Regardless of whether you’re renting for the short or long term, it can be pretty bleak to look at the walls and decoration and feel unhappy with your surroundings. Unless you’re in a very long term tenancy with a very easy-going landlord, it’s unlikely that you’ll be allowed to paint the walls or alter the kitchen layout to your taste.

However, there are some things you can do to turn your rental property in to the home you desperately want it to be – without getting on the wrong side of your landlord or tenancy agreement!

Pre-tenancy considerations: Furnished or Unfurnished?

It often feels tempting to go for a furnished option if the landlord can provide either – you don’t have to fork out for a bed, sofas, dining tables…the list goes on. However, furnishing a home is much more cost effective than it used to be. If you’re low on budget but would prefer to start your own furniture collection, you can look at local buy-and-sell sites and gumtree to find some bargains. And, as always, you can find most staple pieces at a fairly affordable price in Ikea.

Unfurnished properties tend to be decorated in a more neutral way, so you have more scope to make it your own with decorative pieces and furniture choices. But, if you’re going for a furnished option whether due to needing a shorter tenancy or it being a student let, fear not. Keep reading for ideas on how to inject some personality without a lick of paint.

FIRSTLY: Communicate with your landlord or lettings agency

Most rental agreements have rules in place and you should not carry out alterations to the property without your landlords’ permission. However, many landlords are quite happy for long term tenants to replace things like curtains and light fittings providing they are replaced with the original fittings when you move out.

Some landlords are happy for you to paint rooms a different colour, especially if it improves the overall look of the property or the colour you use remains neutral for future tenants – but always get permission before cracking open the tins and brushes!

THEN: Time to Get creative

If you can’t paint the walls, it might be time to get creative. Pinterest is a great starting point for getting some home decoration inspiration regardless of room size or colour – it can also be a great time-killer on the bus to town.

Work with the colour scheme

Have you been gifted with blue or green carpets by your property, but you’d rather a different feel? Check out different colour palettes depending on shade, and mix and match colours, tones, and materials to bring it to life. For example, if you have a deep blue carpet, adding beachy sand and surf tones can help to neutralise something that might otherwise dominate the room – try light wood ladder displays and pastel accessories such as cushions and candles.

Have an emerald green carpet? Consider exploring jewel tones with deep purples, rich reds, and gold accents.


If you need extra storage but your landlord doesn’t want you to drill into the walls, you can work around it.

Box units can work well – they tend to come in sizes from one block up to sixteen, and each cubby hole can be used as a shelf or with a basket insert, giving you storage and display space all in one.

Got some room under the bed? Put together some drawers or get hold of some shallow plastic boxes to slide underneath, providing space to store the inevitable collection of ‘things without a home’.

Coat stands can be a better solution rather than hooks by the front door, with most providing plenty of coat hanging space along with shoe storage and cupboards.

There are plenty of freestanding storage units like book shelves, TV units and even coffee tables with drawers for the living area. For your bedroom, you could add a blanket box or trunk. Any local or national DIY/homewares store will have a multitude of storage solutions, so if you’re a keen shopper, take a day out to explore and find your best option.

Artwork, Wall Hangings, Mirrors, and Stickers

If the property has existing picture hooks, get some artwork or wall hangings to personalise the space – just be wary of heavy items! This can be a great opportunity to visit markets and different areas of your new city – finding cool pieces that local artists have created can also help you feel more like you belong in your new area, and supports the local community.

Most landlords won’t deny you a few picture hooks in the walls as they are easily removed and made good – it can make such a difference to hang up personal items such as photos.

Mirrors are always a great way to add space and light to a room or hallway, and they don’t always need to be hung on a wall. Find a freestanding mirror to lean against the wall and you’ll also have a spot for checking your OOTD.

A great way to liven up plain walls is to apply removable wall stickers which can be easily removed at the end of your tenancy without leaving a mark on the walls.


Overall, make it work for you

Renting a home doesn’t mean you must live in a space devoid of character. The simplest way to make a space truly yours is to personalise it with photos and cool stuff you’ve collected that has meaning to you.

If you’re surrounding by things that you love, your rented flat or house will become the home that you love.

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