Owning It | Jes Toole
One of the most frustrating things about renting is feeling like you can't make a house a home. No nails, no screws, no painting — no personality whatsoever. But there’s a hack (or two) for that. As part of our Owning It series, celebrating creative tenants, we take a look around Jes Toole's Manchester apartment. Maximal style, for minimal spends — and none of it permanent...
Name: Jes Toole
Job: Background in media recruitment, but now self-employed
Rental history: Serial renter. Moved into current apartment in June 2018
Lives with: Her boyfriend, Adam
Location: Manchester’s Northern Quarter
Set-up: Two-bedroom duplex apartment
Why did you decide to rent?
“Getting the money together for a deposit is difficult unless you’ve been saving since birth. Plus, Adam and I wanted to test the water to see if we could actually live together before paying a mortgage!”
What are the benefits of renting?
“There’s no commitment because you can get out whenever. And if the dishwasher breaks, I know it’s not coming out of our pocket. There’s always somebody there on call if something goes wrong, which is good.”
And the negatives of renting?
“We don’t have the freedom to knock down walls or put in a new kitchen. But it’s made us very creative, because we’ve had to think outside the box. We changed the blinds and wall lights but all the decorating I’ve done is completely reversible, like removable vinyl wallpaper."
How did you find this place?
“We viewed a different apartment in the same complex and put in a lower offer [for the rent] but got outbid! I was so upset but scrolled right back through old rental listings, and saw this place, which had been up for over two months. That gave me a bit of bargaining power to request things like new floors before signing.”
"I’m very confident with my decorating decisions but still learning as I go. My style isn’t for everyone, but my goal is to inspire people to be more creative with their rented property, and prove that you don’t need to spend a fortune to make a house a home."
How laid-back is your landlord?
“My estate agent follows me on Instagram, so I always call before making any changes so they’re not surprised by anything they see on the grid! It’s definitely trickier being a renter in this social media age. But we’re so happy we’ve got a flexible landlord who says yes ninety percent of the time.”
Is space and storage an issue?
“The dining table and chairs that came with the property are in storage. I want to be here for a few years, and I didn’t want the standard glass table that all rentals have; I wanted something nice. There’s loads of storage in the kitchen and we tend to put a lot of stuff in the spare room, which no one sees!”
Leave no trace
“Make sure it's reversible! As long as you leave it how you found it, you can pretty much do what you want — although I always ask permission [from the landlord] first. Just be prepared to put it back the way it was when you leave.”
Removable vinyl is your friend
“I’ve just vinyled the whole kitchen in leopard print. The first thing I ever put vinyl on was a boring side table. It took me five minutes and once I saw the finished result, I became obsessed with doing it to everything. Use spray paint and a funky vinyl wrap to give old furniture new life.”
Go for that high-low combo
“At first I bought loads of stuff on Facebook Marketplace. I also went through a phase of winning things in competitions. When you buy [furniture] cheaply, you can upgrade and swap it out once you can afford nicer stuff. It is worth spending a bit more money on statement pieces, and you can dress around them with more affordable finds.”
Use Instagram to empower you
“My friends came over for dinner and said I should be showing people what I’d done to the place, so I did! It’s about being consistent and posting every day. My followers encourage me to take my creativity further. Through Instagram, I’ve identified a gap in the market for vinyl designs and so I’m setting up my own business selling them.”
Article written by: Natalie Wall
Photography by: Liz Seabrook