I love looking at real estate. Even though we just bought our first townhouse, I still love seeing what’s out there in our price range in Dallas, searching for anything my parents might like once they sell their house in Connecticut, and even peeking at dream homes on Nantucket. When I lived in New York, I would scour apartment rentals for hours at a time. My sister is getting ready to move to Brooklyn and I’ve been practically bombarding her with online listings that fall in her budget. Honestly I’d start searching for apartments for my readers if I had the time! It’s probably no surprise that someone who loves to decorate as much as I do would find real estate super fascinating and even motivating.

I get a ton of emails from my readers asking how to find an apartment and how to decorate on a budget. I’ve written a few posts on these subjects (here, here, here, here, and here to highlight just a few!) but this week and next I’ll be partnering with rent.com to share my five must-haves for apartment hunting and favorite tips for decorating a rental. I know how hard apartment hunting can be which is why I wish I’d known about rent.com sooner! It lets you browse apartments in your city, schedule visits from their website, and even view floor plans so you can visualize exactly how you’d lay out your furniture or split the space with a roommate. I decided to play around with a budget of ~$1,500 and show some examples of what I could find in Dallas (New Yorkers, prepare to be a teensy bit jealous!).

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.31.19 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.38.23 AM

Must-have #1: natural light.

My top priority when searching for a new place to live will always be finding a place with great light. Since I used to work from home, I spent way more time in my apartment than the average person and knew I needed to see the sun in order to feel inspired in my small space. I honestly would rather live in a seventh floor walk-up than a basement apartment! I love all the light pouring through the doors and windows in the kitchen in this listing and the bedroom in this one.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.52.12 AM

Must-have #2: location, location, location.

I spent my first year and a half in New York living on the Upper East Side. While my neighborhood was quiet and I loved living within walking distance of Central Park, I hated living far away from most of my friends and all my favorite restaurants. Eventually I saved up enough to move to the West Village and that’s when I really fell in love with New York. Of course you’ll have to make sacrifices to live at your preferred location, but for me it was worth cutting back on other expenses, giving up a little square footage, and living on a higher floor in a walk-up building to live in a neighborhood I loved. The apartment above is walking distance from Klyde Warren Park which would be perfect for taking Rory to the dog park as well as a quick drive to Will’s office!


Must-have #3: a standard floor plan.

Something I love about rent.com is that it gives you floor plans for all the available listings in a given building. Do you know how much time that would have saved me in New York?! There were so many funny little apartments in New York with triangular kitchens or half walls jutting across a living room… Those were a major no in my book. Every apartment is going to have a few little eyesores or things you’ll have to work around but being able to preview floor plans ahead of time should save you from major headaches like bizarrely shaped rooms or spaces where your bed would touch three of the four walls. Above is a sample floor plan from a building in downtown Dallas.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.48.09 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.13.41 AM

Must-have #4: amenities that are important to you.

Remember that you probably won’t “have it all” in any one apartment so you’ll have to prioritize which amenities are most important to you. Do you need a parking space if you can walk to work? Will you actually take advantage of those rooftop views? How often will you really swim in that pool? If you’ll actually use them, that’s great. The way I see it, you’re paying for every amenity in your building so you might as well choose the amenities that make sense for your lifestyle. I love how many buildings in Dallas have a gorgeous pool like this one or even a little dog park like this one!

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.35.42 AM

Must-have #5: cabinet and/or closet space.

I know this sounds like such a silly, girly consideration but I’m telling you, closet space matters (especially if you’re moving in with a significant other). I was blown away by how many of the apartments we looked at in Dallas had walk-in closets and now I don’t think I could ever go back to the tiny hole-in-the-wall closet I had in New York. Whether it’s space for clothes, shoes, groceries, or extra sheets and towels, make sure there’s a place for it. This is another thing you can scope out in advance with a floor plan online! I love that the listing above even has a small pantry off the kitchen so you can really stock up.

Stay tuned for next week’s post on my favorite tips for transforming a rental! Just because your next apartment isn’t your forever address doesn’t mean you can’t make a few (temporary) changes to make it feel like home. I hope this will help those of you looking for a new apartment, decorating your current one, or just daydreaming about your next move!

*This post is sponsored by rent.com, a site I’ve handpicked to be useful for my readers. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Design Darling possible!


Leave a Reply to Molly Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. I like that you talked about the importance of looking at floorplans before you go to an apartment so you can save time and energy. My wife and I are moving to a new city soon and have never searched for our own apartment before. We will keep your article in mind as we make a plan to find the best apartment that fits our needs.

  2. I like that you suggested prioritizing what your needs are in searching for an apartment to make sure that it can meet your lifestyle. My husband and I are looking for an apartment that’s near our work. Since we can’t afford to not bring our car with us for convenience reasons, we’ll make sure to find an apartment that has a parking space.

  3. This is some really good information about apartment searching. I liked that you talked about how it would be smart to look for an apartment that has the right amount of closet and cabinet space. I need to find a new place to live soon, and I have a lot of clothes. So finding a big closet would be really important.

  4. Thanks for bringing to my attention that sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more to live in a neighborhood you love. I’m going to be moving out to college this fall, so I’m trying to find a good place to live. There are a few areas near campus that I really love, so maybe I should narrow my search to those areas so I can live in a location I enjoy.

  5. I do like that you suggested choosing an apartment that can support your lifestyle and has the amenities that matter to you. My sister is looking to rent an apartment. She has 2 cars, so it’s important for her to make sure that the rental property that she will end up choosing has spaces for her to park her cars. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Wonderful tips! We always recommend taking photos or even using a goPro camera when touring many apartment rentals to make it easier to remember what the primary “likes” and dislikes were between each unit.

  7. My husband and I are looking to buy a new apartment. We want to make sure that the place we find will have the right amenities that we are looking for. I hadn’t thought about how important natural lighting can be in order to keep a space airy and inspirational, as you said.

  8. My wife and I accepted a new job offer in a city that we have never lived in so we are looking for the perfect apartment that we can comfortably live in. Because I am going to be working in the city I agree that location is important and I am going to keep in mind what you said about being willing to sacrifice square footage to be able to be in a better environment and neighborhood. Also, I think that because my wife and I are moving in, it would be fun to find a place where a lot of younger couples live.

  9. I completely agree that the location should have natural light. Before we bought our house, my wife and I lived in a very dark apartment. It always felt so dark and cold, even when we would open all the blinds.

  10. This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that natural light is a must-have in an apartment. I’m going to be moving to a new area for a job opportunity, and I’m starting my search for somewhere to live. I’ll definitely make sure wherever I choose has a lot of natural lighting because I much prefer that over artificial light. Thanks for the great post!

  11. Great advice, I am looking for an apartment that is animal friendly. I can honestly skip the pool and other amenities. I just need a place that will let me have my pet, and maybe a nice dog park. I feel like if I start to focus on that maybe I can find the right place for me and my dog.

  12. Looking at a standard floor plan seems like a great tip when searching for an apartment. Having a good floor plan seems necessary for any apartment. I would like to find a place that has a bedroom that’s attached to a bathroom. A floor plan would tell me if an apartment comes with this, so I’ll make sure to check this out now that I’m looking for a new place to stay.

  13. Thanks for the article! I really liked the cabinet or closet space must have. I totally agree that it can be silly sometimes but the space to put your various things can sometimes not be enough. I, too, am so used to walk in closets that when I moved I was sad to find that all of the apartments we found had a hole in the wall closet. I love the advice you give, I wish I had found this post before I bought my current apartment, maybe next time.

  14. Location is definitely a vital part when it comes to looking for apartments for rent. I have been looking for a new place for a while now and I really want something that is in the center of all of the places that I need to be. Having family close by is a must so I will have to do some hunting. These tips will definitely come in handy during my search, thanks for sharing!

  15. I’m going to be renting my first apartment in a few months, so I’m happy that I found your post! I really liked all of your tips, especially what you mentioned about finding an apartment with natural lighting. I really think that having natural lighting will help make the apartment feel much bigger than it really is! I’ll be sure to keep this in mind as I search for an apartment to rent. Thank you for the help!

  16. I totally agree with your tips, specially when choosing a location to your apartment. My apartment in Florida is just a walking distance to public and private entertainments and just close to restaurants, banks, and tourist attractions. Amnesties are also very important for a good comfort. Great tips.

  17. I have recently come back from a project out of the country, and I came to realize that I have no idea how to find an apartment. Before you mentioned it, I had totally forgotten about how important light is. If people don’t get enough natural light, it can actual lead them to depression; so I appreciate the reminder! Thank you for all of the applicable advice on what to look for in a good apartment, I will refer to this article as I try to find a good one for me!

  18. I really appreciate this information on how things to look for next time I go apartment searching. My husband and I are thinking about upgrading to a slightly larger place, but haven’t been sure exactly what to look for. I have never thought of natural lighting being such an important thing, but after reading this I can see that it would make an apartment much more convenient. Thanks for this information!

  19. My wife and I love our current home, but we have to move out in a few months. Finding the right place can be hard! As important as all of your tips are, I this the most important for me may be the last one. I can’t stand the clutter that we build up when we don’t have enough cabinet and closet space. It drives me up the wall. Thanks for the post!

  20. This are some really great tips. I’m looking to move out of my current apartment to rent somewhere else. I think finding amenities that are important to you is great because where I’m at now doesn’t have anything! I’ll be sure to keep that in mind as I look around.

  21. I’m moving September 2015 from a rental house to an apt in uptown Dallas. The information you provided was very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  22. We’re house-hunting right now and I’m also obsessed with looking at listings! It’s a bit like reading people’s blogs, so fun to peek into people’s lives and see how they live!

    (Also, your post about Nantucket reminded me, if you’re up this way this summer let me know — I have a new gig and am on Nantucket often!)

  23. This is the perfect post! I’m relocating from New Canaan to East LA in a quick 2 weeks and have been totally overwhelmed by the search process. I especially like that rent.com provides the street view alongside the map on each posting. Thanks for this!

  24. I spend so much time looking online at places, especially in New York. My must haves are natural light, location, and having an oven. There are so many places with no oven and it baffles me.

  25. ” (New Yorkers, prepare to be a teensy bit jealous!)”
    This line made me giggle… it is true that we don’t get a lot of space in NYC for the money (in fact $1,500 barely would get you a one bedroom shared with a roommate!) but we suffer thru a lot to live in this great city! Thanks for making me see what I’m missing in Dallas 🙂

  26. We just went through the whole house hunting process, since we’re moving to Austin next month. Rent.com is great! I am totally with you about natural light and location — they make all of the difference.

    I always pay close attention to the condition of the common areas, as well. I’ve found that that says a lot about the quality of their management.

    Always, Anita

  27. I’ve been helping my brother look for an apartment in DC so this is the perfect post! I”m also like you, I’ve been scoping out places for my boyfriend and I to move in. He still lives in Philly though and can’t switch jobs for at least another 6 months so I’m kinda jumping the gun, but you’re right, it’s so fun to look at places! I am excited for your post about decorating a rental. I’m struggling right now with how to make my rental apartment feel like “me.”

    – Kelsey