A Gorgeous Modern Rental Home With A Tacky Kitchen

Several days ago I received an email from a charming reader named Randa living in a modern rental home in an obviously warm-weather climate.

Damn her! Well, not really her. Damn this FREEZING weather.

But… there’s a twist to this modern rental home story.


Not only is it warm where Randa lives, the location is half-way around the world in Bahrain!


Bahrain, if you don’t already know, is a small island tucked neatly away in a bay in the Persian Gulf.


A little background info


Randa who makes a living as a nutritionist (that links to her website) is the mother of a tween and a teen and the wife of Josh.

I took the liberty of helping myself to a photo of Randa and Josh from Randa’s website.


Holy crap! Like two super models, they are.

Okay, I did not know any of this when I received Randa’s original email.

But, after some stalking research found out that Randa grew up in Saudi Arabia and is half Lebanese. Her father, a doctor, began an English International school so that she and her brother would receive a great education.

I had no idea that she wasn’t American until today! That’s how perfect her English is. You can read more about Randa and her nutrition business here, if you missed the link above.


And here’s Randa’s Facebook page. Let’s all be sure to like it!

Oh, and her instagram too!

I am not sure if I have written about a rental home before

And, truthfully, as you are about to see, this one doesn’t need much help at all. But, it does hi-light certain issues that can occur in a rental home.

These same issues might also apply if you own a home but aren’t planning on staying in it for a long time. OR, you are thinking of selling your home in the near future.


I will let Randa explain more about her issues with their modern rental home.


I am going to interject opinions and ideas in teal, like this.


Dear Laurel,

I have an OFFICE/HOMEWORK/HANGOUT ROOM with two walls of huge sliding windows, a built-in bookcase and a pony wall to boot.


homework room modern rental home

keeping room - modern rental home

And, I am STUCK with furniture placement and what really needs to be in this “undefined” space. I read every one of your posts and if my dilemma is not of enough interest, I will keep scouring and following your posts until I can figure it out!


Our house is around 3,000 sq. feet. There are four of us, kids ages 11 and 13, and a guinea pig in a large cage (who, to my protest, resides in this space).


I hear ya Randa!


This small space was originally intended for a formal dining room. We knew we’d rarely use it as such, especially considering our kitchen is huge.


kitchen - modern rental home


I’ve  attached a few more pictures to get the bigger picture. (Don’t worry, since the kitchen is also our “formal” dining room, it’s absolutely getting an overhaul too- rug, table/ chairs, stools, and definitely lighting, it’s just choosing what look I want.)

modern rental home living room

We had asked for the pony wall to be removed to create one large living space but the landlord said no.

I actually like that half-wall and I LOVE your living room!


So we made it into an office/homework/game room. I suppose as you said I could be wanting more from it than it’s able to give.  The bench feels odd, uncomfortable and useless there but I like that it brings in character and wood, everything else being pretty white and boring. Chairs need reupholstering.

The bench is fantastic and as you said, it brings in a note of warmth. Your home is reminding a lot of the work of Vicente Wolf.  His work is over-all modern with pieces from far off lands.


keeping room - homework room - modern rental home


The table (which can be made smaller into a circular table, and honestly I’d much rather a table with more character but first things first?) Kids do homework, we play games around it on occasion. Really this room and the kitchen are the main places we spend the most time in.


You know, this is really like a “keeping room.”


Remember Melissa Tardiff’s charming keeping room?


A keeping room is a room off the kitchen that functions as a multi-purpose space and occasional living room. 

I think the table would look better round and I am thinking that these chairs would give just the right note of style.


Hilal Chinese Chippendale side chair - Wayfair

Hilal Chinese Chippendale side chair – Wayfair


Anglepoise task lamp from RejuvenationI would change out the desk lamp. I’m liking this Anglepoise task lamp from Rejuvenation


But, they have other cool lamps as well, if you fancy something else.


Anglepoise task lamp - Rejuvenation

It comes in a bunch of colors

dexter desk chair rejuvenation

I like those desk chairs too.


modern rental home


The corner where the guinea pigs cage is needs furniture? Art?

Art would be great!


I just feel it could be a cool space with more to it.


The hallway off of it has a bathroom, which my clients use, so this room is seen. And as a family, we use it every day.


Honestly, I think if you change out the four chairs, do some more art, it will make a big difference. The other thing I recommend is adding more plants, etc to the exterior. That’s what I notice the most.


modern rental home entry

Oh wow! I love what you’ve done here!

entry modern rental home


living room modern rental home


Thanks, Laurel, for considering my dilemma,




WHAT dilemma??? I told Randa that I felt like I was looking at an issue of Lonny or Domain Home.

This is the perfect young family home that many strive for but fail to achieve.

I went on to ask Randa a few questions


  • Why are there three finishes on the kitchen cabinets? (you don’t have to answer, because I know that you didn’t do that.) 


This is a very good question.  The answer is, I have no idea. I am not a fan, but, as renters some things can’t be changed. 🙁  I am contemplating putting removable wallpaper around the base of the island, is that a no-no?

Not at all! It’s a great idea. It’s reminding me of this post where we talked about some appliance makeovers with wallpaper.


  • Are you allowed to paint? I’m just asking, not necessarily recommending that you do and can’t tell if it would work out for the homework space.

Yes, absolutely, we can paint or do removable wallpaper. I have contemplated wallpaper on the foyer wall (behind those cane chairs), and in the small guest bathroom near the office.


  • How high are your ceilings? 


About 9′-7″


  • How long are you planning on living here?


We plan on being here at least another 5-10 years, although we really don’t know exactly. Enough time to want to make this HOME. We’ve lived in this house for a little over a year.

One of my favorite parts is the entrance with those beautiful caned barrel chairs! 


I scored those from an Embassy auction! They’re my fave too! Because they’re vintage.  And that is SO HARD to find here

(BTW I paid $80 for both!!) Here’s the deal. Most of what is in my house is stuff I have scored on what is our FB “Craiglist” here in Bahrain, or on our travels, or at local ethnic shops. It isn’t easy at all.

Well, you make it look easy!


I LOOOONNNGG for an antique or flea market, I can’t even tell you.


We have a couple tiny shops like that here and even though I know they rarely restock, I go in just to be around that “old stuff”! The good thing is: we can order online, and many places do ship.

Ballard Designs


CB2–(oh! they’re having a sale right now)

And, we do have a West Elm and Pottery Barn here, but marked way up. And if I really want something, I can have it shipped to my mom, and she will ship it here. If I were in the US, I imagine my house would look very different; I would have way more unique pieces and art. And my kitchen would be DONE.


Modern home back hall

I actually started crying when I saw the shoe under the console table. I love that piece and the shoe reminded me of when my kids were little. It goes so fast!

Ooooh, thank you for sharing that! It is a good reminder that when the cleaning nazi in me comes out, one day, I will most definitely miss it all (I love that table, BTW another “Craigslist” find – when I saw faux bamboo I was on it like flies on a doggie’s fresh steamy! $5!!!!  Was thinking I would paint it – what do you think? )

I think it would be fabulous painted!


I’ll write normally for the rest of my closing comments.


Seriously, I think this is already a beautifully decorated home. It is light and bright and uplifting. And it shows what can be accomplished, without spending a lot of money. Brava!


I am not having any significant issue with the little homework/office/keeping room. I think with the few tweaks we discussed earlier and beefing up the exterior, that it will be a lovely space to be in and walk through with your clients.


If you change out the chairs for the homework room, maybe you could re-purpose the tiger chairs for the kitchen dining area. Maybe have slipcovers made for them?


Obviously, part of the kitchen is missing.


I do see a little sliver in the above image. So, that means that there’s a lot more of that ashy, umber-toned wood. I would not have chosen that finish. But then, no one asked me. :]

Of course, we wish that the cabinets went up to the ceiling and that the refrigerator was built-in.


As for the three different finishes. How weirdtastic is that?!?!


I suppose you could do something funky and cover them are part of them with one of those removable wallpapers from Anthropologie. Or something like that.


I think this is a good place to open it up to you guys. I’m a little at a loss.

Brain freeze??? haha!


But, what do you do when you’re in a rental home and the kitchen sucks?


Or, at least this kitchen. What would you do about the kitchen area?


Happy Groundhog Day!




PS: Don’t forget to check out the hot sales and get your promo code for 20% off of Serena and Lily and One Kings Lane and others!

84 Responses

  1. Excellent project! Whoever designed this has a Midas touch!

    Thanks for the detailed guide! I look forward to seeing more!

  2. HI Randa and Laurel

    Randa your home is beautifully decorated. I would bring your wall ideas right into the dining room/kitchen area. I also like some of the suggestions with the rug, zebra chairs, slip covered, etc.

    Regarding the kitchen, I would ask the Landlord to let you COMPLETE the kitchen; because from a designer perspective, he dropped the ball. He should pay for the changes or deduct your improvements from your rent. Convince him with 3D drawings and the benefits of renting a completed flat.

    I grew up in the custom kitchen and bath, manufacturing and retail industry; a three-family business. I also have worked as a designer in the kitchen industry during slow studio times. My educational back ground is in fine metal arts and crafts. Also, my husband’s father has family in The Sultan of Oman; and his parents had a house there for years. I have traveled there several times. If there is any way you can get a visa to visit; they have an amazing Souk Market in Muscat. You would absolutely love the metal work, wooden chests, doors, swords, rugs, etc. Authentic and reasonably priced, compared to store bought. If you go, bring extra luggage to bring home plenty of great finds…be prepaired to haggle. And be sure to visit all the old areas.

    Small jewelry or objects can be framed in deep shadow boxes and organized on the wall. I would think a truck company could deliver some furniture pieces or rugs if need be. I also love sales or Craigslist type venues; as I enjoy renovating and or refinishing pieces that have a history. When you’re in the Middle East, there are vast amounts of authentic items that one can buy to add to their collection of goodies.

    Getting back to the kitchen. Your cabinets are probably MDF laminate; a melamine. Which in my experience, could possibly be wallpapered? But I doubt your Landlord would let you paint them or wallpaper them. The good news is that these European style cabinets can be inexpensive to buy…from like Ikea’s stock cabinets, put together to make them look custom fit. Or find a carpenter to custom build one long cabinet or two to fit and trim them in to the ceiling. I would do open glass doors with cabinet lighting, if you go that route. You can install this yourself. Taking the wall cabinet doors off could be an idea, but as you see on your open shelf area, the edge and or box will most likely be all white. Another option to consider on the upper space above wall cabinets is to have old thick reclaimed boards for shelves, permanently installed, where you can add dishes or a collection of pieces there. The frig needs the deepest wall cabinet you can get added and it can be mounted flush to frig using scrap lumber behind and a full depth panel on side. The color of the doors could be ordered to finish the partial wall cabinet sides and laminate the full panel used to finish in the frig. The island seems backwards to me and makes the working triangle quite large. Especially if the doors are facing the other room… Daaa. The counter has an overhang which seems to call for a wide stool or two; you have plenty of space.

    Either way I would install a full tiled back splash. It’s easy to do and you could rent a tile saw or buy one or hire a small company. I could see a beautiful white brick style tile, railroaded or weathered grayish tone tiles to complement the cabinets. Your whole flat has great window treatments. Don’t forget to add a simple valance above the door, a group of metal plates or pictures across the space above door.

    Randa take advantage of your time where you live and take your family to see the amazing sites. It’s a great place to live for a while. Absolutely love your flat…KEEP GOING and convince that Landlord the benefits of a completed kitchen. Don’t forget the quick drawings to convince him; either pencil or computer generated would do the trick.


    PS Laurel
    I ran across your site before the holiday in my search for ideas with my sofa project. I ENJOY reading a topic or two each night. THANK YOU for sharing on your blog.

    Originally, I planned on making a linen slipcover; but what I really wanted was a new modern look in a sectional. My husband decided against the sectional and I decided if were not buying new, because of chemical issues with fabrics we are going to update our old sofa, no matter what. It had a great hardwood frame and the velvet was worn out….it needed help. It was an excuse to totally revamp it and use all natural materials like Latex, wool and washable JB Martin Como in Cyan, similar to what I had. In my search for fabrics, I ran across One Kings Lane and all their wonderful velvet sofas that I cannot justify buying….but we can alter the one we have. LOL

    Never a dull moment here; always a project or garden to design. Our old Ethan Allen velvet couch with stylized rolled arms will now be a cross between…wait for it. Mark D Sikes’s Brentwood sofa and Robin Bruce’s Madeline sofa…for half the price. OMG its coming along and I LOVE the thinner arm. LOL. In fact before I saw your site I decided I was slowly updating things a bit, so it’s exciting to see your opinion on things. Although everything in our house has bright color throughout with similar tone; your blog examples gives me a new appreciation for white on white. Its lovely but impractical for us, although a slipcover is the best of both worlds.

  3. Hi Laurel and Randa,
    You are really talented Randa, your home looks very stylish and still homey.
    I agree with the changes with the uppers in the kitchen. I would also try to disguise the fridge and the water dispenser, maybe using an armoire to fit them in?
    I would change the style of the chairs, maybe for something less heavy in style and darker in color or change the table, I am not sure but I find something isn’t working there. Another rug? More art and Randa’s magic hands will make the final touches.
    What about closing the pony wall up to the ceiling with partition glass windows? I read a beautiful post Laurel did on this. Maybe what Randa doesn’t like of the pony wall is that seems to be unfinished or have no express purpose. Though I think it works as it is.
    Congratulations Randa!

  4. Wow! This home is as beautiful as Randa and Josh! I LOVE the floors and think the kitchen cabinets blend well with them. (Not a fan of open shelving instead of cabinets.) I, too, thought the island base was just darker because of lighting. I also like the idea one commenter made of the kitchen table in the keeping room (maybe with the zebra chairs around it) just to repeat the rectangular shape of the pony wall/desk. I think the round table looks a little lost. Like the idea of a piece of furniture for Mr. Guinea Pig with art over it. Even though the art wall in the living room is extremely well done, being able to see the small art propped against the pony wall and the bookcases all in the same view makes it seem too busy. A couple of much larger vertical pieces of art to border the TV would seem to be more pleasing to the eye for me. But all in all, this is a gorgeously interesting home.

  5. Randa,
    I love your house..I want to live there! Here are some of my thoughts on what I would do over the next few years you are there. I see you have a rug collection. Me, too! If I were you, I would buy as many of these as possible. Why? They are a great investment…you can always sell them or consign them and actually make money on them. And, you are in the perfect location to do this! Here is how I would use any future rug purchases. Buy all rugs in the “red” family you have started collecting. Place a square one (or round) under the round white table and put all zebra chairs around the table. Allow 2’ all around so that the chairs sit on top of the rug. I actually like the zebra chairs..so exotic! Purchase a runner going down the hallway. Place A room size rug or place a rug under the glass coffee. Alternately, a room size sisal with another ethnic rug on top would be nice, too. If you need some large art, consider these rugs as art. I have seen them hung behind a bed…a stunning focal. Tattered rugs can be used for upholstery and pillows. I would reupholster the cane chairs in the entry with another fabric pattern..Ikat, batik (?) or African mud cloth. Your mirror collection is outstanding! Just a few thoughts…good luck..you have a beautiful home and I know you will continue to work on it with much success. Be well.

  6. Love the idea of taking the upper cabinet doors down and possibly painting or wallpapering the inside. I would love to know how to copy-paste this style into my house?!?

  7. Did you know there are a couple of indoor habitats for small animals on Wayfair? They can be a little pricey, and sometimes do take up more room, but may be worth it to get a cage off the floor or a book case. Pinterest will sometimes have okay ideas for disuising pet enclosures, too.

  8. So little to add because so much is right! I got about half way through the comments, so hope I’m not repeating too much. The area above the refrigerator is calling out for a statement item instead of using it for storage. Maybe a big plant. (Maybe even – I hate to say it – a faux plant – since it would be awkward to water). The island also looks a little lost without counter stools at it. Maybe a rug with some color beside it, and a nice sized vase with a bowl beside it for fruit or catch-all items. These modern spaces are hard to live in with a family, because everyday life tends to look like clutter — you can aim for perfection when the kids are grown, but for now, whenever you replace several small items with one large item, you will get a more professional look. This is all just about taking it to the next level, though. You have created a warm, bright, well-curated home that looks like real people live in it, and I wouldn’t have thought this was a rental if you hadn’t told us.

  9. Hi Laurel,
    Great post. Only thought that I didn’t see in the other comments is perhaps you could remove the uppers on the refrigerator wall and replace with inexpensive white open shelves for everyday dishes/glasses etc. Beautiful place and inspiring.

  10. Hi Laurel,
    I looked & looked at Randa’s pictures of her home & I can’t come up with anything to improve it. Examining other people’s homes is my favorite form of entertainment. I love imagining what I would improve & what I would do different.
    And I’ve got no advice for her. Her home is perfect! It’s light, homey, layered, cozy & full of personality. When you mentioned Lonny & Domaine I thought, “Yes!” And Domino!
    Sure, she could switch out a lamp, change the chairs. But her home just makes me smile as-is.
    Thanks Laurel for the post & thanks to Randa for sharing your home.

  11. I love this home, too! One thing I noticed is that, while Randa has several plants, most are on the small side. What about some bigger plants, maybe on cool stands? I have recently resolved that if a plant starts to look less than vibrant, it needs to go. It’s hard to get rid of a big ficus,,but if it starts to lose leaves, it can detract?

  12. Love this space! I agree with the desk lamp and think the fixture over the dining area looks too high or maybe too small? I would only invest in what I could take with me from a rental space. This couple obviously has great taste and the local pieces add a great deal of charm.

  13. I agree with all of you that this a gorgeous home. While I love the floor tiles, and the brightness of the splace overall, I am struck by how wonderful the oriental rug in the hall looks. I wonder, what about a few more colorful to “ground” some of the spaces?

  14. Wow Randa!! You are SO talented. The art walls are some of the best I’ve seen – like looking at a magazine. I was going to suggest removing the doors from the upper cabinets, but see someone already has. I like that the two living spaces are separated. Not much else to add but to thank you for the treat of viewing your beautiful home.

  15. I think just a little tweaking here could make a big difference. If the goal is to not replace a whole lot, I would put all the zebra chairs around the table and purchase the two desk chairs (I think the space will seam bigger without bold pattern scarred everywhere. If you still don;t love the chairs I would slipcover them in a cool fabric (maybe even a neutral antelope – as you obviously like an animal print and throw a small rug to ground the table to a bit of color… oh, and yes to the round smaller table. Next I would declutter the shelves just a bit – have more of a clustering effect. Then I would swap out the cork board for a white one (maybe even just cover it with white fabric) I think that would make the room feel bigger and hang on that wall. Wondering if there is such a thing as a two story guinea pig cage?? That way you would have more height and less width – then add a little art above his new home so that corner area would have more purpose.

    My final p.s. thought – if you come across a reasonable pedestal dining table I think that would open the space – not so many legs everywhere : )

  16. Wow Laurel! Such an interesting and fun post! Randa, your foyer and living room are fantastic and look like the spaces evolved over time and are just very fresh and well thought out. Laurel, I love the ideas you suggested for the pop of modern color of a task lamp and the style of chair you pictured for the desk area looks modern yet warm. Developing the outdoor space sounds perfect. I’d probably opt for a more modern tulip style base table in a white or another mid century style for the game/homework table maybe with a large single pendant style light fixture that hangs closer to the table and replace the current chairs with upholstered modern dining chairs that work well with the suggested desk chair.
    Hygge and West also has some young fresh styles of wallpaper tiles that are removable.
    I could see something like that for Randa’s powder room and kitchen.
    In the kitchen I like how you can visually see through the backs of the chairs so if they are comfy I would keep them. Maybe painting just the base/legs of Randa’s table a black to tie in with the island and the dark(black?) counters would be something to consider? I might then add in a great rug with pattern and color under the table similar in style to what she has in her stunning foyer and behind the sofa. Maybe the current kitchen rug could go in the” keeping room” under the table if it’s the right size for the space. No doubt it will turn out great. Laurel, I miss those shoes too! Time is so precious and I appreciate you putting in so much of yours to give us the tools to make our homes better.

  17. Lovely home! I just love that she took a boring white box and made it warm, inviting and filled with personality. Her instincts are spot on. This proves Laurel’s point that everyone needs a little help from a designer/decorator every now and then, even if just to boost confidence! Two quick points from a Navy wife of 13 years, with 7 moves….1. Paint and removable wallpaper are your best friends and 2. Invest in what you can take with you. Clearly, she’s done a great job with this already, but if you decorate that kitchen with things you love, it will take the focus off the tacky, and onto her beautiful family. Oh and a great thing I’ve learned from Laurel is to buy normal sized furniture so it can fit in every house 🙂

  18. This post makes me so happy. It shows a *real* family home that is warm and lovely and personal and does not hide the bargains (ektorp!! with the old 100% cotton covers you can bleach!!). The photos have inspired me to unpack my joy-sparking middle eastern treasures; sadly they were packed away because I didn’t know how to integrate them into my traditional CT home

    If I got to make a few changes in this space, I’d try to change out the two white farmy tables; the legs were just one shape too many for my eyes. And maybe the iron chandelier… There are so many beautiful glass options in that part of the world I’d try to hang something else.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Yes, ideally, you’re right about the tables. There are two chandeliers and they should match. But I agree that they could be a little larger and glass would be cool.

  19. This is a beautiful space. Maybe add a large colorful piece of artwork on the wall above the refrigerator to draw the eye up and away from the water cooler and mismatched cabinets.

  20. I agree with reducing the study table to round and adding Laurel’s chair selection and a colorful rug. I’m a bookcase purist. I would have all books, maybe only a few decorative items if any. There’a enough other things in that space.

    To me the dining table and chairs are too farmhouse for this modern space. I’d change them out untirely. I’m sure Laurel would have some great suggestions. For the area next to the fridge, I would paper wall and upper cabinet the same, countertop to ceiling. Style it fabulously like she’s done elsewhere. Beautiful modern home!

  21. Wow. Wow! What a lively mix of interesting styles. I love that the entire house is so livable. A few questions/comments. 1) The chandeliers look like builder afterthoughts — too small and too high. Perhaps more distinctive lighting will help set a tone? 2) Can she turn the empty space above the pony wall into an asset? I can see carved wooden screens (Moroccan?) hanging there. 3) The farmhouse style kitchen table doesn’t fit. From what Randa said, I’m guessing it’s a stand-in till she finds one she prefers. Wayfair has some cool trestle tables that might be better reproductions. As Laurel said, beautiful house that only needs tweaks!

  22. What an outstanding home! Sleek, but with so many interesting objets d’art to keep the eye moving forward. I too like the “pony” wall; it allows the living/family rooms to keep their definition while not being walled completely off. The kitchen? I’d look for a less bulky table, and maybe chairs, too. I think we’re seeing only 2 cabinet finishes; the light value is different at the island, making it appear darker. Not much to be done for the cabinets -unless the landlord is OK with adding a fridge cabinet and maybe some open display cubes to the tops of the wall cabinets to lift them to the ceiling.

    1. Hi Jayla,

      Thank you. The island is a different finish. In fact, usually islands if the same finish appear lighter than everything else. It’s the way kitchen are lit, I think that causes that phenomenon.

  23. maybe an antique (wire) birdcage for the hamster and put him on a pedestal. Sort of like making him art. I’m sure we could call it conceptual art.Those Habittrail tunnel segments can go in anything so the creature would think it was at Disneyland.

  24. What an amazing place. I would love all that bright light, and they have done a great job making it feel like home. Their wall groupings are superb, I really like the blue cushions on the chairs in the entry and the blue armoire (chest? cupboard?) tucked at the back of the living room. I wonder how it would look to take the leaf out of the homework table and paint the table a similar blue color as the cushions and cupboard so the blue could be carried into the homework space. My guess is that the table needs some grounding, and that making it darker would help. An area rug could help ground it, as well.

    As far as the kitchen goes, maybe the doors could be removed from the uppers in the seating area. The innards could be corrall in some nice baskets. Stash the doors and simply hang them again when it’s time to move out. Then the island color would be more of an accent feature than a third wheel.

    Thanks for sharing this great space!

  25. Hi Laurel,

    What a beautiful house you have Randa. We only got one picture of the kitchen though. Where is the sink and stove? I would ask the landlord if you could paint the grey upper cabinets white to match the bottom ones. And maybe you could have a wall built on the left side of the fridge to enclose, then possibly add one or two open shelves above the fridge to display pottery/sculpture, baskets, etc.

    1. That sounds like a good plan Margaret. My brain was trying to build something above the too-low cabinets. Even just a hollow box, all painted white and same above the fridge. And then, lightly attached so it would be easy to remove. Well, something like that. I wouldn’t even mind the black island if the rest was a clean, beautiful white.

  26. Randa has a beautiful home. She puts me to shame as I look around my 25 year old tired decorating scheme.
    The 3 finishes on the kitchen cabinetry seem to fit in to the general scheme as I did not even take particular notice of them. I did notice the absence of cooking appliances and a sink. Where are they? I think the table may be out of its element in the kitchen.
    Is it possible it would look better in the keeping room and the oval table in the kitchen?
    The zebra chairs are great but I feel they should be grouped together, wherever they are, as they draw the eye around the room like exclamation points.
    Also, I love the piece of cloth laying over the pony wall. Perhaps a larger one centered will add a focal point to it so that the eye does not just travel up and over the wall.
    Randa, thank you for sharing your beautiful home, which tells your story. It is elegant and homey all at the same time.

    1. Some great ideas Kathleen. Yes, there’s much more to the kitchen, not seen. Since the emphasis was on the keeping room, that is the only photo Randa presented and I didn’t ask for more. But, she says that there’s a lot more of the gray and some cabinets faced with frosted glass, making a fourth finish.

  27. Wow! What a fantastic home. I love her flea market finds, she is a girl after my own heart! The whole house is so lovely and light and frankly I barely noticed the kitchen.

  28. Laurel,
    Im loving this bohemian vibe, it pleases my alter ego.
    Ditto what You said exactly!
    Plus, you may not be aware…The ‘Hilal’chair you picked out is Arabic for
    Crescent Moon, I mean it was meant to be.
    Nailed it again sister.
    Lovely home

  29. Hello Laurel and Randa,

    I had to scour the photos for the kitchen offender, I was so taken in by the beautiful home! It definitely seems the mixed cabinetry was a true choice, like the choosers were doing a mixed metal theme.

    I think you should extend that choice with a rug and chairs that mimic the gray, black and white and see if that makes it seem even more on purpose. A pop of color, maybe in orange, yellow or emerald green to mimic your beautiful plants, and it might unify what at first glance is discordant.

    I so know rentals. As a young Air Force wife, we lived in 1940s era base housing, that had been “updated” in the 1960s. It had hideous Formica countertops with the silver trim. They were old and scratched and faded to a very distasteful pea green. Most of us bought contact paper and covered the counters. I turned mine into a green marble with a floral backsplash. When it got old or cut or water damaged, we just pulled it up and put on a new set.

    That was way before the removeable wallpapers of today. I recently used that from Target on my daughter’s college apartment. We did an accent wall that looked amazing in a Greek Key design. But, taking it down damaged the wall, even though it said it wouldn’t. Maybe the paint underneath needs to be satin or semi gloss first, not sure.

    Happy decorating in Bahrain! And, thank you, Laurel for all you do to include your readers in the joy of beauty all around.

    1. Hi Tahma,

      I grew up with those formica countertops. The classic boomerang in aqua. Add that to orange-y maple cabinets – That link takes you something very similar. Even as a child, I somehow knew it was wrong. And, I knew that my grandparents’ all-white 1920s apartment kitchen in Chicago was right. At least, for me!

      About a year or so ago, not remembering the exact address, but approximate location, I found my grandparents’ building using google maps. It’s still there! I hadn’t seen it in decades!

  30. Wow what a gorgeous home!! Since they are able to paint …what about painting the brown upper cabinets white (and any other cabinets that are brown). That way after moving the black and white chairs to the eating area the kitchen will be black & white with the black island & white cabinets.

  31. Hi Laurel.

    I lived in eight countries + four states during my 26-year career. Overseas, I was always in too big houses that I did not choose for myself. On top of that, the houses came furnished, which was pretty frustrating for someone who likes to decorate.

    Two points. 1. In retrospect, I wish I had spent less time and money obsessing over my houses and more time enjoying life. But like Randa, I’m a nester, so I understand why Randa has worked so hard making this house look absolutely fabulous. I cannot adequately express how awed I am by what she has created. 2. One of my most important tricks: Large round plastic picnic tables. Once you cover them up with a nice cloth and perhaps a big table square made from local fabric (or even a rug), no one can tell it’s a plastic table. It’s easy to remove the legs, so you can get the table through any door. Ballard’s makes great washable round table cloths in white and ivory, and anyone can sew a table square. It may not be Randa’s cup of mint tea, but a table like that would look cool in her keeping room — Very Mark D. Sykes. (And a glass top on the table would help make it boy-proof.)

  32. Beautiful home and beautiful couple!
    I’m rather okay with the black and white scheme going on in the kitchen with the island and the counter top in reverse. One suggestion (and it certainly may be problematic because we can’t see the rest of the room) might be to remove the kitchen cabinets, store them, and put them back up when you move. Then fill in the area with open shelves.
    If that’s not doable, I feel you need to draw the eye up since nothing goes to the ceiling. Wallpaper could help as could filling in that space above the cabinets and refrigerator with art, urns, baskets, etc. Even hang art on the front of the cabinets? Add a new table (may you find a lovely old one), slip-covered chairs ala Laurel and a natural or Persian rug.
    It’s a challenge, but Randa, you seem totally up to the challenge!

    1. Hi Bobbie,

      I had the same idea about removing those upper cabinets, over the white cabinets and putting up shelves. Really, I did. There’s much more to the kitchen that we can’t see. In an email this morning, Randa says that it’s even worse.

  33. I don’t rent, but I recently finished a $4,000 budget redo of the kitchen in my 70 year old ranch house. I did all the work myself.

    I added removable wallpaper (NuWallpaper’s Grand Trellis in gray and white) removable backsplash tiles(Smart Tiles Milano Carrera in white, gray and silver). I also replaced all the old black appliances with stainless steel “condo” appliances, painted the existing, yellowed laminate cabinets matte white, changed all the knobs to pulls, and added a large white kitchen island on wheels.

    My kitchen has been completely transformed.

    1. Hello Laurel,

      I love how you detected the real pain point in Randa’s house when she asked for help with the keeping room. Often in rental houses we worry about certain things and just give up about others because they cannot be changed. I have the same situation with my kitchen…old laminate badly designed but the landlord does not want to spend money to change it and I am only here for 2 years. I enjoy reading everyone’s great ideas of what to do to make Randa’s better.

      Now to go back to the keeping room, I agree with Laurel. Randa that lamp has to go😃. You have done a wonderful job styling the rest of the house ( you have great taste!), and this space needs it too. Follow all the great advice with regards to the chairs and table. It may be good to add a bit more plants on the inside as well. Wonderful idea to make an art wall where hamster is, using Sarah McDonnell’s brilliant idea of hamster as living art. The opposite side of the door has a couple of plant pots. I believe you could add another one there to make it three and choose a plant that is of medium height so that this “green” corner is lusher and more layered.

      I think if you just style the desk where the computer is properly, with things that are meaningful to you and with dashes of color that coordinate with your “new” table and chairs, with the same flare as you have done the rest of the house, it will be beautiful. Just create office/homework related vignettes. You are great at that. One brilliant example is your console in the entryway with the big piece of pottery underneath!

      Laurel, I hope you will post photos of “after” if Randa sends it through. It would be lovely to see what she has done.

      Good luck with that kitchen!

  34. Hi Laurel..I love her house too! I’m not sure why that kitchen has 3 different finishes either. Maybe the landlord pieced together several sets of cabinets from his other rental properties or something. I actually didn’t even notice it until you mentioned it. For her “keeping” room, I almost think that if she took the leaf out of the table, it would look too small in there, maybe. I think white is the wrong colour too. One thing that I didn’t like is the wall behind the tv in the living room. My eye went immediately to all of those pictures. They could be divied up onto some of those other blank walls perhaps. I also think some nice green plants brought into the house would look nice as well. I do like her wall of antique mirrors tho! I found the entire house is a mix of everything…modern, farm, Asian….To me..some of it flowed nicely, and some didn’t . I’m far from being a decorator or designer, but that’s just my opinion.

    1. Hi Colleen,

      I think the flow of the decor is perfect and I LOVE the wall behind the TV. If you look more closely, you’ll also see that there are many plants in the home.

      Ideally, I think the table should be round. A Saarinen table was mentioned earlier. I think it could be a few inches larger. Maybe that’s the answer. I do love the white table as it ties into the desk area.

  35. You’re so right about this being a great home! I also agree that slipcovers could be used to tie everything together and with high ceilings you can use BIG art.

    I know this idea about the kitchen will sound crazy to some but I did this in a flat I lived in for 7 years-change it. Talk to the owner and say you want to pay for a new one.

    If you’re planning on living in this home for up to 10 years then think of it as an investment in your lifestyle. After all, this is about 20 percent of your life going forward.

  36. Seriously!! WHAT dilemma?? 🙂 Beautiful space. The house bones and line of sights are fantastic. Yes, it needs more plants in what seems like the patio area. A Saarinen dining table would add a touch of old authenticity, along with a good few pieces of high quality modern art.

  37. Well I’m going to put my hand up and say I like the tiger chairs. They’re not at all my usual style but I think here they really work and give the area a bit of zing. And, for me, the sitting area could do with a bit of the same. A carpet like the lovely rug in the hallway, maybe, or one that is mainly black, and the curtains changed to some richer colour to complement it. I also agree that the pony wall works, if it weren’t there then the “little bit of this, little bit of that” that seems to be the problem in the keeping room would just infect the sitting area as well.

  38. So many goodies in this topic I don’t know where to start. Definitely replace the chairs in the all-purpose room and move them to the kitchen. What if you lowered the chandelier? and got a rug under the oval table similar to the one in the kitchen? Or one similar to the one in the hallway (with the zebra chairs gone I would go bold with a rug). I’d also edit the bookcases 35% so the larger items like pottery stand out. Move the art to the walls and fill bookcases with larger items. The work table is stark, why not put a large round darker tray and fill with inexpensive pottery and use the pottery to hold the colored pencils and supplies? Maybe top the kitchen cabinets with some baskets or just leave alone. It is what it is. I am sure others will have great ideas.

  39. I’d like to say something intelligent, but I am really upset that those cane chairs in the entry aren’t in my life. I’m not even a fan of cane in general, but those are so darn pretty.

    Also love the two-tone lamps in the living room!

    There’s a lot that was done right in this house. Do you know, I didn’t even notice the different finishes in the kitchen! I think maybe because the overall vibe is so pleasant.

  40. The spot that would bother me most is to the left of the refrigerator. Would it be possible to find a large freestanding cabinet that would work there? No idea how you would anchor it. Put heavy things in the bottom and hope the kids aren’t too rowdy? The exposed refrigerator side, water jug, outside corner and glaring whiteboards would have me in spasms.

    I’ve unfortunately lived with a water dispenser in my home for the past 14 years. It will quite possibly be the thing I’m most excited never to see again when my new home escapes never.ending.remodel hell.

    Ms. Fabulous Connecticut Farmhouse beat me to asking you about window treatments. I have some awkward window arrangements in the new place and while I’m so far from drapery it’s not funny, I’m still freaking out over it.

    If you’ve managed to get this far down….
    My problems are high short window in between regular windows. Window too close to corners. Sliding door window treatments!! What to do?! And I have two in the same room. Mixing window treatments for different rooms that are all open to each other, which I think you’ve hit on. But I’m wondering if you’d consider doing a problem window episode that might stir up some inspiration for the glazing challenged.

    Love your blog, Laurel. Thank you, for all of your hard work. I could go on. *waves, hugs*

    1. Hi Katie,

      Oh, I wish I could help you with your dilemma, but my brain won’t even allow me to try and visualize what you are talking about. If you are a subscriber, you may send me a few photos of what you’re talking about. Just respond to any email you receive from me. I can’t promise that it’ll be a blog post, however.

  41. This apartment is gorgeous!

    Truly, the kitchen isn’t bad. Just style it to the teeth!, and add some color Wooden cutting boards, bowls of fruit, flowers, colorful bowls. A little bit of art. So many people in the tropics (my family is from Central America) try to keep the kitchen pristine and stark because of the need to keep everything so clean. I would say to the beautiful homeowner, just do with the kitchen what you have with the rest of the apartment. It will be amazing!

  42. Randa, I have no advice to give you whatsoever. Just keep doing what you’re doing, trust your instincts! Your house looks like you were a designer in a former life, or something! And if this is what you can do without PB or West Elm, I don’t think you need them!

    BTW, great photography!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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