Renters’ makeover: ‘The bold style in our rental home is only temporary’

Armed with a spray can and some sticky tape, Maisie Rees turned her and partner Matt’s uninspired rental into a home filled with colour

When we moved in, the whole house was a white box.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I love a gallery wall; it’s an easy way to decorate a large blank space, plus using picture hanging strips means there’s no holes left behind. The ‘stay woke’ image is a custom piece made for me on glass from @mantis_signs on Instagram’ says Maisie

For me, there’s nothing more depressing than a bland interior, so I was eager to start decorating the walls with colour, pattern and unique artwork, and filling the rooms with statement pieces of furniture.

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Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I’m passionate aboutupcycling and I’m not scared to use bold colour’

Because we rent, I had to think of cost-effective, non-permanent décor solutions. I have to come up with lots of temporary designs for my work, so I used these skills to think about my home. I came across some decorative tape in IKEA and tried applying it to my kitchen cupboards.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘Renting doesn’t stop me splashing colour all over my flat’

It completely changed the look, so I started to experiment with washi tape and sticky vinyl and realised that it all peels off without any damage to the walls. After that I knew this was a good solution for all the rooms; I just had to decide on the look.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I create collages in my spare time and used them to create this gallery wall with spray-painted frames. My latest upcycling project was this lovely wooden chest given to me by some friends. It was in great condition and I knew I wanted it to be bright. I also had some gold leaf, so I decided to glam up the fixings and handles’

Steal Maisie’s style

Get Maisie’s colourful home style with these buys

The only permanent thing I wanted to do was change the colour of the grout in the kitchen and paint the picture rail. I sent the landlord some photos from Pinterest which reassured him that it would look great. Apart from that, I’ve only done projects that I can put back to its original state or take with us when we move.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I painted this IKEA plant pot white and the base black, then used chalk pens to draw on the pink and black leopard pattern’

The whole process has made me think outside the box and I’ve ended up creating a home that is truly unique. Our landlord saw the house recently and was thrilled, which was a fantastic feeling.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
Whether you’re renting or just want to add interest to your walls, temporary tape is the perfect non-permanent solution

Owner profile 

A bit about me I’m Maisie Violet Rees, a creative manager at Harvey Nichols. I run my own website too, where I share décor ideas for renters at maisieviolet.com. I live here with my partner, Matthew Wilden. 

Where I live My home is a one-bedroom 1950s garden flat in Kings Heath, Birmingham. We’ve been renting this since August 2018.

What I wanted to change We were really lucky that the flat was in fairly good condition. The landlord had painted the whole place white so it was the perfect blank canvas. I just had to find ways to inject some personality and make it feel like our home.

How I made it my own I tried to think outside the box and find ways to decorate on a budget using upcycling hacks.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'

Living room

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I bought this nest of tables from a local charity shop for £10 and, after a lick of black and gold paint and some découpage with a roll of wallpaper, they’re now perfect for our flat. I used the same wallpaper to update the lamp’

‘As the flat was already white, I knew that by adding lots of black detailing, I could use a monochrome palette as a backdrop for plenty of brightly coloured furnishings and neon accessories. The first thing I did was paint the picture rail that goes around the room.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I pulled the armchair out of a skip and used the money saved on buying new to get it reupholstered in pink velvet. It’s one of my favourite pieces’

‘I love collecting prints from local artists and independent businesses and I believe it’s worth spending a bit more on something original that no one else has. And, as much as I love doing things on a budget, I’m willing to spend money on good-quality products such as sofas, soft furnishings and artwork which will stay with us for years.’

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘As much as I love doing things on a budget, I’m willing to spend money on good-quality products such as sofas’ says Maisie

‘My pride of joy is the green velvet sofa, from Maisons du Monde, and the gorgeous crushed velvet footstool from WHJ Design. They were expensive but they are forever pieces. This is a large room, so at the moment we use it for dining and entertaining, but at some point I’d like to have another sofa in here and convert the study into a dedicated dining space.’

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘Not every project needs to be big. I just sprayed this rattan shelf with some green paint, and I stumbled upon the gold statue, already sprayed, in a charity shop’

Kitchen

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘It can be so cheap and easy to transform a bare and boring room in a rented home, or in any home for that matter. We were so lucky that the space was all white, so it was just waiting to be decorated. All you need is a bit of sticky back plastic and away you go!’

‘The kitchen was my least favourite room to try and personalise. It’s not like I could start ripping out the hardware or move furniture around, as it’s all permanently fixed. However, after checking with the landlord, I changed the colour of the grout from white to dark grey which instantly made it feel more modern.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
Style idea: ‘I use the cute food storage tins that Matt saves me from his work as a chef to add colour to this space’

‘I knew I wanted to cover the plain white cupboard doors, but as they have grooves in the central panels, covering them in wallpaper or vinyl sheets would have been too fiddly, so the animal print tape, from IKEA, worked wonders as I filled the inset with strips. Then I simply added colour with tins Matt collected from his job as a head chef. I’ve managed to transform a very boring little galley kitchen into a fun space that’s renter-friendly.’

Maisie’s top tips 

Renting can be restricting but it doesn’t have to be boring. Things don’t have to coordinate and I’m not worried about symmetry or having mismatched furniture. My rule is that I only surround myself with things that I love.

Experiment and be daring. Not everything of mine is a success, but since it’s mainly all cheap second-hand finds, I don’t worry too much if things don’t work. Your home should be an extension of your personality and bring you lots of joy.

If I see something I like but I can’t make it, I head straight to the supermarket interiors sections to see if they have a good-value alternative.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'

Bedroom

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I love the bedside table in orange and leopard print that matches my wardrobe. It only cost £5 and I upcycled it in a few hours. It’s so satisfying to see the end result. I also upcycled the lampshade with pompoms and wallpaper’

‘I have used orange and animal print in all the rooms, so it was only right to incorporate it into the bedroom too. The gang portraits were £27.50 from InkAndDrop, and I put them in cheap IKEA frames that I sprayed neon.’

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
‘I love turning charity shop finds into something funky and unique’

Expert advice 

Making a washi tape wall

  • Whether you’re renting or just want to add interest to your walls, temporary tape is the perfect non-permanent solution. Just make sure your surface is suitable and that you do a test first. If a wall has been painted badly for example, it might cause problems when you come to remove the tape. Add a strip of the material in a place that is less noticeable and leave it on for a week. After a week has passed, take the tape off, noting how well it peels away and if it leaves marks.

 

  • Washi tape comes in hundreds of colours, so you can mix up the effect and be as creative as you want. Choose a solid colour and a geometric design to create a bold statement and use a white base for added impact. Alternatively, dot on small strips randomly, like Maisie did in her hallway.

 

  • If you want something more complicated, work out your design before you begin. This can be done on a computer or drawn onto paper, but the key for a professional look is exact measurements and straight lines. Try and use one long piece of tape for each line and be patient when applying it. If the design is wonky it will spoil the whole effect.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
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This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in HomeStyle magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?