When you rent - part two

We had a very non-valentines weekend …instead our weekend was spent moving furniture from one room to the other.  Our Honeybee left in December so we did a big clean out of her bedroom and at the same time moved our son’s room around.  He’s now got a double divan and he’s loving the transformation from a cluttered bedroom with too many pieces of furniture he didn't really need, to a more streamlined ‘sophisticated’ look – his words not mine! I won’t be posting pics because we've taken down shelving and poly filling holes and still need to paint, but perhaps in a few months I might share a photo or two.

So my previous post was all about what you’re stuck with when you rent a property which might have sounded a little depressing, but on the upside this post is about things that you can change and take with you when you eventually move out onto the property ladder.  Not everything is bad news though.  Some landlords might even let you paint your walls white or any other colour as long as you paint them back again before you move out.  It’s worth asking.   Magnolia walls you can live with, cream carpets you can live with, dark brown carpets…well you need to get clever... (it's a long post as I wanted to eloborate on certain elements so hope you stay with me for the journey!)

Front door

The first thing you see as you approach your new home is the front door.  This is the easiest thing to change from drab to fab. When we did the little house renovation last year, one of the first things we did was to paint the front door a beautiful pale ocean blue and add new shiny hardware.  If you feel like taking a peek it’s here: front door and the dining room here.  It instantly made the façade more appealing and it says a lot about what the interior might look like.  I liken the front door to the saying ‘the eyes are the window to our soul’… a dark worn out front door with broken hardware and peeling paint gives you a depressed feeling even before you’ve opened the front door…whereas a lovely front door speaks volumes about what lies beyond and gives you a feeling of anticipation and joy at what you might encounter once inside.  At least that’s how I feel!  And it’s probably one of those things that your landlord won’t mind you doing as long as you improve the look.  New chrome or brass hardware can be purchased on eBay or in hardware stores.  If you can’t change the door colour or hardware, add a few hanging baskets with some colourful flowers instead!


One thing you can change in a rented home are the light fittings.  Everything looks better in ambient lighting.  Middle of the ceiling pendant lights are fine if you need to see everything in bright daylight colours, but table lamps give off a softer glow and create cosiness and intimacy that pendant lights just don’t do.   They are easy to remove and new light fittings which suit your style can be purchased and you can take them with you when you move.  Keep the original light fittings in a box in the garage or up in the loft.  The effect of a great table lamp in a space is hugely underrated.  I’m not talking some little 30cm lamp with some shady shade plopped on top, I’m talking about great table lamps, make sure they are big tall and sculptural with an interesting texture.  And of course candles…they offer a special kind of softness, a romantic feel as well as making your home smell rather nice.


So you’ve got cream or dark brown carpet throughout the downstairs, except the kitchen. Even the dining room has been carpeted.  I can never understand a property owner laying down carpet in the dining room... has he thought this over carefully?  Probably not, instead of investing a little extra into wood laminate or real wood or ceramic tile flooring, he’s put down carpet. Carpets get dirty, very quickly.  We sit, we eat, we drink, we spill, and before long the new carpet in the dining room is full of nasty splodges.   So now you need to get the carpet cleaners in to do the entire house….I could go on as carpets are my pet hate.  Read my post here on flooring:  floored…so if your dining room has a carpet you don’t like you could lay a rug underneath your dining table and chairs.  It’s also got the added bonus of zoning off the area, which is great when you have one big open plan space.  A patterned rug will camouflage splodges and spills and can be wiped off more readily than having an entire carpet cleaned.   The rug needs to be larger all the way around your dining room table and all four chair legs need to sit on the carpet with plenty spare on the sides…again at least 60cm all round.

If your lounge floor is dark and your sofa is dark, and it’s all feeling like the sofa has organically grown out of the brown carpet, then you need a large colourful or patterned rug to differentiate between the floor and the sofa to make it feel less like Hobbit Land.   You can have several rugs layered on top or next to each other.  Turkish rugs look particularly good layered over or next to each other if you go for a similar colour.

Accessorising with mirrors and artwork:

You collect art, have a few great canvasses or framed pieces but you can’t hang them up.  If you have a chest of drawers or a sideboard then you can use this piece of furniture to prop up some art so you still get to see your great pieces.  Prop art onto chests of drawers with a lamp and some accessories. Displaying your art, framed and unframed along the floor is a great way to increase the interest factor in your room although if you don’t have much floor space, it might make it feel cluttered.    Large floor standing mirrors look really good and can make a space feel bigger.

Think about what you’d like your own home to look like and start to furnish your rented space with pieces of furniture that you actually love and want to keep for the long term.  This will stop you going on a shopping spree and just randomly buying pieces of furniture just because they are cheap or fit the space you currently have.  Dress up your existing sofa with great cushions and throws, again make sure you’re not just picking up any old cushion in any old colour and hoping it’s all going to magically come together… try and stick to your chosen colour scheme.  If you know you’ll change the sofa a few years down the line, throw on a couple of sheep skins for texture and a few cushions to hide the sofa.


Some people collect shells, others collect cameras and they want them displayed so that others can see how passionate they are about their passion!  This is where those Billy bookcases will come in handy, because you can go all American on them and start hanging pictures from the bookcases alongside those books and CDs together with your collection of WWII paraphernalia!    Paint the backs of the bookcases in a contrasting colour to create depth or wallpaper them.  I recommend you paint or wallpaper these before you assemble them.


Painting old pieces of furniture is the easiest way to upcycle existing pieces of furniture.  Sometimes they just need to be painted in a different colour to give them life again.  Paint the side tables and the coffee table if they are too similar in shade to the carpet. Or invest in some glass and chrome or marble and wood coffee tables or whatever style take your fancy. You might need to save for these, but if you make a list of what you really want to purchase for the long term, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can tick them off your wish list.

Plant power:

Add plants, big ones, a palm tree, a Ficus Benjamina, or a Fiddle leaf fig tree…they create oxygen as well as giving us that calming peaceful feeling that we get around nature and they are green, which complements all colour schemes.  If you only have blinds and can’t hang your own curtains, plants can soften the sharp lines of the window, but make sure you have tall ones, as well as medium sized and small plants.   Love a plant. Prop them on window sills, bathrooms, bedrooms and anywhere you like.  If you’re not good with plants, go faux.  Faux plants are good, they don’t need watering either.

You have a bed and you've got bedside tables or not.  If not, you can improvise.  Bedside tables do not need to be tables.  They can be an antique chair or a few vintage crates or even a low chest of drawers. Or you can just go traditional, that’s fine too, just pump up the visual volume by adding lamps and accessories. You can’t hang wallpaper but you can get a sheet of MDF cut to the size of your bed and cover it in your favourite wallpaper, propped behind your bed, or drape it with a stunning fabric and it can be as tall as you want it to be. Instant headboard, instant visual interest for little cost.

Beds look great dressed in white bedlinen, but if you’re into colour I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise.  Some people like cushions, others hate them and wonder why we have to dress the bed in six different sized cushions only to have to pack them away every night when they go to sleep…but cushions do make a bed look gorgeous and well dressed, without them it’s like wearing a little black dress without the heels…you’ve got the jewellery, the hair, the earrings, the clutch, but you’re still wearing the flats that you fetched the kids in from school…so cushions do it for me…and a chunky textured throw draped over the bed adds to the cosy factor when you’re reading your favourite book on a drizzly Sunday afternoon...

Cream carpets in the bedroom give you a neutral background which will complement any colour scheme, but dark brown, now that needs taming….so rugs are a must here.  You’ll need a fairly large rug that sits mostly outside of the bedframe so it covers the carpet you don’t like, at least 60cm – 1 metre wider on each side.   Sheepskins are perfect for throwing down next to the bed and adding a bit of texture and you can pick these up at Ikea for a bargain.  An oversized mirror would look great on the floor, bouncing light from the window across the room.  The whole idea is to create a lot of visual interest so that you don’t notice the flooring, but by visual interest I don’t mean clutter.  And plants, add few large ferns or palms in front of a window immediately soften the hard lines.


One thing that most rentals lack is built in storage.  If you’re lucky enough to rent a newer type home then you will probably have built ins.  If not well, you might want to look at Antique armoire or modern glass fronted cabinets.  Ikea do a few I like, or hunt for a vintage wardrobe which can be painted and look stunning or mid century sideboards offer quite a bit of storage and display space.  Look for glass fronted vintage bookcases which you can use to store shoes and handbags.  There is plenty of variety out there. 

Storing clothing is always a problem.  Most of us seem to have more clothing than a high street clothing store but far less space to store it all.  Try keeping only seasonal clothes in your wardrobe and storing the rest away in vacuum storage bags or large suitcases which can be packed away at the top of the built in cupboard or in the loft (remember to add a block of cedar wood to stop the moths chewing your favourite jumper!)  Large woven baskets are ideal for storing fresh towels or any number of things you don’t have a home for and if they have lids, for shoes you don’t have space for in the wardrobe (tip: pop an air freshener thingy in the bottom so your shoes always smell like lily of the valley and less football changing room!)

All pics from my Pinterest board which will take you to the original pinner.

So to wrap up:

  • ·         Change the light fittings
  • ·         Invest in pieces of furniture you want to have in your forever house
  • ·         Rugs
  • ·         Accessorise with large table lamps and personal items
  • ·         Large floor mirrors and art
  • ·         Colourful and interesting fabrics, cushions and throws
  • ·         Upcycle furniture with paint.
  • ·         DIY headboard with wallpaper/fabric
  • ·         Large woven baskets
  • ·         Storage for your out of season clothing and shoes
  • ·         Large and small plants
  • ·         And did I say rugs….you can never have enough rugs!

Until next time!


  1. Sharon, ótimas dicas, servem não só para imóveis alugados mas também para quem precisa dar um up na casa sem muito quebra-quebra. Bjos e ótima semana.

  2. Sharon, esqueci de dizer: Adorei a parte do post que fala sobre as seis almofadas sobre a cama, eu também já me perguntei sobre a sua utilidade mas admito que as amo, cama bem vestida é tudo de lindo!rsrs

    1. Hello dear Silvia, so glad you think the post was informative and your pillow comment made me laugh, we always throw ours down on the floor, but I have about six of them piled on at once! The lengths I go for a well dressed bed! Hugs my friend. Sharon x


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