Making a rented property your home can be difficult. Quite often, your landlord, property manager or estate agents will set out a list of things you can or can’t do, and unlike those who are buying properties to knock them down and start from scratch, you’re left wondering how you can possibly create a space that’s your own when, well, it isn’t.
My ideal house would have had plain white walls, rustic floorboards and not a spot of damp in sight. In reality, when we moved in, we had none of those things. Finding a nice rental property can be seriously difficult, so you have to be willing to compromise on a few things (although, like us, if there are issues with the actual functioning or build of the house, be persistent and keep bothering your landlord - eventually he will have to get it fixed, although most landlords will put it off for as long as possible).
Our landlord let us repaint the walls with neutral colours and we did a few deep cleans of the carpets, but we were still very conscious that we were limited in terms of how we could decorate. Whilst we would have loved to strip the walls, expose the floorboards and start from scratch, this would be a huge expense to us that we’d never benefit from in the long run and we wouldn’t want to damage the property and risk the wrath of our landlord.
Instead, we had to get creative and find ways to put our personal touch on the place. This included a few hours spent trawling Pinterest for good ideas, but mostly, looking at each room and thinking about easy elements we could include that could just as easily be taken away. With the help of west elm - who kindly helped us kit out our house with a few items that make it feel much more like a home - I’ve rounded up my top tips for decorating risk-free when you’re renting.
If, like me, you’re a lover of bed sheets and cushions, textiles are the difference between sleeping in a bed and sinking into your castle. I’ve gone through three cycles of different cushion combinations on our bed and I finally feel like we’ve achieved the perfect mix of tones, textures and sizes.
As our bedroom walls are white and I prefer the elegance of plain sheets, the age old cliché of adding a pop of colour is particularly pertinent in this case (and by pop of colour, I mean more of an whisper). These Mongolian Lamb cushions in Ink and Light Sage (sold out, but this Pebble colour is lovely too!) elevate the bed area from being completely monochrome, whilst the muted tones stop the flicker of colour from being too dramatic and out of place. I’m a huge fan of texture over colour when it comes to bedding, and this is evident again with the Roar and Rabbit embossed cover set which is beautifully finished with ribbon ties instead of buttons for both the duvet and the pillow cases.
If you wanted to move away from the bedroom, textiles are still easy ways of expressing a little personality in an otherwise neutral room. Our living room has a pretty industrial feel, so I’m always draping throws over the leather sofa or propping up Ikat cushion covers for an extra edge and dynamic.
Indoor plants are a cheap and easy way of bringing a little life into your home, especially if you live in a flat without access to a proper garden. Rather than the plants themselves being the main attraction, however, I’m all about interesting planters and beautiful vases.
This Turned Leg Tabletop Planter in Reactive Glaze again helps to introduce a little colour into my neutral shelving set, but the finish of the ceramic retains a rustic, not-quite-done appeal that stops it from looking too calculated. I’m always looking for pieces that look like they could have been picked up second hand from some hipster market in Shoreditch, pieces that look like they have a history and they’re now part of your home.
The Modern Wood Leg Planter is also great for keeping your indoor plant family happy. The concrete finish of this fitted perfectly into our industrial style living room, and the taller legs elevated it to a height that works well next as an accompaniment to other furniture in the room. Now the challenge is just to keep them both alive…
Statement and Functional Furniture
If you’re keeping the decor fairly neutral, you may be tempted to tread the same track when it comes to furniture. Don’t be afraid of some statement pieces, however, as these can transform a room and help to add that extra edge which makes it feel special. We spend a lot of time in our living room and whilst we have a few images up on the walls and have had a few pieces of furniture custom made through eBay, we still felt like there was something missing. Enter the oversized mirror of our dreams. This piece is extremely sturdy and so quite heavy, so, keeping to our risk-averse strategy, we've decided to prop it up against the wall as as much of a decoration as a functional piece of furniture.
Without a doubt, this is the most popular item in our home. I’ve had so many questions about it - both in person, and online - and it’s the first thing that draws the eye when people enter that social space. (FYI, it’s also great for Instagram, so you know, bonuses!) Similar pieces would be a Drinks Cart or Coffee Table with a difference - just think of something you need for a function purpose, and then take the bougie factor to 100.
And the most important part of making your house or flat a home, are those little touches you often take for granted when kitting out your space. I’ve surprised myself over the past few months with how much I’ve gravitated towards ceramics. Whether that’s coloured planters, like those seen before, oversized monogrammed mugs or bowls and vases, I love the personality that these pieces can inject.
I’m currently using these two bowls from the Alta range as stackable centrepieces for our dining table, but I’ll also be bringing these out as serving platters for big dinners or lazy Sunday BBQ’s. They’re beautifully made and the colour links in with the planters and also this baby Bud Reactive Glaze Vase, helping to tie together a thread of blue hues that isn’t too over-thought or forced.
The vase sits happily on top of our chest of drawers, accompanying a few other bits and pieces that are scattered across my bedside table and the faux fireplace, each bought at different times and each with it’s own little bit of history. Those are the little touches which add a flare to easy decorating.