Style For Rent

With all-inclusive living driving the amenities market, many in the luxury sector are renting once more. Marshall Erb shares his tips for resourceful, rental-friendly home decor that won’t break the bank.

By Elise Hofer Shaw

The pandemic has been shaping a lot of interior design trends over the last eighteen months: antibacterial upholstery and hardware, floor plans made for spreading out, and super sophisticated HVAC systems, just to name a few. But it’s the pursuit of wellness—peace of mind and health of body—that Marshall Erb, lead designer at Marshall Erb Design in Chicago, says is here to stay. “For most, day-to-day wellness means having easy access to the things that bring about mental and physical wellbeing; things like a professional gym, a pool, a spa, a meditation room or, say, sophisticated work from home spaces and entertaining feng shui… It really depends on the person.” And, according to Erb, it’s this wave of wellness seekers who are responsible for the rental upswing of late. “The luxury rental market is booming because high-volume buildings tend to have the best amenities,” adds Erb. “Renting also makes a lot of sense for our clients who have large vacation properties out West or in Florida, for example, yet want to downsize to a pied-à-terre in the city with built-in lifestyle perks.”

Here, Erb details his design moves for bringing big impact to rental properties (sans a big investment)—and where to focus the most attention…

Moonlight Wallpaper Mural by JOYFIRE by Beth Glover for Mitchell Black.


Marshall Erb: Removable wallpaper is a category that is gaining traction in the industry. A lot of high-end vendors are now offering it, including one of our favorites, Mitchell Black. A minority- and female-owned business you can feel good about supporting, Mitchell Black digitally prints its peel-and-stick wallpapers in a myriad of fun patterns and saturated colors. With a variety of playful options, their wallpapers are a noncommittal way to add personality to a rental space. Better still, and particularly unique to Mitchell Black, is that they offer several ‘grounds’ [the intermediate layer upon which the decorative layer is printed], so you can pick and choose from different textures for added dimension. Plus, if an all-over paint-like look is more your speed, they have a cool product called Paint-Less, which provides a solid color on a wallpaper base that is super easy to install and remove. And get creative! If you don’t want to commit to wallpapering a full wall, try using a temporary wall covering to line your dresser drawers, to add a pop of color to the inside of a bookcase, or to create an impactful backsplash.

The Sill delivers plants, pots, botanicals, and more direct to your door.


ME: If you can’t paint at all, which can sometimes be the case with a rental, consider bringing some drama into your space via colorful curtains. There are some wonderfully whimsical options on Etsy that can be customized to your desired height and width. (Always remember to measure 6-8 inches out and above your windows when taking curtain measurements, then add 2X of the rod length for the fullness.) Velvet is the best option if you want your drapes to hold their shape. And while a monochromatic look can wow, a flirty floral or geometric curtain moment will draw the eye in—and, because they fall against the walls, will give the illusion of depth. And remember… Never be afraid to be bold with color and pattern selections in a small space. Believe it or not, vivid colors and oversized patterns can make a small room feel expansive and interesting.

For an easy infusion of vitality and organic color, adopt a few plant babies! Live plants are an affordable way to brighten up a rental abode. There are a bevy of on-demand options out there today that will help you curate a collection of house plants to suit your environment and aesthetic. Online vendors like The Sill and Bloomscape will even deliver right to your front door. Check out The Sill’s ‘Easy-Care Collection’ for low-maintenance plant picks that will thrive. If you are a new plant parent, start with Snake or ZZ plants which are both drought and low light tolerant. Bonus: Studies have proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity by up to 15 percent, reduce stress levels, and boost your mood, making them perfect for not just your home but your workspace, too.

A pioneer in the urban furniture space, CB2 is a reliable resource for scaled-back sofas and tables.


ME: Personally, I think that rental furniture is terribly wasteful. Because the mindset is that these pieces are temporary, most people are hesitant to make a real investment. Thus, the furniture tends to be low quality and destined for the dumpster at the conclusion of your rental period. Instead, try sourcing vintage finds or antiques at thrift shops to fill your provisional space—and give a buffet or an ottoman a new chapter. However, if your space is just too tight or quirky for standard-size furniture, there are some great companies that have come out with smaller-scaled collections for urban spaces. A recent collection by Nina Magon for Universal features a slew of contemporary pieces with delicate proportions that work well in compact spaces. The prices are approachable yet there’s no skimping on the details, materials and finishes. Also, retailers like CB2 have really expanded their furniture lines over the years, and are featuring well-proportioned and stylish pieces that can be incorporated into downsized spaces. Like with fashion, a high/low look can come off as sophisticated if you style it right.


Nina Magon’s new furniture collection for Universal has great pieces for small spaces, including the Rockwell round end table shown here.


ME: Don’t forget the floors! A beautiful rug can pull together a space, make it feel more comfortable, and ground a color scheme. Being open to pattern play applies to your rugs, too. And, if you’re willing to hunt, giving a rug a second life is environmentally responsible. Not to mention, a little storied wear on a rug—slight discoloration, uneven fringe—can balance out any pristine big-box purchases you may have had to make.