Don’t let renting cramp your style

Many of us are living in rented homes — but can we ever make them feel like our own? Rose Hockley on how to create your stylish nest
The Community By Rose Hockley
Published on June 1, 2014

Our home should be a place where we can truly feel ourselves and show off our style and taste — but millions of us are living in someone else’s property, with all the limitations that imposes. Tenants have to cope with decor choices that aren’t theirs and landlords’ rules on what they can and cannot do to rooms. To add to the frustration — especially for decor divas — current spiralling house prices mean it could be years before many can make the giant financial leap onto the property ladder. The Community gives you a few suggestions for rescuing rented spaces, and you’ll find you don’t want your tenancy to end!


Boring walls — especially in an unappealing shade — can really impact on the atmosphere of a home. Don’t be daunted, with a little thinking outside the box there’s no reason why patterned walls can’t be a part of any home, without breaking any of your tenancy rules. If the walls are plain but boring and there’s a paper you love, try suspending one roll as a single drop by hanging it from a trouser or wire hanger secured with clothes pins or simply a couple of tacks at the top.
Tactic tip: A tenancy agreement may stipulate that you cannot make changes to your home, but if there’s a specific task you feel needs doing you could approach the landlord to ask if you can do it yourself.
For instance: one wall may be shabby or in a garish colour and you could paint it and then promise to return to the original colour when your tenancy ends, if they wish.


Pictures and photos instantly personalise a space but hanging these up can be a problem if the landlord will object to potential damage of walls from hooks and nails. However, removable wall stickers, murals and even wallpapers have risen in popularity in recent years. Make the most of paint leftovers or tester pots and create your own inexpensive artwork with a cheap canvas. Dab on different colours to create an abstract pattern, or echo colours which are already featured in the room. Lean against a wall on a shelf or centre-stage on a mantel, or use to cover up an ugly fireplace.
Small cardboard gift boxes glued together create a display space, and are the perfect spot to show off lightweight items. Line each box with colourful paper offcuts and attach to a wall with removable picture-hanging strips.
Tactic tip: If you plan on staying in the property for a while, use this as a bargaining tool. Tell the landlord how keen you are to make it feel like home as you are likely to stay longer if you can make minor alterations. No landlord wants a property lying empty or the constant expense and hassle of advertising for tenants and vetting them, and so may be willing to bend the rules to retain a long-term tenant.


Small spaces mean storage is vital but as a tenant, spending thousands on bespoke fitted storage that you’d leave behind if you move is unlikely to be an option. Luckily, with clever planning and savvy shopping it’s possible to marry the aesthetic and the practical into one happy union. It’s no coincidence that the trend for painted furniture coincided with the last big recession. Think of it as your interiors secret weapon, ready to turn even the most dated and dull furniture into something more appealing, rather than simply hitting the shops for something new. Convert a redundant wardrobe into an armoire by adding shelves inside and, if the furniture is yours, paint it (if wooden, sand and prime first) in a striking shade to make it a feature.
Alternatively, cover doors with self-adhesive chalkboard sheets so it works as a place for messages and shopping lists. Create a handy storage space for everyday crockery on a counter top by using a simple fruit crate. Add cup hooks inside and use the top for extra items. Old, vintage suitcases make a great makeshift table; stack a few together for a coffee table and if they’re scruffy give them a blitz with spraypaint to transform them into a matching set.
Tactic tip: Adjustable shelving can be a great solution for rentals. If your landlord is reluctant to put up shelving for you, see if you can get permission to install it on the basis it could be customised for future tenants. Always ask for permission before making any changes outside of the rules of your rental agreement, however minor, otherwise you could be in breach of the terms of your contract.

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