Restyle your living room for less
Create comfort and style in your rented home using new-season favourites from our ANYDAY brand
Home is a place that should feel welcoming, relaxing and – most importantly – like us. Renting can impose a few restrictions (and sometimes some dodgy furniture too) but there are plenty of ways to upgrade the experience. Start with a fresher living room, perhaps, that will work for both you and your rental company, adding in new pieces that are flexible enough to move on with you when the time comes.
If your current living room is a random mishmash, paring things down might help. Are there pieces of furniture that could be moved to other rooms? Or even things your landlord might remove altogether? It’s important to establish exactly what you can and can’t do within your tenancy agreement. Standard contracts can seem rigid but often there’s some wiggle room – just be sure to have any changes you want to make agreed and confirmed in writing.
‘Most people believe landlords won’t allow them to update fixed decor, but if you’re willing to spend your own money on paint or window dressings that could transform a tired space, it is usually in their favour to agree,’ says Wil Law (@johnlewis_wil), Partner & Home Design Stylist. ‘Even the transition from heavy magnolia to a fresher warm white paint can make a space feel brand new. You may be able to negotiate on going bolder with colour in certain spaces, even if you have to revert to neutral when you move on.’
Create destination corners
Larger items such as sofas might be hard to change but good styling can make all the difference. Cushions and throws will both cover up and add comfort, while a rug can distract from unappealing flooring and bring a good hit of colour to the room.
Leading interior stylist and founder of Inside Stylists Emma Morton-Turner suggests grouping smaller accessories for big impact. ‘In the living room choose cushions and throws in complementary colours and match with your accessories,’ she suggests. ‘A coloured cushion teamed with photo frames and candles on the sideboard in the same palette will give a cohesive look that you’ll love and won’t break the bank.’
Partner & Home Design Stylist Bethan Harwood (@johnlewis_bethan) points to plants fulfilling a similar function in a rental. ‘There are so many creative ideas being shared on Instagram with plants hanging from curtain poles, or being placed high up on shelving – they’re a great way to take the eye to different places and soften a space.’
Back at ground level, smaller set ups such an accent chair, side table and accessories are brilliant for injecting a bit of your personal style into the space, turning an unloved corner into a worthy focal point.
Work that sofa
If the sofa really has seen better days you may want to invest in your own. You'll be able to take it with you when you move, giving instant home comfort to wherever you land next.
Bethan Harwood suggests avoiding bulky corner sofas. ‘It’s unlikely to be the right configuration for future living rooms, and a smaller sofa and couple of chairs can be a far more versatile option,’ she says. ‘Modular seating also tends to be expensive.‘
The sofas under the ANYDAY brand are smart buys. As well as being affordable, they tend to be slimmer and lighter so they are easy to move around if you need flexibility within the space. ‘Think about ways to add extra value too, such as a sofa bed for overnight guests or one which has useful space below,’ Bethan suggests.
Choose statement pieces
When buying any new piece of furniture, make sure it’s something you love. ‘Furniture that is yours will come to tell the story of the different homes you have lived in and will surprise you endlessly by looking completely different in different settings, dressed in fresh ways,’ says Philippa Prinsloo, Partner & Head of Design Home.
Freestanding storage such as a smart shelving unit, cabinet or sideboard will always be useful and gives the opportunity for display too. Alexandra Fox (@johnlewis_alexandra), Partner & Home Design Stylist, often recommends open shelving units – ‘They're such easy things to style and re-style,’ she says. ‘You can lean and stack wall art without drilling into walls, and display beautiful accessories such as vases, changing things around during the year to keep the look fresh.’
Light it right
Perhaps the easiest way to change the look and mood of a room is to create a proper lighting scheme. Pools of soft light around the room are far more forgiving than the glare of an overhead bulb and a few well-placed lamps can highlight the bits you love while banishing those you don’t to the shadows.
Explore the great choice of bulbs available. ‘Leave the ceiling light for doing the cleaning and choose table lamps in dark corners to create ambience,’ says Emma Morton-Turner. ‘A bulb with a mid-tone around 470 lumens is perfect for an evening in front of the TV or for entertaining.’
Floor lamps can provide flexible light at a range of heights and are easy to pack up to take with you. Bethan is quick to point out that lamps work hard even when unlit. ‘Floor lamps are great for adding a pop of colour,’ she says. ‘So many rentals are white or magnolia and you can really change up the space by adding a colourful lamp with those colours picked out again in the cushions and a piece of artwork.’