Home improvement can be that necessary and fun activity worth getting your hands dirty. Fixing up your space applies to both homeowners and month-to-month renters because, as Stephen Fanuka puts it, wherever you lay your head – and a good portion your wallet – is your castle, so style it to your personality and budget.
Known as the “Contractor to the Stars,” Fanuka’s built a successful TV career from constructing the elaborate homes of celebrities such as Beyonce, Bruce Willis, Tony Bennett, Andy Cohen and Bethenny Frankel. His intro into celebrity construction all began in the ‘90s when he helped refurbish the home – including a 300-square-foot shoe closet – of former Philipine first lady Imelda Marcos (“My hands bled the most during that job,” Fanuka recalls).
Despite his A-list resume, Fanuka's hammer-and-nail-worn hands haven’t necessarily earned the Maspeth contractor and host of DIY Network & HGTV’s “Million Dollar Contractor” any breaks with his clientele of one percenters. “I'd get an email almost every Monday for almost two years and it would start out telling me how awesome I am, how great I am, lucky he is to have the best,” Fanuka says, laughing, “but then he goes, 'However, I just want to remind you I can destroy your life by 5 p.m. if I choose to. Have a great day.'”
However, Fanuka’s blue-collar career has made hime the perfect expert on home improvement as well as an appropriate spokesman for the Gold Bond's Cracked Skin Fill and Protect Cream. “I have 50 guys on my team. And a lot of them come back and they've got whether it's cuts or dry skin I keep a whole 5-gallon empty water canister filled with the small Gold Bond packets. They keep grabbin em like lollipops. Happy men, happy life. That’s how I stay in business.”
The business of home improvement differs for all for both owners and renters – Fanuka says his No. 1 request with his clients is upgraded kitchens, while utilizing space is a priority for apartment renters — the end result — putting your personal signature on your home — remains the same. “Most places if you’re renting, you’re not going to be able to take down a wall, unless you’re gonna write an agreement that you’re gonna put it back,” Fanuka says. “I always tell people, make do with what you have, but repurpose for the situation you are best suited for. If you like running on a treadmill, find a spot for that treadmill. You don't have to build a gym. You can put it in the corner.
Hiring Fanuka to tear down your drywall may not be an option, but the "Contractor to the Stars" suggests these modern home improvement twists that can help make the most of your little apartment space.
4 home improvement tips for small spaces
Ditch the living room, create an office
“If there's a room to watch TV, you no longer need a living room. Make it into something else,” Fanuka suggests. "Turn it into an office. Or I tell people to utilize the closets. If you have a little extra closet space, clear out the closet and put a desk inside the closet so you can close the door and nobody sees it. We put all our papers and our mail on the desk. You won't see the mess that you're creating. Take a closet nook that still has the doors, open the doors, put a shelf in there, put the chair in there, then close it up.
Utilize your ceiling for storage
“You can definitely create a [storage] system,” Fanuka says. Everything's out there now. And you can hang it from your ceiling. It folds up. It's like an ironing board. If folds away. There's a company called Hafele. Great hardware. There are lots of cool things out there, closet systems you can hang from your ceiling. Some fold up like ironing boards.
At the same time, ‘style’ your ceiling
“I tell people your ceiling is your fifth wall,” Fanuka says. “Drop a hot color on it, whether it's lavender, blue, black — black happens to be a very hot color right now.Even wallpaper the ceiling. No one realizes what a funky color or even wallpaper on your ceiling can make on your apartment, and for pennies. Let that home represent you for who you are and your personality. People already know who you are and if they don't they sure will as soon as they walk in and find the hot pink ceiling up there.”
“Change out the lights, the hardware, the kitchen cabinet knobs — stuff like that will make you feel like you have something new without having to break the bank, because you may not be there next month because your lease is up and the [owner's] about to double the rent.”