Making the most of a rented property

August 29, 2014

Guest post by Melissa Burfitt

Image from IngerJohanna

To an extent, there’s a wonderful freedom in not being responsible for the maintenance of your rented home – it’s not your job to fix any broken roof tiles or replace the old carpets. But there’s also a limit to the improvements you can justifiably make before there’s an undeniable sense of throwing away your money – you can’t take painted walls or built-in wardrobes with you when you move, after all. So, what can you do to ensure your rental is more home than house?

Let there be lighting

Any good interior designer will tell you that lighting can help transform a room from stark to sumptuous. In a rental you’re limited by the pre-existing light fittings – often a single bulb hanging sadly from the centre of the ceiling – but you can inject warmth with strategically placed lamps. Arranging table lights at different heights and adding freestanding lamps to dark corners will help create cosy nooks and breathe life into a room. This is particularly impactful during winter, when short days and dull skies can strip an interior of warmth.

And that bare bulb in the middle of the room? Well, a funky shade can make a major difference, and there are hundreds of pendant-style designs which don’t require any electrical work – I spotted some gorgeous examples at Jago, a new interiors boutique on Bristol’s Clifton Triangle.

Nothing looks as good as comfort feels…

When you can’t repaint the walls, think about how you can use the textures of soft furnishings to dictate the tone of your space instead. Want an earthy, natural bedroom? Add large knitted throws, fur rugs and linen bedding. Looking for a decadent living space? Combine a vintage leather armchair with embroidered cushions and a heritage blanket. The White Company offers masterful examples of how to use texture rather than colour to enliven a room.

Images from The Marion House Book and Stil Inspiration

Magic carpets

Ugly flooring is often a problem in rented accommodation – for some reason landlords seem to find navy blue and forest green carpets infinitely appealing, even when renting to professionals rather than over-excitable, straight-out-of-school students. When this issue rears its head, rugs are your friend. Not only will they cover up any poor flooring choices, they’ll also help break up open-plan layouts to create cosy, defined spaces. And you can take them with you when you go, so they’re a sound investment.

Images from angel in the north, Happy Interior Blog and Residence Magazine

The art of picture hanging

Make the effort to hang photos and artwork. Rentals often have neutral walls – the perfect blank canvas on which to stamp your personality, whether you prefer chic monochrome photography, bright and bold paintings or joyful snaps of family and friends. Most landlords are happy for you to put up pictures as long as you’re careful when hammering into the walls. If yours is particularly strict, adhesive strips from Amazon or a local hardware store will allow you to hang and re-hang items without causing any damage. Then it’s simply a case of choosing your artwork and playing around with arrangements.

Sowing the seeds of a home

If you’re lucky enough to have a rental with outside space, enjoy it and spend as much time out there as you can. But if, like many, you’re in a flat or have little more than a paving slab outside the front door, there’s no need to write off any hope of developing green fingers. Indoor plants quite literally add life to a room: oxygenating the air, providing a pop of colour and, if you choose herbs, enhancing your cooking, too. Most supermarkets sell potted herbs at reasonable prices – the trick to keeping them alive is to replant them as soon as you buy them (they’ve used all the nutrients in their existing soil). Choose a spot with natural light and pick up some terracotta pots (or perhaps a trough or glass terrarium if you want to group your chosen spruces together) – Butlers has a fantastic range of colourful options. For added fun, find a cute watering can to sit alongside them. This will also help you remember to feed them!

Images from Design Sponge

Heavenly scents

It’s easy to focus solely on the visual and tactile elements of a room, but don’t forget the more subtle nuances of scent. When trying to cultivate a sense of personality, fragrance can be very powerful – smell is the most evocative sense, after all. Hotels often use this to great effect: my base during a recent trip to Morocco was filled with a signature orange-blossom scent, instantly distinguishing the tranquil space from the bustling streets of Marrakech. Back home, my personal choice is Bramley’s peppermint and rose candle for its uniquely sweet yet fresh aroma.

Images from Bramley and greige design blog