With property prices continuing to skyrocket, more of us are finding ourselves renting long-term, spending decades and even raising families in these borrowed properties. As such, the idea of the rental merely being 'digs' to bed down in for a few months before going off to buy that four-bed with the spacious back garden, is becoming an increasingly outdated notion. And while you're probably not going to be replacing your landlord's dodgy old kitchen or remodelling the structure of the property anytime soon, there’s plenty you can do to really personalise your space to make it feel like home - without spending loads of money or doing anything that might risk the terms of your rental.
Here are our 11 top tips to get you started:
Colour is an obvious way to personalise your home, but painting your walls in bright shades might not be an option if you're renting. Consider adding vibrant hues with your furnishings instead- a neutral wall can offer the perfect backdrop for a dramatic fuchsia armchair or a sideboard painted in bold sunshine yellow. If you're a little wary, dip a toe into the look by sticking with neutral furnishings and adding colour in less permanent ways, such as with a few statement cushions or a bright throw you can remove when you want a quick change-up.
Some rented properties can feel a little unloved, with period features simply covered over to create a maintenance-free finish for landlords. Sadly, old fireplaces often seem to fall victim to this, either being crudely boarded over or with their contents stripped out and just a hole left in its place. If yours is the latter, consider faking it by filling it with some characterful logs, either completely stacked up to fill the space or even resting in a fire basket for a more realistic look. Alternatively fill with church candles or fairy lights, so you can still enjoy that ethereal twinkly glow. If yours has been boxed in and needs hiding but has a nice surround you'd still like to show off, try placing a large statement light in front of it to act as a design distraction while still offering you a gentle source of light. A large artwork casually leaning against it manages to look effortlessly cool and doesn’t look as if it’s only there to disguise the ugliness beneath.
Freestanding, flexible storage is the renter’s best friend: requiring no attachment to walls (and therefore no holes to upset landlords), opting for modular pieces which you can add to or reconfigure as your needs change allows you to remain adaptable, as well as meaning your storage can easily be rearranged to fit a future home when the time comes to move on. Books, photos and trinkets instantly add a homely feel to any space, so opting for pieces which allow you to display them can be a canny decorating decision.
The Darcey shelves by Steuart Padwick look great and have a small footprint, so they’re great if your rented pad is short on space, too.
Plants and flowers are a sure fire way to add character and personality to any space (a trick interior stylists know all too well, hence seeing them crop up so often in lifestyle imagery). Offering a lot of bang for your buck, house plants are officially trendy again (take a look at the proliferation of succulents and retro ferns, cheese plants and fiddle-leaf figs on Pinterest if you don't believe us and check out our infographic on finding your ideal houseplant).
If you’ve got limited surface space in your rental, try out some equally on-trend macrame hanging planters instead, suspending them from a single nail, or from edges of furniture or the ends of curtain poles if you don't want to make any holes.
Whether you work fulltime from home or just on occasion, a dedicated workspace can really help you get organised and separate work from home life, even if your 'office' simply consists of a small desk tucked into a corner. Customisable pieces such as a pegboard will allow you to keep tools and stationery to hand and looking good, as well as provide handy spots to stick inspirational imagery up in to help spur you on through the day. Ensure you have a good task light, like the Cohen light, close by (essential for these short winter days) and try to get into the habit of tidying up when it's time to clock off every day, so your work detritus doesn't spill into your living space. If you're working on a make-do desk, perhaps belonging to your landlord, add a personal touch by switching out drawer knobs with something a little more interesting that you can easily switch back again in the future.
Art on walls is the ultimate finishing touch to a room, and will instantly make your space feel homely and ‘finished’. Some landlords unfortunately fail to see it that way, however, banning tenants from banging holes in walls, though there are a number of workarounds for this. Try eschewing frames altogether and get imaginative with how you hang your prints. Suspending them from a vintage wooden clothes hanger or bulldog clip only requires a small picture pin (see if there's any already lurking in your walls). Alternatively, simply Blu Tack your print to the wall and create a border around it using decorative Washi tape.”
Poor flooring - from that ubiquitous 'Landlord Blue' short-pile carpet to dodgy laminate - can be the bane of many renter's homes. Replacing it isn't usually an option, yet it can let down the look of an otherwise lovely space. Rugs are your best option here, go for the largest you can afford, covering as much of the offending floor as possible. Go for a plain, neutral number that you can pass off as carpet, or if the rest of your room is quite plain, use it as an opportunity to add some interest by plumping for a bold pattern. And when the time comes to move on, you can simply roll them up and take them with you.
There may be other elements of your rental that you're not keen on, yet are well and truly stuck with. One clever approach to treating such eyesores is to simply hide them in plain sight - this boiler being a case in point. Rather than let down the look of an otherwise sleek kitchen, by simply covering it with a piece of quirky wallpaper, it is turned into an interesting focal point of the room. Depending on what you're trying to hide, patterned gift wrap or fabric over furniture can work just as well as an effective cover-up.
Another alternative to art on walls is the humble wall sticker. With the internet awash with options, there's plenty to choose from, and they easily adhere to walls and can be removed afterwards without a trace. Alternatively, have a go at making something yourself - get creative and cut up some coloured paper or sticky-backed plastic sheeting, taking inspiration from a pattern already within your room to tie the look together. We recommend geometric patterns or simple circles which always look good. With any option, it's always worth doing a patch test first.
The trend for open-plan living is still going strong, though in some rentals this more accurately equates to shoe-horning a sofa into into a kitchen rather than a sprawling loft-style space. But, whatever your layout, creating clearly defined areas for relaxing, cooking and eating can help curb any claustrophobia and help the space feel more like a multi-faceted home, despite the lack of separate rooms. Furniture can be the best way to do this- try using a strategically placed shelving unit to partially divide the space without losing any light or doing anything permanent, to help zone it up. A deep, backless unit will allow you to display items on both sides and keep things looking good from all angles.
If space at home is limited, the furniture you fill it with needs to work extra-hard to justify its place. Look out for multi-functioning furniture items, such as foldable dining tables or sleek sofa beds, so you can reconfigure the space to meet your changing requirements on a daily basis. Also, consider using items outside of their intended purpose: a chair or stool makes for a quirky yet practical nightstand, and can easily be moved over to your dining table when extra guests are coming over to eat. With a little careful consideration and savvy shopping, you can ensure your home is ready for a range of activities with a quick rejig, however limited space might be.