A Tenant's Guide to Interior Decorating

The process of making your home look and feel like somewhere you want to spend time in differs greatly for tenants and homeowners.

Homeowners can do pretty much whatever they like. Tenants are bound by the terms of their lease.

Of course, not all landlords are against the idea of home improvements.

But as a renter, you have to ask yourself serious questions about how much time and money you want to spend beautifying something that belongs to someone else.

And that is before we’ve even touched on the small matter of your deposit. Nothing would be worse than making some major changes only to be left paying for it twice when your landlord withholds the money you paid upfront.

However, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In this article, we layout four sensible, risk-free steps you can take towards making a rental property your own.


how to decorate a rented home

1) Be Smart with Furniture

The way we see it, you have two choices with furniture.

  1. You can buy cheap and start again every time you move.
  2. You can invest a little more and buy something you can take with you.

It may come as no surprise that we think number two is a better option.

If you need reasons outside our obvious bias as a mid century furniture shop, just think about the environment. In this day and age, we should be producing as little waste as possible.

But we’re not here to lecture so let’s not dwell.

If you’re inclined to agree with us, then pay attention as this is the important part: shop for versatile items that will sit well in almost any interior not just the one in which you are currently living.

That way they’ll look great if you ever have to move to another rental property, or, better still, if you end up in a position to buy.

Stick to simple, neutral colours when it comes to upholstery. Greys, navys and blacks are never going out of fashion.

What’s more, you can always brighten them up with cushions and throws if you ever feel the need for a change.

You don’t necessarily need to stick to the same tone of wood, either.

In fact, in a recent conversation with design expert Abigail Ahern, we learned that it may be preferable to mix it up. This opens up your buying options going forward.

We also advise shopping with the understanding that your next property may be smaller than your current one.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to purchase furniture that is compact. It just means we recommend buying cabinets, wardrobes and chests of drawers that are raised off the ground on slender legs.

This will prevent them becoming an overbearing presence in tighter spaces by allowing light to pass under the bulk of the item.

Similarly, we also recommend armchairs, sofas and rockers with an open-sided design or a spindle back for the same reason.

If you’re not sure what we mean by this, take a look at our vintage Ercol collection.

 using a mirror to create a sense of space

2) Make the Most of the Light

Most rental agreements say that you can’t hang anything from the walls but a quick conversation with your landlord may expose that to be nothing more than a remnant of a standard contract.

If your landlord confirms they are happy for you to hang things, then we recommend starting with mirrors.

This is particularly relevant if your rental home is smaller than average.

Long story short, mirrors reflect light back into a room and can make it feel airy and spacious. Large mirrors can even create the illusion that a room is significantly bigger than it really is.

If your landlord refuses resolutely to allow you to hang anything, you can still get similar results with floorstanding mirrors (sometimes called dress mirrors).

In either scenario, try and match the frame to some, if not all, of the furniture. This will help you create an edited feel.

If any of the rooms in your property have dark corners, turn to a floor lamp before you ask your landlord if it’s ok to start adding new light fittings.

To create a deliberate look, shop for a lamp that develops some of the tones and shapes already present in your theme.

For example, if you have a sofa with sweeping armrests, search for something that can replicate this curve as it will add a sense of continuity to your décor scheme.


adding plants to your interior theme

3) Bring the Outside World In

Biophilic living is becoming increasingly popular and the right plants can make a huge difference to a space without requiring you to do anything that could put your deposit at risk.

What's more, plants have been shown to improve one's mood and wellbeing in any season: they can make you feel like you're outside when the weather's too bad to leave the house and when the weather's good but you are housebound.

That’s what’s known as a win/win.

There are very few rules when it comes to filling your home with plants. They can be placed on desks, on the floor, on a mantlepiece or even hanging down from the top of a cupboard.

It’s also worth noting that it’s hard to overdo it with plants. Just remember that the more you have, the more care and attention will be required.

If you really want to bring order to the chaos, aim to achieve symmetry wherever possible.

If you’re new to all this, start with hardwearing, low maintenance plants like yukkas or succulents and work your way up from there.

 using rugs in rental homes

4) Create a Colour Scheme without Decorating

As a tenant, you are likely to be prohibited from any sort of painting and decorating.

However, that doesn’t mean you are locked into the palette that the owner has chosen.

There is unlikely to be anything in a contract that states you can't change the curtains to suit a colour scheme that runs through your existing decorator items, cushions, rugs and upholstery.

If there is, again, ask the question because this change could make a big difference.

Try, wherever possible, to pick curtains that match some of the accent colours already present in what you have. 

This will help you create a deliberate look that your visitors will enjoy as much as you do. 

If you’re starting from scratch, then we recommend starting with a rug you like and working backwards. 

After all, it will be easier to find cushions and curtains to match a rug than a rug to match your cushions.

Rugs are also a great way to distract from any sub-standard carpet. Furthermore, they protect the fibres in high traffic areas and will offer some noise insulation which is great if you live in a flat.

If this has piqued your interest, then check out our mid century furniture collection, our selection of handmade rugs and a variety of decorator items that you can use to make a space uniquely yours.

If you want to discuss anything further, please leave a comment below or contact us directly.

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