Rental friendly décor tips


1 September 2022|15 Minutes

How I turned my shabby rental house into a colourful paradise!


In 2020 we sold our London home and made our way to Tunbridge Wells for a better life for the kids. Unfortunately our house purchase fell through on the day of exchange and we had to find somewhere to live in just 7 days.

We found a lovely (but rather bland)  rental and set about trying to demonstrate that rentals can be colourful and fabulous too, you just need a little bit of imagination and a  bit of elbow grease!

 

We transformed the house top-to-toe mainly using things we already had and a few tins of paint here and there! Spending not much more than £500 bagging bargains from Poundland to antique fairs, and shopping our own home. 

It’s natural for us to want to decorate and personalise our environments. Whether it’s our homes, bedrooms or even your desk at work, we love making our spaces well…our own. This also applies to rentals which some people feel they can’t decorating requests get turned down as redecorating will cost the landlord time and money once you move on from the property. 

I however have some useful tips on how to keep the rental looking classy and giving it personality without pouring your entire rent on the decor or going too drastic.

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Let’s go back in time. We moved from London into a rental in October 2019 as we couldn’t find anywhere to buy so we decided to rent for a while. When we moved in, ALL the walls were magnolia. It was a lovely house, a period Victorian townhouse with great proportions, but it had been rented out for four years. It was definitely a blank canvas even though it was a slightly shabby one with the same stripy blinds in every room which, surprise surprise, didn’t go with anything of course. Straight away we tried to add some character using soft furnishings and setting up some B&Q on the walls, small changes that make a really big difference to how it feels.

In the end, our place looked completely different and a thousand times better. It looked as if we spent a really long time decorating it, but we really haven’t. I’m a huge believer that you can transform a space in a weekend, by buying smart and being creative.

We spent about £500 in total. We didn’t want to spend too much money on a rental, knowing we’re not going to be here forever, however it’s a worthy investment when you are planning on renting a place until further notice. This brings me to tip numero uno.

Don't fork out for painting - ask your landlord to cover the costs


I recommend your first step be a conversation with your landlord. We came to an agreement with the owners that they would pay my husband to paint some of the rooms white, which meant we didn’t spend any money on that. You can always see if they’ll get someone in themselves if you’re not very good at painting as most landlords are keen to keep their properties looking fresh. It’s handy that my husband runs a handyman business, we’re a good pair. I’m the creative and he’s the doer.

Stick to a white background and colour with furnishings


Our bedroom is the only room where we actually put colour in. Everywhere else we painted white. It’s tricky when you’re in a rental, you don’t want to have to re-do everything if your landlord doesn’t like the style. That’s why we focused on adding colour and personality in other ways. Luckily we already had most of the furniture from our last place.

When people look at my images, what they see is lots of colour. That is true, I always use colour but it’s not plastered all over the walls. I normally use pinks, mustard yellow and green – on a predominantly white background.

West Elm Bedroom

Paint your kitchen cupboard doors to give the room a budget 'renovation'


We painted the kitchen cupboards green, which made a huge difference, it looked like a whole new room when all it was, was just a lick of paint.

Our bedroom and lounge were very pink, then we used mustard in the kids’ rooms. I’ve got two boys so they didn’t want pink rooms. I’m very lucky though as my husband is a modern man and he’s comfortable with a splash of pink, including our sofa. 

He’s the one having to paint things pink at my request, but he’s really supportive and loves how everything looks when it’s finished. We do have our moments, where he’s like ‘really? Do you want to paint the bedroom ceiling pink? Are you sure that works?’ 

But in the end, he loves the home we live in. If it wasn’t for me, he’d be on a black leather sofa from Ikea and wouldn’t bother doing anything. My boys are quite young, but my eldest at six is a big fan of pink, probably down to me. So he loves it when I add more pink into the house.

Try and get one 'high end' piece in each room then go budget on the rest


When it comes to buying on a budget, I would describe myself as a happy shopper. I mix and match higher-end stuff with cheaper pieces. I have a lot of stuff in my house which is from Ikea, HomeSense, charity shops or antique fairs. I think if you’ve got one really special item, it lifts the whole room and things which on a budget won’t look like it.

My tip for buying pieces for a rental would be to spend as much as you can on your sofa or dining room table – then everything else can be cheaper. And you need to be open-minded – some people are afraid to go to charity shops or cheap stores because they’re scared it won’t look right. 

I have this really cute zebra which is in my son’s bedroom and it cost £1 from Poundland. He has a big zebra on the wall, which was quite expensive, but this little zebra looks amazing with it. I always have a theme in mind and keep an eye out for things which fit wherever I go – if that’s Tesco, Sainsbury’s or a charity shop. It doesn’t matter how cheap it is, if it fits the theme it’s going to look great.     

Fill your walls with framed pictures (£10-£20) and open shelving (£12 from B&Q)


Kitchen DIY shelf

My main tip for people renting or doing up their house who don’t have much money is to fill the blank space on your walls. You can do that very cheaply by adding open shelving or some beautiful art – which you can get with a frame for £10 or £20.

I went to an antique fair and got this really beautiful set of colourful old nature books. I put them on a B&Q shelf which cost £12, and the books cost £5, then added some house plants above this nasty-looking radiator on a really blank, boring wall. 

And it just transformed that whole corner of the room. There was nothing there before, and it probably cost £20 to do the whole thing.

It’s all about finding ways to add colour and interest to a room. I have a massive piece of artwork in our lounge and it cost £40 including the frame.

Build depth with lots of shades of the same colour, to make your room look expensive


Also, think about adding different tones of the same colour. There are eight different shades of pink and red in our lounge, but without the furniture, it’s a white box. We did that with six cushions, which came from HomeSense and cost £3 each in the sale, with a really bold sofa and a rug.

Use oversized rugs to lift the colour without having to get new carpets/flooring


The huge rug that covered most of the wooden floor.

Using rugs is another handy trick – I have an oversized one in most rooms and it really lifts the colour, without having to replace the floor or carpets. Then I added flowers to add more tones of the same colour. If you’ve got colour in a room, don’t just stick to that shade. 

Chuck in two or three more shades of the same colour, and then you add so much depth to a room. You can do that very inexpensively, and that’s when a room starts to look so much more high-end.

Have house plants in every room


Another corner of the nursery with a potted plant to oxygenate the room.

House plants are my other tip for transforming a space. I have them in every room in our house and the minute you start to add plants it completely transforms a blank space. I always say either treat yourself to plants or get them as a housewarming gift, because they make a home in my opinion.

Head to antique stores and upcycle furniture to make it look brand new


I love antique stores and eBay for a bargain. It was a three-door pine chest of drawers in our bedroom, which really wasn’t anything special to look at. But I transformed it and it’s now this beautiful pale pink chest of drawers with wrap handles and brass corners on it. 

I’ve seen pieces like that in high-end stores for over £1,000, but it only cost me £15. That’s one of my favourite pieces.

The revamped £15 chest of drawers in our old London home

And in the bathroom in our London house, I sourced all of the gold taps, bath shower and gold plug holes from sellers on eBay. 

They were incredibly cheap and look absolutely amazing – because everything in the room tied in together. I paid about £200 – all of that from a traditional bathroom store would be well over £1,000. 

It’s all about relative savings and being brave enough to mix and match, as well as being confident enough not to have to buy from all the traditional avenues. eBay is definitely somewhere I look both for used and new items, from sellers you wouldn’t normally be able to find. I am a big fan. 

We have since moved out of our rental which was sad as we’ve really managed to make it our own, we had planned to stay here for a good few years so we spent a long time finding a rental we loved and making home improvements.

But then we found a project place and went for it. I think it’s really exciting to have another go. I was very sad to say goodbye to our bedroom – it’s my favourite room I’ve ever designed.

I definitely think we’ve added value, if the owner wanted to sell and did viewings with how it looks now, with how everything is styled, it would sell quicker and for more money.

To follow our new house renovation and sheila shed journey visit our Instagram too! @threeboysandapinkbath