Welcome back to What I Rent, our weekly series (out every Tuesday) that explores the reality of renting – the good, the bad, and the teeny-tiny.
This time around we’re in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US, to hang out with Stefanie (@couchstef on Instagram and TikTok), who works for a virtual tour tech company.
Stefanie and her fiancé, who works at a local brewery as a graphic designer, rent a one-bedroom apartment – along with the two one-year-old cats they adopted in quarantine, Adeline and Rue.
The couple have lived in the apartment for six years without any increase to their rent, and feel super lucky – despite limited space.
As Stefanie, 29, works remotely, she needs her home to feel comfortable and inspiring. She’s managed to achieve just that with plenty of landlord-approved DIY.
We chatted with her about what she rents.
Hey, Stefanie! How much do you pay to live here?
We pay $975 per month in rent.
We pay electric, gas and internet and split water with our upstairs neighbors (we live in a converted duplex). All our bills cost about $150 per month.
And what do you get for what you pay?
Our apartment is one bedroom and one bathroom and we also have a sunroom and a backyard. Our bathroom is only 5ft by 7.25ft!
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We live on the main floor of a converted historical home (duplex) and we have upstairs neighbors that live on the second and third floor.
Do you feel like you have a good deal?
We have an amazing deal. We moved into our apartment six years ago and our landlord has never raised our rent.
How did you find this property?
We found it on Craigslist.
Whereabouts is your home based? What do you think of the area?
My home is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a subsection of the city called East Falls.
It is a neighborhood about 10 minutes from center city that is located on the river where people enjoy biking running and being active. There are tons of small/family owned businesses that have anything you could need within walking distance from my home. The train is a five-minute walk and can take you directly to the city for just a few dollars. There are parks and hiking nearby that allow you to escape the city.
It feels like the perfect combination of urban convenience and green space.
How have you made the apartment feel like home?
We have been decorating and adjusting and making upgrades to our apartment since the day we moved in.
We consistently are reevaluating our home to function as well as possible. This is very important in a small space to keep things tidy and uncluttered.
I like to focus on bringing color and personality into my home by combining secondhand finds with comfortable and cozy pieces for functionality.
We utilize a lot of wall space, especially with our 9.5ft ceilings, to make the most out of every bit for storage since we only have one closet in our entire apartment.
Have you found it difficult to decorate when renting? Is your landlord happy with you doing bits?
We are very lucky to have a landlord that is very open to us decorating our space as we wish.
He has funded several upgrade projects, like a $400 bathroom refinishing project, painted countertops and backsplash installation, a custom closet upgrade and a full backyard makeover with an upgraded fence for less than $1,000.
Our landlord is open to almost all of our DIY projects and ideas and usually pays for all materials as well as comps our rent to pay us for the labor we provide since we have done all the projects as DIY.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
For the most part, we feel like we have enough space, but we do like to entertain and that is a real challenge in a one bedroom unit that is less than 600sqft.
We can’t host dinner parties with all our friends seated or comfortably host overnight guests but we are definitely comfortable here on a regular basis when it is just the two of us and our two cats.
The value of this space and what we’ve made it is far more special to us than having a big home for entertaining. We live walking distance to several friends in the neighborhood and love living here.
Are there any problems with the home you have to deal with?
This apartment was custom renovated in the 1980s by my landlord so it definitely has its quirks.
The bathroom walls were accidentally built inside the boundary lines of the room specs instead of outside, which made all the drawers on the right side of the vanity unable to open all the way because they hit the toilet. And the door to the bathroom is only 2 inches from the toilet.
We only have one standard sized closet in our entire apartment! So we’ve had to add several storage solutions optimizing the wall space we have instead.
It can also sometimes be difficult to live with upstairs neighbors as you can hear what sounds like bowling and tap dancing on some nights. But overall none of the quirks of our apartment are enough to bother us to move. We truly love our place and are so comfortable here.
Do you have plans to move again any time soon?
We do not, as we feel we’ve hit the jackpot with our unit/price/outdoor space and our supportive landlord who is now a friend.
Do you want to own a place some day or are you happy to rent?
We most definitely want to own someday but unfortunately given the housing market, that’s not possible for us right now.
We are happy to rent for now and have dreams of buying someday but are focused on saving for our wedding first.
Shall we take a look around?
What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.
Check back next week to have another nose around a rented property.
How to get involved in What I Rent
What I Rent is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.
If you fancy taking part, please email [email protected] You’ll need to take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.
Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.
We’re not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you’re currently renting a place you hate, we’d love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).
This article contains placements with affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links on these placements.
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