Whether you’re renting a single room, a flat or a whole house, here’s how to put your own stamp on it.
This article is part of our Zooploma for renters - a series of free guides, advice and inspirational stories delivered straight to your inbox.
You don't have to own your house or flat to make it feel like home.
The restrictions in rental agreements can sometimes feel disheartening, but there are many ways to create a beautiful living space without wasting money or making permanent changes.
Take inspiration from our easy and inexpensive tips…
1. Make a statement
Cheap and cheerful home furnishing stores are life savers, but don’t fall into the trap of buying everything you need on a single trip to IKEA. Mixing up your styles will add character, so introduce some one-off pieces that you really like.
"Every room benefits from a few statement items - unique focal points that you love to look at. A beautiful vase, a designer chair or cushion, a gorgeous rug, a painting, a hand-knitted throw. You'll take them with you when you move, so it's worth investing in some treasured items," says interior designer Jennyfer Stanley.
"They don’t have to be expensive. They just need to make you smile."
2. Ask away
If you yearn to redecorate those magnolia walls, it’s always worth asking your landlord. Some are happy for tenants to paint walls (although you may have to pay for the materials yourself), and it can be a great way to make a space feel yours.
If that’s not an option, investigate temporary wallpaper designs, such as this pink trellis from wallpops, or have some fun with removable decals (we love these flying swallows from etsy).Temporary designs can create wonderful, unique feature walls.
3. Lighten up
New lighting instantly transforms a room. Add mirrors to bring in more light, and lamps to create atmosphere. Strings of lights, lava lamps, or LED strips: there are lots of ways to light up your space, so experiment.
Naked bulbs hanging from central pendants won't create any atmosphere, says Jennyfer, who swears by easy-fit lampshades for ceiling lights.
"They’re widely available, inexpensive, and come in a range of styles, including chandeliers. They fit over hanging pendants, so you don’t need an electrician to fit them," she says.
"Be bold with size or colour to create impact and help detract from a room’s less appealing characteristics."
4. Dress the windows
Changing window dressings is a small fix that can have a big impact. Store away any original curtains or blinds safely and replace them with some you love. You could even choose some fabric and make your own (there are lots of videos on YouTube showing you how).
For a simple alternative, bamboo blinds are pretty, inexpensive and soften sunlight without blocking it - and they only take a few minutes to put up.
5. Bring in the outside
House plants are a must for bringing a home to life - you can never have too many. Hang them in baskets, from existing hooks or curtain poles, place them on bookshelves… The greenery will make you feel happy and add colour to an otherwise bland space.
"Houseplants will keep you happy - as long as they're in places where they're happy, lots of sunlight mostly," says gardening writer and influencer Alice Vincent.
Her recommendations for joy-bringing indoor plants include Chinese money plants and string of pearls.
6. Clear out!
Can’t live with that maroon armchair or stained brown cupboard? Ask your landlord to remove it. If not, see if you can dismantle it and store it away, then reconstruct it when you move out.
Or be creative - hide it, cover it or move it to another room where it might work better.
Have a clear-out of your own stuff too - it’s amazing how transformative decluttering can be - and it doesn’t cost a penny.
Think of Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, whose mantra ‘does it spark joy within you?’ will have you filling those charity shop bags like there’s no tomorrow.
7. Scout around
On the other hand, you might need some new furniture - especially if you’re renting an unfurnished place. Before you start maxing out your credit card, check out sites such as Gumtree, Freecycle and Preloved.
And don’t forget your charity, junk shops and even skips on your street. Well-chosen recycled or upcycled furniture can bring personality to a space and save you a fortune too.
8. Cover up
Whether your rented home has floorboards or carpet, a rug will hide a multitude of sins and smarten up your space - and remember, you can take it with you when you leave. Choose one in a colour that you love and add accessories to match.
Adding textiles is an easy way to cover things you’re not happy with and make a space feel like your own. A new duvet cover or bedspread can make the world of a difference in a bedroom, while dressing up a plain or ugly sofa with cushions and different textures instantly improves it.
"Layer up throws and faux furs to create a patchwork of texture. The more the merrier," says Jennyfer.
9. Become an artist in residence
Adding artwork to a wall is a no-brainer; whether it’s a masterpiece created by you (or your kids), a gallery of beloved photos, a giant poster or canvas or a collection of prints: your walls are crying out to be adorned with your personal treasures.
Hooks and hammers are usually a no-no in a rental, but command hooks or strips, which can be removed from the wall without leaving a mark, are the best things ever invented.
Washi tape is also an an easy way to stick up photos and artwork and a great alternative to framing. It comes in a kaleidoscope of designs and is easy to remove without leaving marks.
How to negotiate redecorating with your landlord
Rental agreements differ enormously. Landlords are legally responsible for most repairs in your home, but they don't usually have to make improvements unless they’re related to health and safety.
Some won't consider improvements unless they have to, but they might agree to you carrying out the work, and may help fund it.
If you pay rent on time and look after your home, you'll be in a better place to start discussing interior improvements with your landlord.
You could also agree to put things back to their original state when you leave, if necessary. The golden rule is to always get any agreement in writing before you do anything that changes the appearance of your home.
You may also be interested in...
- Know your rights as a renter
- What to do if your rental home is not up to standard
- Your rental contract agreement explained