Updated: Nov 1
Rented properties can feel restrictive when it comes to decorating and styling, so I thought it’d be useful to share some rental-friendly home styling ideas to demonstrate how you can make a big impact even in rented accommodation. All it takes is a strategy, attention to detail and some creative thinking. This post was inspired by a presentation in my 'Creative home styling on a budget' course. If you find the info useful then check the course out. It's self-paced and completely online with lifetime access all for under £10!
Creative ways to connect with your home - The Rental Friendly Home Styling Edit
1. Understand the rules
My first tip about rental-friendly home styling is to check your contract or talk to your landlord to fully understand what you are permitted to do. Many landlords, if consulted, will allow you to make changes like painting on the understanding that you return the walls to the original condition when you leave the tenancy. It’s important that you understand the rules and only plan changes you are permitted to make. Great news if that includes a lick of paint, but don't panic if it doesn't.
2. Emphasise your rental property's strengths
Focus on emphasising the strengths ie the good bits, maybe you have a spacious living area or a great view, fantastic natural light or lots of original features. If you are blessed with ‘good bits’ then your rental-friendly home styling strategy should focus on making them a focal point. This leads us on nicely to the next point…
3. Minimise your rental's weaknesses
To a certain extent, with rental properties, you have to accept the ‘bones’ of the property are relatively fixed and unchangeable. You aren’t going to be knocking down walls or enlarging window apertures, for example. There are, however, plenty of ways to distract the eye from the negatives you can't change them and as we just looked at, distract the eye away to the positives.
4. Pick your rental-friendly home styling colour palette
People have written whole courses on choosing colour schemes as colour psychology is complex & interesting. Colour schemes are very personal as everyone has their unique relationship with colour. These are some of the strategies I use to determine colour palettes for my home and my suggestions for amazing colour experts to consult.
Read Karen Haller's book (The Little Book of Colour), available on Amazon - it has loads of tips and tricks to help you understand your relationships (some even subconsciously) with colours. She's amazing! The book is a revelation.
The 60:30:10 ratio is a useful tool for experimenting with colour. The idea behind it is to use a main colour (the 60%) a secondary colour in a smaller proportion (the 30%) & finally an accent colour (the 10%). Continuing the same palette of colours throughout the home, varying the rations and proportions in different rooms creates a feeling of continuity without it being too 'samey' or repetitive. I'll look at some worked examples using this principal in a future blog post soon.
Look in your wardrobe. I've heard many stylists give this advice (Pippa Jameson and Kate Watson-Smythe, to name a couple. They are both supremely talented and inspiring; look them up if you don't already follow them) and this idea behind the principle is that the colours you like to wear will often make you feel happy and connected with your home if incorporated into your room schemes.
Lucy Gough (another of my absolute favourite stylists) recommends picking colours from personal photos you love with happy memories, maybe from a holiday or wedding, as these colours will evoke feelings of joy.
Build mood boards as they allow you to play around & see how combinations work together before you start decorating, I’m going to do a whole separate post about this.
Have a thread, which is basically a common theme or detail that runs between rooms to give a feeling of continuity. This could be a colour, material type, texture etc.
Don't rush! Get samples of paints, and materials textures & test them in every light as they will look different at different times of the day as the sun moves and they will look different in natural vs artificial light.
Once you have decided on a colour palette, you can use this as your guide for styling. Select cushions, sofa covers, throws, stick-on tiles, rugs, art, flowers & plants, lamps, ornaments, books, accessories & freestanding furniture in varying proportions of your chosen colours.
5. Create vignettes
This basically means to create little pockets or corners of joy in your home by grouping decorative items together. Position these little styled-up areas in prime view from where you sit or stand often so they catch your eye and make you feel happiness and an emotional connection to your home.
Drab walls can be given a pick-me-up by adding art, prints, textile hangings, or even stick-on wallpaper in some cases (I'd caveat that with a note to do a test as some so-called removable wallpapers can adhere strongly, making removal a challenge!) Little empty corners can be cheered up by a floor lamp or pot stand with striking houseplant for example. Shelves are great places to create little vignettes as are bedside tables. Play around with different items like ornaments and accessories and consider adding fresh flowers for extra pops of colourful joy.
6. Use a mixture of old & new by adding vintage & preloved.
This is a great way to give your rental property a homely but stylish feel. If everything is brand new it can make a room feel like a showhome or set, rather than a well-loved home. Opting for a mix of old and new by introducing vintage and antique items adds interest and character to your room. Keep a look out on Facebook marketplace and local junk shops and car boot sales where you can pick up brilliant bargains and save a fortune.
7. Personalise with your style
Rugs are a great way to cover drab or undesirable flooring. They can be picked up cheaply on Facebook marketplace or in some charity shops, avoiding a large investment.
Kitchens can be revamped with new handles (remember to keep the old ones), stick-on tiles, contact paper can be used to cover worktops and even cabinets if you are up for a bit of DIY. Glass film can be used on glass cabinet doors to give a reeded or patterned look and can also be used on windows and door panes.
8. Invest in great freestanding furniture
Console tables or sideboards are a great way to add style to a rental as they are freestanding and come in a huge range of shapes and sizes so can be squeezed into narrow or shallow spaces. The key to styling console tables and sideboards is not to add too much, don't overcrowd by filling all the available space. Select a handful of objects of different shapes and sizes being sure that there is a range of heights to draw the eye up and down.
Mirrors or art can be placed on a console if you're not allowed to make holes in the walls. Tall vases can be used to add height; books can be stacked on their sides. Top tip: If your books' covers don't fit your colour palette, covering them in wallpaper or material is a great way to help them fit the aesthetic and save precious storage space.
Freestanding shelves are great for rentals because they offer flexible storage and styling solutions. They can be picked up cheaply - especially if you follow some of my tips in the upcycling module and you can customise them in so many ways. In fact, DIYing a bookcase is quite an easy one so you might consider giving that a go. Open shelving units are good for letting light through and can be used as room dividers in larger spaces.
9. Rental-friendly sofa styling
If your rental has a sofa that you're stuck with or perhaps you just don't like your own sofa, here are some styling tips to help you...
Layer up throws and cushions - this adds texture, can make the sofa more appealing to sit on and can hide any unattractive material or even stains.
Balance a bulky sofa with side/coffee tables and add accessories to draw the eye. This is another opportunity to add colour from your chosen scheme.
If the sofa material is badly stained or needs more than a strategically placed cushion then use stretchy slipcovers than fit over the whole sofa and you tuck them in to appear like a new cover. I'll include a link at the end of the presentation.
Distract with large art above the sofa, you could go big and bold to draw the eye away from your problem sofa.
Add plants and flowers to catch the eye they add colour and fragrance and lift your mood as well as distract from a less-than-perfect sofa. There's a whole module on styling with flowers and foliage a bit later in the course.
Place accessories on a coffee table in front of the sofa to help the distraction you could use a tray with pretty ornaments/ vases / large books etc)
Lighting is a great way to elevate a space and set the mood; with a sofa set-up you could add a tall floor lamp set just to the side of the sofa or table lamps or even plug-in wall lights if you are allowed.
10. Experiment with contact paper
Contact paper is a sticky-backed plastic roll with a design printed on the front to look like wood, tiles, and marble, for example.
Contact paper is such a great tool for renters as it can completely change the look and feel of a room on a tiny budget and it's usually removable which is great for moving out time. Contact paper can be used on coffee tables, side tables, kitchen worktops and backsplash and even bathroom shower walls. It can create a temporary but resilient surface to completely change up the vibe of the space - ideal for a rental scenario,
Let me know if any of these ideas are helpful and don't forget to check out my online courses.
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