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How to make a rented space homely

25 July 2018

Whether you're a student moving into a rented room or a renter taking on a flat or house, it can be a tricky prospect knowing where or how to start making your new space feel like home.

Interiors gurus David White and Mark Russell, who run the award winning lifestyle and interiors blog Forward Features, discuss how to stamp some personal style and make the most of a rented abode.

Working with white walls

Rented rooms and properties traditionally come with white or magnolia walls. In honesty, neither are as bad as you'd maybe expect, you just need to know how to work with them and make the best of the situation. The common issue is that they start to look grubby at a quicker pace than other colours - because they are so pale they show the dirt easily - so the space can start to look tired rather quickly. But, you can combat this by simply giving the walls a freshen up with a colour-match paint, a paint roller and a bit of enthusiasm. Try our decorating department for a selection of light, neutral hues. Even though you're planning to paint the same colour most properties or rented rooms will need permission for this, so just make sure you clarify it with your landlord or letting agent first.



Invest in key pieces

Choosing furniture and furnishings is really important in rented properties, and offers what is quite possibly the easiest way of introducing colour, personality and style into your new home. Initially you should consider whether, before thinking about cushions and accessories, you want to introduce any larger items of furniture into the space. Some rented flats and rooms will already have existing furniture that you will inherit, but there may also be room to have a new sofa bed, a dining table (read our Buyers Guide: Dining Tables) or cabinet. If you're going to be using your room or flat to study in then it's probably a wise idea to look at new desks. Choose one that's going to suit your needs and opt for a chair that's going to keep you comfortable and work-eager.

Short on space? Multi-purpose pieces are great for this. A compact dining table that can be easily extended and reduced in size offers flexibility in smaller rooms, whilst a sideboard or shelving unit proposes a perfect opportunity to squirrel bits and bobs away in drawers and cupboards whilst also providing space for some great display opportunities too.


Work with an accent colour

An accent colour, or an edited colour palette, works well when renting. It's a relatively easy and effective way of introducing colour whilst tying the space together with a sense of theme. Too much colour, particularly in a small space, can look cluttered and create stress rather than calmness. Bring your choice of tones in via accessories, like this Accent Green Vase. We'll talk more about accent colours in just a moment.


Zone it

If you're working with an open-plan space then an accent colour scheme is also a great way of 'zoning' areas. By painting a backdrop wall or even placing a colourful rug under an area such as a dining table and chairs, or a sofa and coffee table, you will create the illusion of separate rooms, even when there are none. Feature walls, rugs, curtains and artwork are all good ways of zoning a space to make it feel more individual.




The rentors friend. Once you have established if you have space for key furniture pieces, what accent colour(s) you might like and whether you want to zone the space, accessories should be next on your hit list. A student's room can be easily transformed by simply selecting a fresh new bedding set - there are bright and bold options, as well as more sophisticated and muted tones. Layer the bed up with interesting and comfortable textures via a selection of throws and cushions and, if there's space, add a bedside lamp and table for added comfort. For those with larger rented spaces it's a good idea to think about both the zoning and accent colour tips we discussed earlier in the feature. You can make any space, small or large, feel coherent and well considered by drawing on these points. For example here, although the prints and patterns have been mixed there is a coherent green colour scheme.

Be smart with art

Your home should shine with your personality and art is one of the simplest ways to do this, however your new pad might also have restrictions over hanging artwork, which is a common case. Don't let that stop you from adding style and personality with canvases, framed prints and pin boards. Simply lean them on top of a surface, such as a desk or storage unit (like our simple but stylish Blanca Small Sideboard, pictured above) or reach for wall-hanging strips from your local hardware store. Both of these options offer alternative routes for displaying art without hammering into the wall. Want impact? Create a feature by displaying multiple artworks or photos in one area, or hanging a line of decorative feathers or festoon lighting. This completely transforms a white wall.

Keep it fresh with botanicals

Whether you fake it with faux florals or opt for fresh blooms, finish the space with plenty of botanicals. Add vibrancy to the space, all the while boosting your wellbeing. Flowers, plants and easy-maintenance (student-friendly) succulents are a frugal and fun way of sprucing up a room. Play with clusters of different plant varieties, gathered on a desk or table, to make a botanical design statement.

David White and Mark Russell are interiors bloggers from South London. Their website, Forward Features - winner of Best Design Inspiration blog, Amara Interior Awards 2016 - discusses the latest trends and design news. More recently, the pair hosted a talk, How to Decorate a Rented Home, in partnership with Houzz.

You can visit the Forward Features Instagram at: @forwardfeatures

And visit the blog

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