Rental hacks – soft options to decorate without damage
Part of the joy of moving house is creating a new home from scratch. But how do you give your new pad personality when you’re renting and can’t make big changes? Here are my top rental hacks.
Tenancy agreements often forbid tenants from making permanent changes to a space’s fixtures and fittings. This leaves two routes to travel: talk with your landlord and getting written permission to make agreed changes or use reversible solutions, many of which you can take with you when you move.
A friend once fell in love with the potential of a high ceilinged flat near a beautiful park, but it was grotty. The previous tenant had lived there for many years and little maintenance had been done.
My friend negotiated with the landlord that he would give the place a good once over and a lick of paint everywhere before she moved in. She reasoned that she could wait a couple of weeks for the work to be done, would have a far nicer apartment for her time there and the landlord would have a more attractive flat for rent when she decided to leave – win win. He agreed, and the potential started to be realised.
It’s not just paint colour that can be negotiated – if carpet or flooring is genuinely in need to replacement, speak up. If you’re hankering after a certain finish, would you be prepared to chip in to the cost if the landlord met you part way? Be mindful though – you won’t be able to take that flooring with you.
As a tenant you’ll have to live with the room configuration and the layout of the kitchen and bathroom so make sure these work for you before signing the lease. As long as your rental has good basics, you’ll be able to make it yours with solutions that could stay with you through many homes in the future.
A highly recommended fix is to choose and display beautiful, useful appliances and crockery to upgrade your kitchen. For example, an iconic coffee machine will give a lift and focus to your kitchen. A good appliance could last your lifetime so choose either a bold statement colour, or a chrome, black or white item (and bear ‘future you’ in mind when choosing!). Crockery that speaks of who made it or the story behind how you chose it will add depth.
Choosing and using beautiful and useful items that you love translates into the whole house. Use art to transform blank spaces and small nooks. You may not be allowed to make holes to hang your pieces, so rest them on furniture, existing shelves or even on the floor. Layering pieces adds cosiness and takes away that blank wall feeling that might not be top of your list.
Add rugs to carpet you don’t love, use them to zone your rooms, bring in colour and pattern and provide another surface where you enjoy sitting, practising yoga or playing. Use blankets, cushions and throws to stamp your taste on rented furniture, from the sofa to the kitchen chairs. Adding texture and placing furniture carefully can help you create interesting shadows to add depth and make your home more personal to you.
Other fixes aren’t so easy to take with you. A relatively inexpensive and easy hack is to upgrade the cabinet and drawer handles adorning your rented house. Most handles unscrew easily from inside and can be replaced with ones that are more to your taste. Bear in mind that this fix might not be transferable to your next place, depending on how many handles you need there, so be careful when investing here. Remember to keep the old handles safely for when you move out and consider labelling them so you remember exactly how to reinstate them.
You could also change shower heads, light fittings, window dressings and even taps (check with your landlord before attempting plumbing!) – these items can all be removed, stored safely, replaced with fittings that you love, then put back when it’s time for you to head off with your own carefully chosen pieces in tow.
If cupboard doors in the kitchen, bathroom or bedrooms are not to your taste you could take them off altogether, using the cupboards as shelving units instead – but consider where you’ll stash the doors safely until you move on.
If you’re planning to stay somewhere for an extended period of time you may want to go further still, although it’s worth okaying this with your landlord first. Attractive but inexpensive flooring can be used to cover old lino and tiles – trimmed to fit your room and simply lifted off when you move. The work surface below looks like butcher block, but it’s actually just plywood cut to fit perfectly over the existing surface. Remember, you’re unlikely to have surfaces exactly the same size in your next place, so make sure the investment is worth it.
What hacks do you recommend to decorate without damage? Necessity is the mother of invention after all…