This year, I moved into my first rented house since leaving university. I was lucky enough to find a very blank slate kind of a house - unfurnished, white walls, wooden floors downstairs, decent carpets upstairs. There's even a little wood burner in the living room. It was easy to see how to make it the sort of home I wanted it to be, although there were some challenges along the way and a few lessons to be learnt. For decoration ideas, I spent a long time looking online for inspiration and to find the items I wanted. My favourite shops for interiors include all the usual suspects: IKEA, Habitat, John Lewis, and H&M.
Here, I share my top ten tips to make a rented house feel like a home, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Greenery makes homes feel alive. Plants with large leaves in huge pots are perfect in bay windows or framing fireplaces, rows of herbs look beautiful in the kitchen, succulents make low maintenance centrepieces for dining tables, and I love a huge basket of white orchids near a window.
About the most basic of sewing projects, the humble cushion cover can be knocked up from any old fabric you might have lying around, including old pillowcases or jumpers. Or, for the less craftily inclined, cushion covers are cheap and easy to buy and switch around.
Nothing personalises a space like paintings, prints or photographs on the wall. Fabric is also a nice option, as is a shelf on which you can keep shifting knickknacks around to your heart's content. If you can't hang pictures on the wall in the traditional way, 3M Command Strips are a pretty good alternative.
Even if your new pad comes with curtains, it's easy to take them down and bundle them away for the duration of your rental. Instead, buy yards of white muslin which, even roughly cut and sewn, makes any space look clean and bright.
Replacing lampshades is very easy and cheap to do, and can change the look and feel of a room. You can even make your own lampshades - it's not as tricky as you might think.
If your rented house is furnished but you don't like the furniture, there's only one thing to do - cover up. Tablecloths over tables, throws over sofas and chairs, and rugs on floors (hard and carpeted, kitchens in particular) and even chairs.
In all but the most extraordinary of bedrooms, the largest item in the room is the bed. Therefore, a careful choice of bed linen will contribute hugely to the look of the bedroom. Also, throws and cushions are easy to select, style and even swap when a change is needed.
I LOVE shopping for knick knacks. It's one of my favourite hobbies. As well as vases, decorative bowls, candles etc, I'm a fan of old books, vintage signs and lettering, natural finds such as feathers, pebbles and shells.
As well as replacing lampshades, a few well placed table or floor lamps can totally change a room. Ditto fairy lights and candles.
In the bathroom
Some rentals have such ugly bathrooms that there's nothing doing, but many can be improved with a nice set of towels, a new bathmat, and a replacement shower curtain.
Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some photos from my new home in a new interiors/home tour series. Renting is VERY expensive so I'm not advocating going to town on all of the above. Making a home is a lengthy process, and I've always wanted a look that comes together slowly and organically. But it is possible to get the basics in place fairly soon after moving in, and with careful buys from charity shops and even supermarkets if necessary.
What would you add to the list? What do you think makes a home?