Imani Keal doesn’t let her 490-square-foot studio get in the way of her creativity. Content creator based in Washington, DC Faith at home is always sharing ideas for improving rental spaces like hers, whether that means painting, installing peel-and-stick wallpaper, or even replacing sinks and pipes (yes, she did that too!) .
“There’s a misconception that renting is for people under 30, single or childless and that it’s a lesser option than buying a home,” says Keal. saying. “I don’t really agree. Renting a home is a form of housing that works for many people for many reasons. There is no need to create these leaders because we all need a house that works for our lives!”
Keep reading for a look at Keal’s chic, organized space and to learn more about her favorite DIY projects, the best second-hand items, and tips for those looking to use a small office.
Imani Keal Residence Tour Washington, DC
Name: Imani Keal
Where: Washington, DC
Square footage: 490
Rental / Ownership: Loans
You base your Instagram account around rental-friendly hacks and tips for small-space living. What inspired you to start your page, and what do you enjoy most about watching your community grow over the years?
I started the account in June 2020 during the pandemic because I was sad and struggling with my claustrophobia. I know we are all alone in our homes, but I can’t take it anymore, so I have to do something to keep in touch. At the time, the only store open was Ace Hardware, and I found myself there several times a week thinking of new things I could do to pass the time. I started posting a few projects on my old Instagram, and after a while, my friend convinced me to start a separate account and called him. Faith At Home!
I started making videos and sharing tips about living and decorating, and people flocked to the account. I never really thought that I would be able to make this a full-time job, but after two years, I quit my job and haven’t looked back since. The messages and DMs I’ve received over the years have shown that many people don’t know where to start or even how to talk to their owner (about making an upgrade). I am honored that what I created at a time when I needed to communicate with others has become a help to many people.
How would you describe your own style? How did it evolve over time?
I call it neutral maximalism. I like things to be warm and comfortable. Developing your style is really about starting small, gaining confidence, and doing it over and over again. So if I want to try something, I’ll buy a small mirror or something inexpensive to get my feet wet, then when I decide I like it, I’ll do hardcore !
Are there any schedules you regret getting into?
Minimalism. When I first moved into this house, I tried so hard to make my space look like the ones I saw on Instagram and Pinterest. I have white walls and a gray bed, but every knickknack is hidden in the bedroom. I was tired of trying to hide everything I loved and wanted to see my things, so maximalism came out and took over my whole house.
How do you divide the different living areas (bedroom, living room, dining room, etc.) when you work in the studio?
Fabrics, colors, and wallpaper can play a big role in creating different spaces in spaces like theaters. At home, I put out a large 8 to 10 foot plastic bag to separate my living room from my walk in closet. In the dining room/kitchen area, my house already has two built-in bookshelves in the middle of the space, but I made another partition by painting the entire kitchen pink and using Scalamandre zebra print wallpaper and – brown in the dining room. . I found wallpaper on Amazon and sold for $22 per roll. I took that as a sign to finish the project, and my friend and I spent two days working on the space.
You often say that a home should be visually pleasing while still being functional and personal. What are some ways you have combined style and functionality in your own space?
My IKEA GJÖRA bed is a good example of the marriage of style and function. When I bought the bed, I had the long end of the frame on the wall but I decided to change it to help make the difference between the bedroom and the hallway. Now I can use the top edge of the bed to hang all my clothes. When I bought this rug, it was a very light wood, so I used Minwax stain to darken it, and now I have the perfect rug for the studio. It’s too bad IKEA discontinued this model.
What’s your favorite thing in your room all the time?
I put black casings on the doors of my dining room and it looks great. This part of my house is getting boring and I wasn’t sure what to do with it until I saw a post from Content creator Marienne Sides. I loved her NYC apartment and went straight to The Home Depot. I picked up some MDF board, nails, and paint (I used Black by Behr). This is my favorite project I’ve ever done because I’m sure I’m going to screw it up!
You’ve installed family pieces into your space. Can you share a little about how you did this?
My grandmother passed away in October 2020, and I want to have pieces of her in my space. I inherited his china cabinet, some wine glasses, and two of his lamps. What really helps me through the grieving process is what surrounds him. I can never imagine a world without it, but it’s nice to have a little bit of it in my home. Next to my grandmother’s china cabinet is my great grandfather’s cane that I made good at Michaels. I’m always looking for ways to enhance and enhance the unique elements of my home, and organizing is a great way to do that.
You use Facebook Marketplace a lot – what’s your favorite FB thing in your home?
My coffee table, which I finally got for free. On a rainy day, my friend and I went to pick up this glass and metal table from a family. The table belonged to the seller’s father, and he was selling it to clean his house. The glass is so heavy even when you remove the glass from the top, so in the rain, I was afraid it would break. He didn’t take my payment and got a free table!
One of my favorite things is the lamp made of gold. It belonged to a lawyer—maybe his mother bought it for him when he was studying for the bar exam and paid about $250. He sold it to me for $25 because they were refurbishing and using modern models. I love this lamp.
Your kitchen is beautiful! Tell us how you decided to renovate the space. Do you cook there a lot? What is your favorite dish to make at home?
I am a woman who does not cook. I don’t use my kitchen much, but my favorite thing to do when I’m forced to cook is pancakes and eggs.
Still, I decided to redo my kitchen. My first job was a peel-and-stick tile job that I never liked to look at again. I woke up one day, went to Ace Hardware, bought Monticello Rose by Benjamin Moore and some poplar shelves at The Home Depot, and got to work on upgrading my kitchen.
It was a really fun project—the homeowner helped out by installing a new sink and plumbing from Waterworks. (I used to work at Waterworks, and the perks were pretty fun!) I love the Easton Classic Two-Hole Bridge Faucet with Oak Lever Handles and Spray. I sent (the landlord) an email explaining everything I wanted to do in the kitchen, and we agreed that they would keep the sink when I moved out, and that I would move the water. That email became the basis of my proprietary email template that over 4,000 people have downloaded and used to create their dream home.
In a few sentences, what design advice do you have for other studio residents?
- Act through the landlord and read your lease. Your rental room is fun—I love it—but there’s no need to get angry and argue with the landlord.
- Whatever your budget is for a couch, put down $500 and get another quality item that will last a while.
- It’s okay to paint your house black – 300 square feet will not look like 900 square feet, so stop worrying about making the space bigger and make it special.
Tell us about your dog, the second Salazar Slytherin. How long have you had him and what kind of dog is he?
The second Salazar Slytherin was the highlight of my life. During the pandemic, my cousins’ dogs had puppies, so my mom, sister, and I all decided to get a dog. It is incredibly important and does not like to separate me (I work on it), but in general I just love it very much. He is a two-year-old Yorkie.
You’ve lived in Washington, DC, since college—wow! What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday in the city?
I’ve been working on creating a better work-life balance, so I try to get off work Monday through Friday. But I’m always up late, so I like to sleep until about 90. I get up, walk Salazar and go to Orange Theory or watch hours and hours of YouTube. I love vlogs Gene of High Low Luxxe or Lydia Elise Millen. While I’m doing that, I turn on TikTok and call my family on FaceTime, to see what they’re up to. I am passionate and love to start people’s business.
After that, I feel like I have to work. Creating content is my full-time job, but I love the restaurant industry, so I take shifts at my favorite places and often go there for family meals. Who doesn’t want a free meal from a Michelin-starred restaurant for lunch? After work, I go there Reveler Hours for Julia Child’s martini and head to Salazar’s house. Sometimes I convince a friend to come make me dinner and we end up on the couch laughing at stupid things for hours on end.
What’s it like living in DC as a creator?
Living in DC is great as a creative. There’s always a show, an opening, or something going on, and I love it. Most of my friends are chefs, photographers, and artists, so I’m surrounded by people to bounce ideas off of.