Ten ways to make a rented flat feel like home

Designer and Instagram influencer Sarah Akwisombe shares her decor tips for making a rental your own

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home

If you’re in a rented home, flat, apartment or student accommodation, you may feel like your hands are tied when it comes to transforming your interiors.

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But, just because you’re renting and may be on a limited budget, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to make your space feel like home!

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

Sometimes landlords may not be overly keen for you to redecorate, even though a refresh may actually make the property more appealing in the long run. But never fear! We caught up with expert designer and professional Instagrammer Sarah Akwisombe, who shared her top tips on how to brighten up your home, with little risk and little budget!

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

Artwork

Pimp your walls damage free!

‘A gallery wall is such a cool way to instantly brighten up your pad, and Command 3m strips can make it happen, damage free. The strips are like Velcro that stick onto the wall via an adhesive back. I know it sounds a bit dodgy, but the genius part is that it has some kind of wizardry that allows you to remove the strip and leave ZERO residue.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

Alternatively, frame large scale pieces of art and prop them up on a sideboard or surface for a contemporary look. Want to go bigger? SurfaceView.com offer very large format ‘epic posters’ that can be blue tacked to the wall to create a big statement without the permanent commitment.’

Washi Tape

The easiest way to transform your room

‘Washi tape originates from Japan and is like masking tape but way cooler! It comes in a variety of colours and patterns and the only limit here is your imagination. It’s really easy to peel off so can be used to highlight areas with great effect.

Real rental inspiration: 'our bold look is only temporary'
Maisie Rees used washi tape to add interest to the walls in her rental home

Think about blue tacking pictures to the wall and then framing them with washi tape. What about lining the inside of a door frame or even the door itself? Personally, I enjoy creating graphic wall murals that can totally transform a room. Here’s your chance to get really creative and have fun with it.’

TOP TIP

Lighting is key in any space – it’s one area you shouldn’t scrimp on. Rental lighting will often be dark, stark and virtually non-existent – adding lamps, candles and string lights can instantly transform a room without leaving permanent marks. Going for big, sculptural, freestanding lamp which has a gorgeous shade can transform the entire room.

LSE Lighting Palma

Retro furniture

Make your place unique with some old-school bargains.

‘I’m a big fan of retro furniture. I think people can see a typical style in their heads when the word ‘retro’ is banded about, but don’t let that put you off. Modern furniture at the moment is very influenced by mid-century Scandinavian design, so you’re likely to find lines and shapes that occur in off the shelf pieces at a fraction of the price.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

Not only that, they will add interesting depth to your place and provide much needed storage that can sometimes be off limits if you can’t (for instance) put up shelves. Head over to eBay and get browsing. You’ll be shocked at some of the bargain prices available!’

Lighting

Brighten up your home!

‘So much can be achieved purely with lighting. I once read a quote from Aaron Rose that summed it up – ‘In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary’. As a rule of thumb in interior design we recommend that each room should have 5-8 light sources. If you have space, work in a floor lamp that’s both decorative and casts a nice glow in the room.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

‘Table lamps also help to add another layer, and candles can be great for mood and atmosphere. I personally love LED strips. Readily available and affordable, they are the perfect way to backlight something to add interest and depth. Try the back of a TV for instance, to create a cosy glow when watching a movie at night-time. Also check with your landlord if you would be allowed to change lampshades or light fittings, as this can be a great way to add a little bit of personality.’

TOP TIP

Lighting is key in any space – it’s one area you shouldn’t scrimp on. Rental lighting will often be dark, stark and virtually non-existent – adding lamps, candles and string lights can instantly transform a room without leaving permanent marks. Going for big, sculptural, freestanding lamp which has a gorgeous shade can transform the entire room.

LSE Lighting Palma

Accessories

Details are a big deal

‘Get accessorizing like mad! A few well-placed ornaments and objet d’art (if you want to get all fancy with it) can provide interesting focal points and conversation starters. Interesting accessories don’t need to cost the earth either, try scouring vintage markets or charity shops for unique pieces that have a history.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

‘You can also pick up inexpensive bits on the high street too, check out places like H&M home, Zara Home or West Elm to add a bit of chic cool that can distract from the areas you don’t want to focus on.’

Soft furnishings

Get cozy!

‘Curtains or window dressings are a bit overlooked in most rentals, but these can add a lot of drama and comfort to a space. If you already have a curtain pole up then it’s very easy to switch out the landlords curtains with a fresher more contemporary pair that are to your taste.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

‘Cushions and throws also go a long way when it comes to diverting your attention from less interesting walls, and again the high street shops have a fab selection of modern prints, patterns and fabrics that can update your interior instantly.’

Peel off wallpapers or stickers

No commitments here

‘If paint or artwork alone won’t satisfy your creative cravings then investigate the newly established temporary wallpapers and stickers. Born with the rental market in mind, these peel off papers are super easy to apply and peel off after use like a sticky label with virtually no residue.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

‘The wallpaper is still quite a new thing to market, so you may have to do some research around which companies offer wallpaper that won’t leave marks. Wall stickers are much more common though and there are loads of great options out there. As a concept I think it’s a great idea and really allows you the creative freedom to go all out, even when renting.’

TOP TIP

If you can’t afford to totally replace the kitchen cabinetry for new, you can easily update them with a lick of paint. Alternatively, try to cover them in sticky-back vinyl. You’ll also be surprised what a good scrub will do, too! If the cabinets are in a good condition, and you have a bit of spare money, you could replace the worktop or try a company – like Dream Doors – that can put an overlay over existing cabinets to give them a refresh. Remember… lot of builder’s merchants sell short off-cuts of worktop cheaply, so be sure to ask; you may get a bargain!

Home makeover: 'I’m inspired by boutique hotels’

Plants

Fresh air and endless choices

‘Greenery is huge right now. The indoor plant has really made its comeback and the variety on offer can make for a really fun display. From cacti and succulents to towering Edwardian style palms there really is something for everyone. Use smaller little plants in bathrooms and kitchens to liven them up.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

‘Bigger indoor plants like palms or monsterosa can cover up boring corners or unsightly bunches of wires. Most of all, plants breathe life into a room that can seem stale, helping it to feel fresh and homely.’

TOP TIP 

Inject personality into your rental by using the walls. You can add picture ledges to minimise holes, and use Command picture hanging strips, which if done properly will leave no marks. Alternatively, try removable stickers – nowadays, they come in a huge variety of styles.

 

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

Paint

Go colourful!

‘Ok, I know not every renter is allowed to paint walls, but it’s worth asking your landlord if you could do it on the basis that you will paint them back to the original colour on leaving. Painting is a fairly inexpensive way to dramatically change a room’s style and vibe, and it doesn’t take too long either.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram

‘If they’re ok with it, ensure that you really go overboard with protecting surfaces and flooring. Plastic sheets can be bought from local DIY shops (layer up to be absolutely certain you won’t leave any marks) and use masking tape to tape off windows, skirting and anything else that could be ruined with a stray splash of paint.’

TOP TIP 

It’s inexpensive and fast to update your tiles with paint. One coat over ceramic tiles and a refresh with a grout pen and your bathroom or kitchen will look totally different in a matter of hours. Dark colours or patterns may need two coats. Changing fixtures and fittings can make a difference. Shiny new taps, cabinet handles, lighting, and small appliances will update the look. Why not invest in a new fridge freezer?

Home makeover: 'Every room of our house is special and unique'

Rugs

Warm feet and lower bills. It’s a win-win situation.

‘When I moved into my second rental the landlord had decided that floor tiles (yep, the type found in 70s office blocks) were an acceptable look. Obviously as a creative they drove me mad, but rather than ripping them up and paying my own cash to have the floor replaced I instead invested in a large, patterned rug that would cover most of the floor space and provide a healthy distraction from the unsightly tiles below.

How to make your rented accommodation feel like home
@sarahakwisombe Instagram
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‘There are many benefits other than distraction though, such as the added insulation, which will keep your room warm and as you own the rug you can take it on to your next place or eventually your own home.’