10 cheap and cheerful design tips for renters

It’s all well and good giving interior design advice to homeowners, but as my good friend Lou pointed out, what about all you lovely people living in rental accommodation? You may not technically own the bricks and mortar but it’s still your home and you deserve to make it lovely. So, as has been demanded of me, here are 10 top tips for making your rented place feel like home.

1. Soft and squishy
Drape a throw over your bedframe to give the effect of an upholstered headboard. Image credit: Hasselblad H5D (via H&M Home)


Image credits: Oliver Bonas, The British Blanket Company, AtNo67 Concept Store, Made.comH&M Home

2. A bed of roses

In much the same vein, treat yourself to some lovely bedding. There’s nothing like crisp, fresh sheets and you can pick up some gorgeous designer bedding for a bargain from Home Sense or TK Maxx if you have one near you. Otherwise, choose from the many high street options or simply go for classic white and accessorise with quirky cushions and throws.

Image credits: H&M Home, The Secret Linen Store

3. Lamp it up

Lighting is one of the most important features of interior design. Everything might be perfect and super expensive but bad lighting will completely ruin the look of a room. Similarly, the interiors could be quite simple with reasonably priced pieces but with good lighting it can really elevate the feel of a space.

Chances are you have a basic pendant light in your room which is fine for general light but it’s usually harsh, unflattering and impractical. Lamps are the perfect way to create a pleasant light to make a room look and feel cosy. A task light at a desk and a table lamp on a dressing table or bedside is much more useful than having the light behind you. Illuminate the corners for that lovely soft glow making your room look beautiful as well as conveniently hiding a multitude of sins. It’s like instant airbrushing for you and your home!

Look for bargains in vintage and antique shops or buy a simple, budget lamp base and find an interesting shade to put on it.

Image credits: Made.com, Feioi

4. Shady business

On the subject of lighting, if you have a pendant light with a sad looking paper shade or worse, a bare bulb, then replace it with a gorgeous shade of your own. Opt for a funky pattern or go for a more luxurious look. Lined shades look classy and expensive while also creating a lovely subtle light and a diffuser will soften the harsh light of the bulb. And don’t forget, bigger is better! Don’t go any smaller than 45-50cm diameter unless the room is tiny. It’ll seem massive but once it’s up it will make sense.

Image credits: Made.com, Graham & Green

5. Pictures this

Add personality to your room by putting pieces on the walls. Now I know that most landlords won’t let you put pictures up but it’s worth asking as some do allow small picture hooks. As an alternative, prop up frames on shelves, desks or window ledges.

Prop pictures up to create a gallery. Image credit: AtNo67 Concept Store

Art prints can be purchased for a very reasonable price and there is an array of stylish yet inexpensive frames available on the high street and online.

Image credits: Rockett St GeorgeOliver Bonas

6. Go green
Pastel porcelain mini vases £8.00 each – Att Pynta

Plants and flowers are a great way to add life and texture to a space. Although beautiful, cut flowers tend not to last and can be expensive so try a pot plant instead for better value for money. Whether it’s an indoor tree as a stunning focal point, a soft fern in the bedroom, a delicate orchid in the bathroom or fragrant herb pots in the kitchen, adding a bit of greenery is a simple and effective way to add interest to your home.

7. Clear the clutter

Now I’m not a neat and tidy person and I do like a bit of clutter for the ‘lived in’ look but there is a point where it becomes too much. Some rental properties may not provide much storage so make sure you use your space effectively.

Be ruthless and throw/give away anything you really don’t need for a start. Do you really need to keep every birthday card you’ve ever been given? All those books you’ve read and aren’t good enough to read again? Get rid!

Once you’ve pared things down then think about how you can maximise your storage. You can get ingenious wardrobe accessories such as these from Ikea to organise your wardrobe and basic underbed storage boxes can be picked up from most supermarkets and homeware shops for linen, towels etc. For the rest of your stuff can be stored in view but in something beautiful. Pretty trays are great for keys, jewellery, cufflinks and other bits and bobs. If you have a freestanding wardrobe with space above it, look out for baskets and decorative storage boxes to use this space without it looking messy. You’ll be amazed at how a bit of a clear out can transform a room.

Image credits: AtNo67 Concept StoreOliver Bonas

8. Window shopping

If you have curtains on a curtain pole that are not to your taste then just change them. As long as you store the existing curtains carefully so that you can put them back before you leave. You can find gorgeous ready-made curtains in all sorts of styles and if you can’t be bothered to hem them then get ones that are too long and let them pool on the floor for glamorous nonchalance.

Image credits: West Elm

9. Can you handle it?

It can be hard to make a place your own if your furniture is provided, especially if it’s not to your taste. A simple and affordable way to add your own personal touch is to change your handles and knobs. You can buy lovely products online or scour antique and second hand shops for something unique. Just remember to keep the existing ones to replace when you leave!

Image credits: Willow & Stone

10. Floor it

The mighty rug will do wonders towards making your place feel transformed. This is especially useful for those of you who hate your floors or want to create a cosier feel. Again – make sure you go big! Nothing looks worse than a postage stamp of a rug. The rug should define an area and pull pieces together, not float in the middle of them, so make sure it is large enough for the room

Ikea is perfect for stylish and affordable rugs as well as Made, West Elm and Habitat. 

Image credits: Made.com

I hope these ideas were useful. Let me know how you style up your home, or even better, send me some pictures!

J x

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