Decorating for renters

Making your rented house feel like home is a decorating challenge. We show you how to inject personal style.

When it comes to decorating, renters face a particular set of challenges. Rental properties are, at best, decorated to someone else’s taste and, at worst, dingy and soulless. But unlike homeowners, who can knock down walls and rip up floors to transform a space, renters can’t even put a nail in the wall without the owner’s permission. Even if you are blessed with the most open-minded landlord, you’re unlikely to want to spend any significant time or money on a property that’s not your own, or on anything that you can’t take with you when your lease expires. The solution? Think inexpensive, reversible and portable, and you’ll be ready to transform even the most drab rental house into a home.

Before you start

As major structural alterations are out of the question, focus on decorative ones such as repainting the walls, changing the window treatments and lighting, hanging pictures and laying rugs.
Always consult your landlord before starting any work, and obtain permission in writing. Keep them on side by consulting them at every stage – send through paint charts marked with your favourite shades, and fabric swatches for new curtains you’ve set your heart on. Ensure the changes you make are easily reversible if you hope to have your bond returned when you move out. Anything you remove or disassemble, such as curtains, light fittings or doorknobs should be carefully stored somewhere free from damp or dust, and clearly labelled.

Colour wonderful

When you can’t make alterations to the actual structural elements of a property, colour becomes your new best friend. Repainting the walls of your rental home will have a greater decorative impact than just about anything else. As a general rule, light tones and neutrals will brighten and visually enlarge a space, while darker hues will make it feel cosier and more intimate. You may also find neutral tones are less overwhelming than bright ones, and are therefore more likely to be given your landlord’s tick of approval. If they reject your plans for a full paint job, suggest re-painting only one wall. A bold feature wall in an otherwise neutral space can be very effective. A good tip is to opt for a shade lighter than your existing wall colour as it will be easier to change back when you leave. Keep any leftover paint for future touch-ups, and hand it over to your landlord when you move out.

Fabulous flooring

We tend to forget that flooring provides the largest expanse of colour in a room, so any change will make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of your home. Disguise a drab or stained carpet with colourful and inexpensive rugs from stores such as Ikea or Freedom. Remember to place a non-slip underlay beneath your rug to prevent it from sliding around, even on carpet. Scratched and brittle wooden floors will be given a new lease on life with a good buff and a coat of wax. If you are a keen cook and plan to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, consider outlaying a little more for floating lino tiles that can be laid straight over the top of worn tiles or floorboards. They are easy to install yourself as they don’t require any glue or nails – you simply click-lock the tiles together.

Green spaces

Bring the outdoors in by introducing plenty of potted plants to your rented pad. Natural elements have a calming and softening effect on any room, so even a few potted African violets or cyclamens dotted around will make a real difference. Consider creating a green outlook with a medley of pots and planters on the balcony – they are good for the soul and purify the air coming into the house. Those who love to cook will appreciate a potted herb garden on the kitchen windowsill where plants can catch plenty of sun. Simply reach out and pick a few herbs for the pot, and everything can be packed up and taken with you when you move out.

Window dressing

Often the best solution for dingy curtains is to remove them altogether and let the light flood in. However, if privacy is an issue, or you prefer to control the amount of light coming in, consider carefully storing the existing curtains and replacing them with a simple roman or venetian blind. Both are available from homeware and speciality stores in a range of standard sizes, and they might even be re-usable in your next property.

Source: Georgia Madden