How to decorate your rented home

The economic situation and lack of supply in the housing market means that increasing numbers of us are now becoming resigned to renting long term. This certainly adds flexibility for those of us who choose to rent, but this can often come at the lack of personalisation of our homes. High deposits and tough rental contracts can make it hard to add those decorative touches that we would add if we owned the property we lived in, but renting need not be an experience devoid of style or feeling at home. There are a few things you can do to make the space your own, retain your deposit and not spend a fortune in the process.


The first thing to do when considering decorating your rented home in any way is to first check your contract. Many of these are standard contracts that forbid you to do much at all, but you should read the small print to see what leeway there is.

The next step is to call your landlord or their agent. Most landlords will be reasonable and give you the okay to paint a wall or two, especially if the décor is in need of a freshen up. The more generous landlord will knock a bit off your rent if you are saving him or her a job. Although you should be careful to stick to colours that are not that extreme and which would not stop the landlord from renting the home again in that state. Neutral tones are fine, but light blues or greens should also be okay. Avoid orange, black or luminous pink paints, though. You can usually get away with brighter choices in kitchens and bathrooms, though do be prepared to re-paint before handing the keys back.

orange chair

Wallpapering is best avoided, but if you get permission then go inexpensive and neutral. Always remember that you may choose to move out soon or that your landlord may not renew your lease at the end of the year. So, go for Ikea furniture over fitted bookshelves or wardrobes if you need to add more storage. You will want items that are not costly to remove or are permanent fixtures that you have spent a small fortune on. So carpets and new flooring and tiling are all out.

If you want to freshen up the floor in your rented home then rugs are your best friend. You can splash out on something you love and then roll it up and take it with you to your next home. The same goes for curtains, throws and lampshades. These are all personal touches that are portable and that can add splashes of colour to what may be a bland backdrop.

stack of magazines

If you are unable to decorate the walls of your new home with paint or wallpaper then you should consider going to town with art. Groupings of family photographs, original art, boot sale finds, gig posters and framed pieces of fabric can all be put together inexpensively and will make a world of difference to a flat decorated entirely in magnolia woodchip. Think smart and use your storage to hide features you don’t like, whether that is a grubby fridge or a lumpy wall with ageing floral wallpaper.

Small repairs may also allow you to add things that are more to your taste. So, if you have a kitchen with tired-looking cupboard handles then you can swap them out for something more modern (asking permission or switching back when you leave), or you can replace a torn bathroom lino with something more cheery. Just remember to only fork out money you are happy to lose. This is the rule of all décor decisions in a rented flat or house. By all means go and spend whatever it takes to make it feel homely and feel yours, but just be aware of how long your tenancy has to run and how likely you or the landlord is to renew it. Portable items allow you to take your home style with you, wherever you head next.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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