A mortgage may clamp a significant financial chain around your ankles, but with that great responsibility also comes great freedom.
Namely, to do what you like to your own home (subject to council approval, of course).
Rental tenants, on the other hand, have traditionally seemed stuck with whatever dodgy decor, poky layout or boring bathrooms their landlord bestows upon their digs. But while you may not be knocking down walls any time soon, there are plenty of solutions you can use to make your rental feel much more like your own.
“We would argue strongly that any commitment to making your space feel personal and homely is of utmost importance to your happiness, success and health,” says Sara Chamberlain, director of The Real Estate Stylist.
Here are a few of Sara’s top tips for improving your rental while treading lightly. And if you’re ever in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and check in with your landlord.
1. The problem: Hideous window coverings
The workaround: They frame your view outside and can dramatically improve the feel of a room, so it’s worth taking another look at ugly window coverings.
“You certainly don’t have to put up with heavy window dressings that don’t work, block light or collect dust,” says Sara. “Removing these items and storing [them] carefully, they can be re-hung when you leave.”
“If you have some panels that you’d prefer to block out for privacy but want natural light from above, consider using removable window decals to cover lower parts of the window,” she suggests.
2. The problem: Unsightly overhead lighting or fixtures
The workaround: Lighting really can set the tone of your home, so harsh, office-like lighting or dated, unsightly ceiling fixtures can be a renter’s nightmare. Sara’s advice? “Take control of your lighting plan and never turn on the overhead lights provided!”
Says Sara: “Everyone wants ceiling pendants, but restrictions on updating fixtures is a reality for renters.” The solution? “Explore the incredible range of floor lamps that provide height and drama for your space.”
To make a statement in your entryway, she suggests trying something like a brass floor lamp with various bulbs; or, for smaller spaces, try using a table lamp in your kitchen or bathroom to add some understated style.
3. The problem: Lacklustre balcony or garden area
The workaround: Garden or balcony space comes at a premium, yet often rentals lack the love that an owner-occupier might put into creating a beautiful, calming outdoor oasis. In these cases, says Sara: “Working with planter boxes can really help to define spaces. Use planter boxes to line a balcony edge, create a herb garden on a small Juliet balcony, or create zones in a lacklustre backyard.”
They’re also fantastically versatile in terms of what you can grow – and, importantly, they’re movable: “[Planter boxes] can be used to grow veggies and creepers and create backdrops for seating arrangements,” explains Sara. “If you’re staying in a space for a while, investing in your own garden to tend to will create a sense of home that you can remove when you go.”
4. The problem: Sub-par storage
The workaround: Here’s a two-in-one opportunity to create both storage space and a platform to add some individual style. “One of our favourite products ever for styling and storage is the IKEA PS Cabinet – this little gem is the perfect profile and size to add extra storage anywhere, from the bathroom and entrance to the bedroom, living room and kitchen,” says Sara.
“Run two or more together along a long wall and you can create storage heaven that looks like built-ins but can be taken away easily.” They also create a platform to prop up artworks and knick-knacks, creating stylish displays (handy, given the issues with hanging heavy artworks and mirrors in a rental home).
5. The problem: Poky kitchen/dining space
The workaround: A tiny or awkward layout may seem to dictate your dining destiny, but it doesn’t need to, insists Sara. “Extend the kitchen with a tall bench or a workbench,” she says.
“We adore this workbench [pictured above] and it elevates (pun intended) any kitchen or dining space to a real hub of the home. Everyone dreams about their ideal kitchen, but in rentals, they can be either very dated or very small – this, with some stools, will change your world… and extend your storage options and prep area at the same time”.