Rachel HosieJul 28, 2020, 16:15 IST

An interiors YouTuber made over her rental apartment into the millennial dream home on a budget

  • Alexandra Gater is an interiors YouTuber with 315,000 subscribers.
  • She specializes in making over millennials’ rental apartments (AKA small homes) on a budget, and one of her best projects is the Toronto home she’s lived in for the past 18 months.
  • Gater talked Insider through her apartment renovation, sharing helpful tips along the way, and the before and after photos are drastically different.
  • When she moved in, the apartment looked like a typical uninspiring rental, and Gater has turned it into a stylish millennial dream home.

This is Alexandra Gater, a 28-year-old interiors YouTuber who makes over millennials’ small, mostly rental, properties on a budget.

This is Alexandra Gater, a 28-year-old interiors YouTuber who makes over millennials' small, mostly rental, properties on a budget.
Lauren Kolyn

One of her best makeovers is, of course, her own Toronto apartment, where she’s lived since December 2018.

When she moved into the apartment, it looked like a typical rental.

When she moved into the apartment, it looked like a typical rental.
Lauren Kolyn

The decor was fine, but lacking in personality and style. Gater swiftly changed this though.

Now, her living room is feminine but sophisticated, full of cozy furnishings and style.

Now, her living room is feminine but sophisticated, full of cozy furnishings and style.
Lauren Kolyn

One of Gater’s biggest tips is to give your home a fresh coat of paint in a light, bright color when you move in.

“Pay the extra money to have it freshly painted white or whatever color you want. It made such a difference when we moved in, it really felt fresh,” she said.

Gater also recommends reupholstering your couch: She got a custom cover for a standard Ikea sofa.

“I love it because I really wanted a pink couch, but I didn’t want to invest in a $3,000 pink couch that I’d be stuck with for a long time,” she said.

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A cozy rug is also essential — make sure it’s big enough for your main furniture though, rather than just floating in the middle of the room.

A cozy rug is also essential — make sure it's big enough for your main furniture though, rather than just floating in the middle of the room.
Lauren Kolyn

“If you’re in a living room space, any furniture should sit on the rug, but when you’re working in a small space, that can be hard,” Gater said.

“So I actually turned my rug vertically, and this way all the furniture fits on it. It actually makes a space bigger.

“You never want a small rug floating in the middle of the room. It should really anchor all of your furniture.”

Gater created a gallery wall and invested in a wall-mounted TV that, when it’s not on, can display artwork of your choice.

Gater created a gallery wall and invested in a wall-mounted TV that, when it's not on, can display artwork of your choice.
Lauren Kolyn

She stores cables and other odds and ends in baskets to keep them hidden away, and like any millennial, has plenty of house plants.

“I’m all for throwing things in baskets because they look really pretty, and you can’t see the clutter,” Gater said.

In the entry area to her apartment, Gater hacked an Ikea cabinet into a sanitary, discreet place to store her cat’s litter box, while also providing a surface to keep her keys.

In the entry area to her apartment, Gater hacked an Ikea cabinet into a sanitary, discreet place to store her cat's litter box, while also providing a surface to keep her keys.
Lauren Kolyn

She got rid of the curtains to let all the light in, and the large mirror reflects it, making the room look bigger.

One of Gater’s most creative ideas was to turn a closet into an office.

One of Gater's most creative ideas was to turn a closet into an office.
Lauren Kolyn

When she’s not working, Gater can close the door and relax in the living room.

Gater’s bedroom has undergone a “drastic” change.

Gater's bedroom has undergone a "drastic" change.
Lauren Kolyn

When she moved in, it was dark and on the dingy side, so Gater’s main priority was to brighten it up.

She got rid of the heavy blinds and added light curtains on a pretty gold curtain rod, hung higher than the window frame to create the impression of higher ceilings.

She got rid of the heavy blinds and added light curtains on a pretty gold curtain rod, hung higher than the window frame to create the impression of higher ceilings.
Lauren Kolyn

As well as giving the room a fresh coat of white paint, she also added a pretty headboard to the bed, stylish gold wall lights, and crisp white bed linen.

Gater wanted her bedroom to be a calming sanctuary where she could retreat at the end of the day, so kept her color scheme light and neutral.

Gater wanted her bedroom to be a calming sanctuary where she could retreat at the end of the day, so kept her color scheme light and neutral.
Lauren Kolyn

A big plant adds freshness, and she roughly painted her Ikea lampshade white to lighten it up.

“It’s such a bright, calm space that I just love being in the end of the day,” Gater said.

On one wall, Gater painted her own design to create a wallpaper effect with a rustic feel.

On one wall, Gater painted her own design to create a wallpaper effect with a rustic feel.
Lauren Kolyn

Like in the living room, the stylish mirror reflects light.

She had a custom set of shelves built by a friend, which aren’t screwed to the wall so can be removed when she leaves.

She had a custom set of shelves built by a friend, which aren't screwed to the wall so can be removed when she leaves.
Lauren Kolyn

And this is one part of the room that injects a welcome pop of color.

The books are organized by color, both horizontally and vertically, and styled with cute trinkets to make the shelves aesthetically pleasing.

The books are organized by color, both horizontally and vertically, and styled with cute trinkets to make the shelves aesthetically pleasing.
Lauren Kolyn

“It looks like a rainbow on my bookshelf,” Gater said.

When she moved in, Gater’s bathroom was an off-yellow color with impractical narrow shelves.

When she moved in, Gater's bathroom was an off-yellow color with impractical narrow shelves.
Lauren Kolyn

“The bathroom was the worst room in the whole house,” Gater said.

“There was this light that was rusted, chipped, and falling apart, and terracotta tile that was just so old, it looked like it belonged in a gym changing room.”

First things first, Gater had the bathroom freshly painted.

First things first, Gater had the bathroom freshly painted.
Lauren Kolyn

White walls instantly brightened up the room, and an accent wall at the back injected more personality.

Bringing in a new light and a “visually interesting” mirror added instant style, and Gater made the most of the horizontal space with a long shelf.

Bringing in a new light and a "visually interesting" mirror added instant style, and Gater made the most of the horizontal space with a long shelf.
Lauren Kolyn

Gater considered painting the terracotta tile white, but ultimately decided to lay down peel and stick flooring with a black and white star design, which she’ll simply lift off when she leaves.

“It’s a really great way to add some color and pattern that isn’t permanent,” she said.

Gater’s kitchen was very plain when she first moved in.

Gater's kitchen was very plain when she first moved in.
Lauren Kolyn

“The kitchen was in OK shape, but it was just old and kind of falling apart,” Gater said.

So, with her landlord’s approval, she decided to do a mini renovation.

Gater’s kitchen transformation is huge, and it now looks straight out of Pinterest.

Gater's kitchen transformation is huge, and it now looks straight out of Pinterest.
Lauren Kolyn

She has exposed shelving which displays colorful dried goods stored in mason jars.

Plants, artwork (many people forget about both of those in their bathrooms and kitchens, Gater said), and small touches like decanting washing up liquid and soap into stylish containers complete the look.

“It’s all those little details that really make such a big difference,” said Gater.

Gater had new countertops installed and created the look of tiles with a peel and stick backsplash.

Gater had new countertops installed and created the look of tiles with a peel and stick backsplash.
Lauren Kolyn

“It took me 15 minutes to do the backsplash and it just makes such a difference,” Gater said.

“I was originally going to go for white and then I was like, you know what, I’m just going to do the pink. In a small space, doing a color like that is so fun.

“I kept all of the cabinets, but I repainted them, which also made such a massive difference,” she said.

Before, the cupboards had pretty boring knobs, which Gater replaced with cute ones.

Gater’s apartment has a mini loft area that’s useful for storage, but it’s exposed and was hard to reach.

Gater's apartment has a mini loft area that's useful for storage, but it's exposed and was hard to reach.
Lauren Kolyn

Gater decided to keep it as a storage space, but store her things neatly in smart Ikea lockers and add plenty of greenery to create the feel of a plant oasis.

She also added a rolling library ladder — these are usually really expensive, but Gater made her own with a normal ladder and a kit bought on Amazon for around $100 (she got a contractor to install it).

Gater believes investing in your rental apartment is worth it because you can take everything with you when you go.

Gater believes investing in your rental apartment is worth it because you can take everything with you when you go.
Lauren Kolyn

“A lot of people have an issue with pouring money into a rental and I totally get that, but for me, it’s making changes (maybe not so much in the kitchen), that I can bring to another space with me,” she said.

“All the lights that I’ve changed, I’m not going to leave them here. I’m going to change them back to their original fixtures.

“When it comes to renovating or redecorating rental apartments, it’s not about pouring money into structural changes. It’s about investing in pieces that you love.

“And if I was to ever move, all of this stuff would come with me and I would recreate it in my next apartment.”

Read more:

6 incredible balcony makeovers show how you can turn a small outdoor space into a beautiful oasis

A British couple turned their garden shed into an authentic and stylish private pub in just 3 days for $600

Interior designers reveal the biggest mistakes people make when they decorate their homes

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