Five simple tricks to add personality to your rented home

Bedroom with wooden flooring and colourful bedding
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

Transform a rented property into a stylish home – just add colour, clever furniture and great accessories

You’ve found the perfect flat to rent – exciting times – but the tenancy agreement is so watertight that it won’t allow a single nail to be hammered in, let alone a coat of paint on the walls. Wondering how you can make it feel like yours? Follow our tips and you’ll soon create the home you want.

Future-proof your furniture

‘It makes sense to spend more on things that can move with you from home to home,’ says Joanna Thornhill, stylist and author of Home For Now and Insta-Style For Your Living Space (Cico Books).

Think long-term, choosing furniture that will work not just in your current space, but future rented homes to come. Built-in shelves (if the landlord allows you to install them), might solve all of your immediate storage needs, but it’s likely you’ll have to leave them behind when you move. Instead, look for flexible shelving units that can be rearranged to fit into alcoves or along a wall.

Modular furniture is every renter’s BFF – a sofa that offers a left- or right-handed chaise option means it will work in future living room spaces just as well, while a sideboard made up of separate parts keeps options open. ‘Modular pieces also help with the logistics of getting otherwise bulky furniture items in and out of different properties,’ says Joanna.

Choose great design

‘Statement furniture is a game-changer,’ says Kerry Lockwood, homes influencer and renter. ‘Many people feel that when they are renting they have to buy make-do furniture as it may not suit or fit in the next property they move to. This is true for certain items, but each room should have at least one statement piece of furniture. This will really anchor and set the tone for that room, so even if you can’t fully decorate, you can distract the eye with your statement piece.’ 

‘Opting for timeless, classic pieces that you love will ensure they won’t fall out of favour as fashions change,’ says Joanna. ‘They can be utilised within various different schemes, making them fairly future-proof: think a beautiful grey linen armchair or a classic black-and-white flokati rug.’ 

Living room with pink and blue chairs

Add interest with colour

Rental properties tend be decorated neutrally – white walls are much easier to repaint at the end of a tenancy than coloured ones, and are more forgiving for touch-ups. But don’t see them as boring – in fact, what neutrals offer is a blank canvas, which will allow you to make your chosen colours and textures shine.

‘Accessories are your friend,’ says Joanna. ‘Start by assessing each room and deciding on a predominant colour (or colours) you’d like to bring through into that space. In a kitchen this could mean tea towels, crockery and a tablecloth; in a bedroom your bed linen can be the star of the show, or in a living space, some floor-to-ceiling statement curtains at your window that tie in with your cushions could really pull the scheme together.’

Be clever with walls and floors

If your landlord says no to paint, then there are still ways you can bring style to your walls. ‘A great way to liven up a rented home is to frame wallpaper samples or use it to cover large canvases with and lean against the wall,’ says Kerry.

‘Large canvases or fabric wall hangings can almost do the job of patterned wallpaper and are lightweight enough to hang from a couple of nails, meaning minimal damage to walls,’ says Joanna. Alternatively, you could try fixing posters and prints with pieces of washi tape (coloured masking tape), which should peel off without leaving a mark. 

Likewise, don’t underestimate the power of a striking rug, which will add colour and style to a room without the need for any DIY. Joanna suggests going for the largest rug you can find: ‘If and when you move, it’s far easier to make a large rug work in a smaller space than a little rug look good in a more expansive area.’

Rugs also have the added bonus of being easy to move to different rooms,’ says Kerry. ‘I love layering several smaller ones in different textures to add more interest.’

Living room with mini office

Get creative with what you’ve got

‘Think like a stylist and pay attention to how you curate your space: a couple of hours spent rearranging ornaments, swapping items between rooms and simply clearing out what no longer serves a purpose can be surprisingly transformative and costs nothing,’ says Joanna, who also suggests using plants to add personality. ‘They’re on trend right now but more than that, they can help make our homes healthier and instantly lift a space.’

Making your space work for you is just as important as how it looks, and if you work from home and need a desk in your living room, then do it. The beauty of renting is that nothing is permanent, so you can repurpose a spare bedroom into that walk-in wardrobe you’ve always wanted. Use screens and lightweight curtains to conceal anything you don’t want on show or to create a ‘room within a room’. 

And if your needs change, you’ll have some great furniture buys, plenty of home accessories and interiors inspiration all set for your next home.

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