before and afterDIY

Before & After: A Manhattan Rental’s Closet Gets Beautified

by Maxwell Tielman



If you’re at all interested in redecorating or sprucing up your house or apartment, being a renter can throw a discouraging wrench into your plans. With tiny horribles like security deposits and lease fine print to worry about, even so much as a thumbtack in the wall can get the average renter into hot water. Still, renting, as with many things, is often a necessity—especially in towns like New York, where the cost of owning practically anything can be unimaginably high. There are, however, things that can be done to skirt around even the nastiest of rental agreements. This particular project, stylishly undertaken by interior designer Lindsay MacRae, is one such trick. Faced with a pair of depressingly drab entryway closet doors and a lease that forbade even painting, Lindsay was forced to get clever, crafting an ingenious upgrade that took under four hours to accomplish! Once dull and clunky-looking, Lindsay’s closets are now perfectly suited to the old bones of her prewar apartment. For under $300, that’s not too shabby! Check out all of the photos, plus Lindsay’s design notes, after the jump! —Max


“Having moved from apartment to apartment for years, my husband and I never put much effort into decorating,” Lindsay says.  “I finally convinced him it was time to decorate our apartment as if it were a real home. We live in a building in Manhattan with a lot of character, including wood floors, picture rails, and tall base moldings. Despite having spent months beautifully decorating our apartment, I could not help but find myself always staring at our awful entry closet doors. Those flimsy doors just didn’t stand up to the rest of our prewar apartment.”

MacRae Before 2 MacRae Before 1

“Like many apartment dwellers, my lease strictly forbids me from painting the walls and doing any sort of renovating. I couldn’t handle looking at the eyesore anymore, but also couldn’t stand the thought of losing the deposit. I had to figure something out! I remembered seeing pre-made decorative panels on Pinterest years ago. The panels were made to fit various pieces of IKEA furniture for those looking for a great IKEA hack. I knew these would be the perfect solution. My goal was to extend the prewar detailing onto the closet doors and also bring in some texture and color to the otherwise bland entry space.”


  Process 1

1. Paint closet doors. I removed our old door pulls and packed them away. I painted the closet doors a high-gloss finish for drama and cleanability. I started with a paint roller but it was leaving a strange texture so I switched to foam brushes. 


2. Paint the O’verlays panels. The panels were a close color match to my painted closet doors but the sheen was different and plastic-looking. I decided to paint the panels so that they would look more like authentic wood paneling.  



Process 2

3. Cut wallpaper panels. I unrolled a yard of wallpaper and laid the panels down on top. I traced the panels and cut them out with an X-Acto knife. Note – I cut the panels slightly smaller than the outside panel dimension so that the wallpaper was not visible from the sides.  

Process 3


process 4


4. Affix wallpaper to panels. I decided to use hot glue. This is the trickiest part and tested my patience. I glued little by little and used a stick to spread the glue to a thin layer in order to get a flush seam.

Process 4B Process 5 Process 6


5. Measure and mark the doors for panel placement. I borrowed a long level from our building’s super. It was a lifesaver. I didn’t want our panels to be uneven and wonky.  

6. Hang panels on doors. O’verlays recommends using liquid nails to install their panels. Since we rent, I needed a less permanent solution. I hung the panels by covering the back of the wallpaper with Spray Mount. It worked great and was easy to re-adjust. A couple panels fell down the next day so I repeated this step and reinforced them with a little hot glue which did the trick.  

Process 7 Process 8


6. Install new pull hardware. This was super easy and was the big ta-da moment!

closet_door_ba_form_4 MacRae After 1 MacRae After 2 closet_door_ba_form_5

Source List:

  • Paint: Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White – High Gloss Finish
  • Door Pulls: Restoration Hardware
  • Panels: O’verlays
  • Grasscloth Wallpaper: Cowtan & Tout
  • Philodendron Selloum Leaves: J Rose Wholesale Flowers
  • Vase: Jamali Garden

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