Four walls, a roof, a door, perhaps some windows; a rough approximation of a house right there. But a home is so much more than the sum of its physical parts; a living space where you feel sheltered and sustained, somewhere you miss when you’re away and holds you in a warm embrace when you return. There really is no place like it. When renting, it can sometimes be hard to make a space which has such a history of transience feel like your own. Of course, family are the crucial ingredient for homemaking alchemy, but interior design also plays a crucial role. With that in mind, here are 7 IDEAL ways to make your rental house a home.

KEEP IT CLEAN

There can be a temptation in a rental property to let standards slip slightly in terms of cleanliness. A mug of tea might stay on the side a little longer than usual, the hoover might not be quite so intimate with the carpet, and the outside of the house will likely be neglected. But to turn things from functional to familial, from a house to a home, it’s important to keep things clean and tidy. So notwithstanding the obligatory London end of tenancy cleaning and landlord’s responsibility to fix things as and when requested, a weekly cleaner or your own diligent and dedicated cleaning plan will make things feel far more hospitable.

PERSONALISE YOUR SPACE

Most Landlords choose a neutral decor scheme which often feels cold and impersonal. However, those uniformly white walls, beige carpets and that identikit ikea functionality are actually ideal for those wishing to make a rental property feel like their own home; a blank canvas for you to dress up as you please (within the terms of your contract). Indeed, you can personalise your space with everything and anything that you please. Surround yourself with objects that tell a story about your life; trinkets brought back from trips, photos of your friends and family and bargains picked up from a charity shop. Doing so will change it from an emotionless space to one filled with your memories.

If you’re stuck with your landlord’s furniture, there are a few nifty ways to personalise it without actually altering it irreparably. Throws and fabrics with details, colours and patterns personal to you can help you leave your mark without actually leaving a mark. Changing elements which are easily returned to their original state, like curtains, blinds and cushion covers, can also help you put your stamp on things. You can even brighten up the walls with peel and stick removable wallpaper which doesn’t leave any residue on the walls.

ASK YOUR LANDLORD

If you really want to personalise your space, it never hurts to ask the landlord if certain changes are permitted. If picture hooks are forbidden in your contract, if you have a good relationship with your landlord and ask in person, they may let you hang pictures and paintings that you love. Moreover, they may even be happy with you painting a wall, as long as you paint it back to the original colour before you leave. Freestanding furniture of your own is also your friend when if comes to personalising your rental home. So ask your landlord to take away some of their furniture so you can add your own to the space. They may of course say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

GO GREEN

In your rental home, where perhaps garden space is scant and permanent flourishes of aesthetic delight banned by your landlord, having some flowers and plants indoors can offer a solution to both problems. The benefits of using plants in your own home are myriad. Not only do they purify the air and balance out a house’s humidity, fantastic foliage can help you feel more relaxed and calm, which in turn benefits your everyday mood. That’s even before we consider the visual appeal. A must, then, when making things more homely.

MEET THE NEIGHBOURS

“Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours”. Yep, we couldn’t agree more, especially when you’ve just moved into a rented place and want to make friends and feel at home with haste. If the relationship with your neighbours is harmonious, life is so much easier; an extra pair of eyes on your place while you’re away, a tolerance of a bit of late night noise from time to time, a friendly cup of sugar lent when you’re out…you get the picture. On the flipside, should the mood be fractious, then domestic bliss suffers and your house may never feel like a home. So, get round there with urgency, introduce yourself, smile and project good cheer.  The rest writes itself.

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL

There’s one narrative thread with runs through so many of the best homes; that the kitchen is the hub of the house. This is where bread is baked and broken, where families draw their faces away from screens for a short while and actually make eye contact. Relationships are nurtured and souls are nourished in the kitchen, so it’s a good idea to focus your initial efforts here after moving in. The good news is that it’s also one of the easiest rooms to get right, simply by adding a few accessories which even a dictatorial (aren’t they all?) landlord couldn’t object to. This could be as basic as putting in a hanging rack for utensils, or having your spice collection on display, to using brightly colour crockery to add a new, confident colour scheme to the overall aesthetic of your home.

ORGANISED CHAOS

Have you noticed that the houses which feel really, truly cosy aren’t always in perfect order? Furniture may not be aligned, items certainly aren’t placed at right angles, and scant regard for symmetry is obvious. So, though we realise we’ve already extolled the virtues of keeping things clean, this ‘lived in’ feel creates real warmth, and can be enhanced with a few interior design touches. In terms of those ‘short term’ and likely to be allowed in a rental, then mismatched furniture scored from antique dealers, clashing textures provided by throws, cushions and rugs, and coffee table books and vinyl collections all bring the right ‘organised chaos’ appeal.

Be warned. While cobbling anything that carries a single digit price tag at the jumble sale may serendipitously result in a synergetic style, it is, frankly, unlikely. Better to have thematic thread running through your design ideas – such as matching lines or motifs, giving a little guidance to your thrifty foraging.

 

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Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.