalign braces I’ve wanted (thanks Dentologie!), despite the fact that I’ve already had braces before and most people wouldn’t notice anything wrong with my teeth. This year, I hired a personal trainer and started working toward my own body goals, despite the fact that some people might consider my current body theirs. And last week, I started my journey toward flawless skin, despite the fact that a little foundation covers 99% of my skin issues.
“It’s 100% possible to love the you you are today and strive for a different—perhaps, better—version of yourself in the future.”
It’s not about “perfection” in the unattainable sense. It’s about giving yourself permission to find your own version of perfect. The version that makes you smile a little wider, buy those jeans you never thought you could wear, finally message your Instagram crush, or makes you feel healthier.
It’s 100% possible to love the you you are today and strive for a different—perhaps, better—version of yourself in the future. They can both come from a perfectly healthy place. Whether the changes are physical or not, so long as they’re truly for you (and you’re not hurting anyone), it’s okay to want those things for yourself.
Or you can stay just the way you are. That’s okay, too. :)
If you couldn’t tell by my rebrand, I’m all about not taking things I don’t love into the new year. If I’m not completely in love with something, it’s getting left behind. My kitchen design was one of those things I desperately wanted to leave in 2018.
I’ve been in my place for close to 2 years now and it’s still a work in progress. Trust me, if you want to learn patience, start trying to furnish and decorate your home. It seems like the list of things to do never gets any shorter. And if you’re like me, part of the reason for that is because you keep starting over.
When I initially began decorating my kitchen, I had my heart set on wallpapering my “breakfast nook.” But when I couldn’t find paper I liked (and that was removable since I rent), I let my impatience get the best of me and decided to go the stenciling route. The stencil design turned out pretty neat, but I just… didn’t love it. Even after living with it for the better part of a year I still wasn’t quite sold.
“My kitchen design was one of those things I desperately wanted to leave in 2018.”
So, I decided to follow my first mind and go back down the wallpapering route. But this time I wasn’t going to settle. I searched every website, hashtag, and decor aisle on the planet…or so it seemed. I searched for close to 6 months.
I’d find ones I liked and that “would work,” but nothing that felt like “the one.” So I kept searching. (Between dating and decor, this seems to be the current theme of my life. lol) And a few weeks ago, I hit pay dirt when Tempaper released their Genevieve “Intersections” print in a new color way—black on black!
It was perfect! Luxe and masculine with a feminine touch. All the things I look for in home decor.
Applying the wallpaper was so easy I was able to do it myself without any help. Tempaper sent me 3 rolls of paper to cover the area and I—even after accounting for pattern repeat—still have a pretty good amount left over. (About one roll.) But I did have to open and use all 3 rolls.
For example, with the height of my walls, I was able to get 3 full stripes out of each roll. The fourth strip; however, would not cover the full length of the wall. So, instead of creating an unwanted seam in the pattern, I simply opened a new roll and saved that “fourth strip” for the areas above and below the window. (Unfortunately, I can’t give you an accurate estimate for how long it took because I was working on several other projects at the same time. Sorry.)
My order also came with a squeegee, which was really helpful! It made smoothing out the paper and pressing out the air bubbles a breeze. I’ve applied wallpaper several times before, but I’ve always just smoothed by hand. This was a much better approach.
I’m still learning the art of styling and my kitchen counters are my newest challenge. It’s all about finding the balance between functional and “fashion.” What do I leave out because I actually use it but that won’t make the counter feel cluttered and an eye sore? And what do I add for pizazz and personality without losing valuable counter space?
I’ll let you guys know once and if I figure that out.
For many of us, change is one of the most uncomfortable things in the world. Yet, it’s the one thing that we all know we’re going to experience. Most of the time it happens without our permission, other times we choose it.
This is one of those times. I’m choosing change.
Those of you who have been with me for the long haul know that I’ve been blogging for nearly a decade. (Crazy, right?!) ‘Blake Von D’ began as a space where I was simply writing about the things that were happening in my life. I was completing my senior year at Spelman College and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life next and, honestly, didn’t feel like I had very many options. Although it had always been my dream to go to law school, I had let fear of rejection talk me out of even applying. The shame of that decision pushed me into a state of denial. To the point that I didn’t even really bother with applying for post-graduation jobs until it was much too late and by the time graduation rolled around, I was feeling pretty hopeless.
So, New Year’s Eve 2008, I started a blog.
I eventually found a job as an AmeriCorps member, but in all honesty, my heart wasn’t in it. I was so lost and broken on the inside, I didn’t have the heart to give. I had struggled through all of college with the realities of being a dark-skinned Black woman. Always comparing myself to lighter women and feeling that I didn’t measure up. I was also still trying to heal the wounds that came with growing up in foster care. All while floundering professionally and financially. Let’s just suffice it to say, I was a hot mess.
But instead of trying to fix what was broken, I buried myself inside this persona I had created. This woman—the internet version of Blake—who was bold, confident, driven and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. She was my Sasha Fierce. But in real life, I was anything but.
I embraced Blake Von D fully. I made her the woman I wanted to be and then I got busy pretending to be that woman.
“I made her the woman I wanted to be and then I got busy pretending to be that woman.”
And it worked for many, many years. As my little corner of the internet grew I—the real Blake—began to grow, too. I big chopped. I moved to NYC. I got a Master’s degree. I even made my way to law school. Finally, learned to love myself. I moved to Chicago. Passed the NY bar exam. I did it all. But then one day I looked up and realized, I had done all of those things as me, as Blake, and that person wasn’t getting enough recognition for her growth.
I began to feel suffocated and I wanted out. Badly. But like clockwork, that fear of change reared its ugly head.
Self-doubt made me wonder: “Would people accept plain ole Blake?” But there were also the career concerns. I had just recently decided to go full-time as an influencer and I questioned whether I had enough brand equity to detour now? I convinced myself the answer was ‘no’ and so I resolved to stay the same.
And I did…for 3.5 more years.
But, back in September, I decided to finally take the leap.
I was incredibly excited and immediately got to work bringing my vision to life. This was more than just a name change, for me. It was me finally stepping out of an alter ego and into me—just me—and a simple ‘edit profile’ wouldn’t be enough to mark the evolution. FOR ME.
This change was about giving myself (and anyone else who might be in a similar head space) permission to shed the things that no longer serve me. Whether it’s a career, a relationship, a friendship, or a hometown, I needed to make it clear you can leave it behind. You can move on. And it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the lessons or growth that period of my life provided, it just means I’m ready for new lessons.
But change isn’t always easy…and this change was no exception.
I hit many road blocks along the way. Many of them technical. Finding someone at Instagram to change my username was a nightmare. I couldn’t get my old content migrated onto the new site. My computer crashed. You name it. And, of course, I had moments where I second-guessed my decision from a branding perspective. People had grown attached to this version of me and, again, change is hard. For everyone. But I am under no obligation to be the same person I was a year ago, a month ago, a week ago.” Those who want to journey with me would understand that.
“I am under no obligation to be the same person I was a year ago, a month ago, a week ago.”
Now that it’s all said and done, I feel such a weight lifted and like I can finally move forward without that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I heard someone refer to me by a name I no longer felt connected to. I feel free. Much like I felt when I big chopped.
What you see is what you get. No glitz. No glam. No distractions. Just me.
If you know me you know I always wanted to be a ballerina when I was a little girl. Unfortunately, my family couldn’t afford ballet classes so I would go to the local library and check out books on ballet and try to teach myself. As you might guess, it didn’t really work, but I’ve never lost my love for the art. But you know what I don’t love? The color pink! If I had to rank my favorite colors, pink would be very last on the list. It’s such a soft and feminine color and wearing it makes me feel quite uncomfortable. It’s just not me.
Seriously, everything fits so well and hugs in all the right places. I felt super sexy in the set. And the inside of this hoodie is SO soft, expect to see me in it a lot. In fact, I’ve worn this hoodie almost every day since I got it. It’s perfect for both lounging and layering.
It’s great to see ballet attire evolving to meet the needs and personal style of the modern woman. A few other pieces I’m loving from the collection? The Principal Dancer leotard and onesie!
DISCLAIMER: This post was created in partnership with Shopstyle and lululemon, for which I was compensated. However, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who help make blakevond.com possible!
If you know me you, you know I love Z Gallerie. I have several of their pieces in my home (more room tours coming soon, I promise) and every time I visit their store or website, I find something else I love.
Well, they recently launched their new fall/winter collection and completely redesigned their stores, so you know I had to go check it out! Keep reading to see a few of my favorites.
One of the many things I love about living in Chicago? The fact that I don’t technically need a car to get around. One of the things I don’t like about living in Chicago? I don’t need a car to get around.
I’m one of those weird people who absolutely loves to drive. There’s nothing like being behind the wheel, windows down, singing your favorite tunes at the top of your lungs. It’s such an amazing feeling! Which is why I was incredibly excited to cruise around in this new 2018 Mazda6 on a recent trip home to Atlanta.
Mazda had the car waiting for me when I landed at the airport, which was super convenient after a long flight from San Francisco. And because driving without the music blasting is no fun, the first thing I did was sync my phone to the car’s bluetooth. Yep, even before I adjusted the mirrors. Priorities! haha.
For the next few days, I cruised around the city in style and comfort. The 2018 model has so much bells and whistles that made getting around a breeze. Built in navigation system (I’m a little rusty on directions since so much has changed in Atlanta since I moved), Heads Up feature in the windshield, sunroof…the works! It’s definitely a luxury vehicle experiences
I won’t lie, giving the car back was really tough and even though I’m back home in Chicago, I definitely miss driving and I miss the chic comfort I got to enjoy in the Mazda6. But that just means I need to plan another trip soon and do it all over again!
DISCLAIMER: This post was created in partnership with Mazda USA. However, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands who help make blakevond.com possible!
If you haven’t heard, this past weekend was the Create & Cultivate Conference here in Chicago. If you’re not familiar with Create & Cultivate, it’s “an online community and conference for women looking to create & cultivate the career of their dreams.”
I had the distinct pleasure of being invited as both a panelist and a mentor this year. On my panel, I was able to sit—and along with several other amazing women—discuss the Art of Negotiation. I was super nervous, but the one thing I wasn’t nervous about was what I would wear!
I partnered with JCPenney and for this year’s conference. So, the first thing I did when I arrived was head over to their style station to get a look at all of the goodies.
The styling and decor was so cute and very me! I had so many people message me to say that it looks a bit like my home office and it’s true. (Well, what it would look like if it were complete.) I couldn’t resist the urge to kick my feet up and make myself at home.
And, of course, I was also wearing JCPenney! I knew I wanted to be comfortable throughout the day and so I opted for a look that was more a “casual Friday at the office” vibe. A houndstooth blazer (that totally matched the JCPenney style station decor and was completely unplanned) along with a white button up, black wide leg pants and sneakers.
It was all very lightweight and breathable…which is a good thing because summer was in full swing that day!
After a long day of soaking up so much information and inspiration, JCPenney made sure we were able to cool off with a really cute happy hour just in time for Jennifer Hudson to arrive and end the day with a bang!
I’m so grateful to both Create & Cultivate and JCPenney for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with so many amazing women…and for making sure that I looked good while I did it!
I recently visited South Loop Loft’s new location in River North and fell in love with the vibe of the space. It’s so luxe and every piece in the room takes your breathe away. It’s so opulent that the second I saw it I started to picture myself in myself lounging around the space in a gorgeous ballgown. And then it dawned on me…why just picture it? Why not make it happen?!
Enter this Badgley Mischka gown from Rent the Runway! I knew it would be the perfect complement to the already stunning space at South Loop Loft. The smooth, velvety material had the same high end feel and worked so well with all the art in the room. So, I placed an order for a 4-day rental and prayed the final product would match what I saw in my head.
They turned out even better than I thought! I absolutely love the images. But when I saw them I couldn’t help but feel like, “Wow. This woman looks like someone who loves to be the star of the show.” And the truth is, that could not be further from the truth for me. That realization really made me think about my own personality.
Use code ‘BLAKEVONDPERK25‘ for 25% off your first order with Rent the Runway
You probably wouldn’t guess it based off the fact that I’m a blogger and share a great deal of my life online, but I’m a pretty reserved and observant person. Not that I’m shy (I’m not!)…I just love my space and when left up to me, I prefer to observe other people rather than interact with them. But in situations where I have to—or feel drawn to—jump in the mix, I have no problem holding court. (Though, I hate small talk.) But once it’s over, I definitely have to step away and recharge.
I’m not the type of person you can spring last minute plans on and if I do decide to go out, you can be sure I’m going to ask who and how many people are going to be there. I need to be able to mentally prepare myself to expend the necessary energy.
If you’ve ever met me in a social setting, you’re probably reading this and feeling very confused. Like, I said, I can hold court with the best of them. But if you’ve ever talked to me the day after a gathering of some sort, this all makes total sense to you. It’s usually during that time that I’m most ‘me.’ I’m quiet, pensive, and generally in my head. A lot. That said, I enjoy the occasional opportunity to leave my thoughts at the door and let loose!