There are two different kinds of rentals, the furnished and the unfurnished. Of course, it’s always easier to create a space that resembles you in the latter case… In the first case, it really starts with a good negotiation with your landlord about what you have to keep and what he is willing to remove/change. I remember when I used to live in London, the owner was so terrible it was a hard negotiation just to remove cutlery, pans and dishes!
Before I start sharing tips, there is something that is true for both kind of rentals; choose the most neutral space possible, white walls, nice wooden floors or very well maintained floors in neutral tones. Basically avoid renting apartments that reflects the owner’s style too much (unless you share the same style), so try and avoid places with odd colors, overwhelming wallpapers, old fashioned furniture and dirty!
The Unfurnished rental (AKA the flexible space)
1/ First of all, discuss with your landlord, whether he would agree to upgrade/change some features (paint the walls and/or the cabinetry, upgrading appliances, bathroom fixtures, etc…). It is ESSENTIAL to discuss this BEFORE you sign the lease, as landlords who want to secure their rent might be willing to approve some minor cosmetic changes either by raising the rent a little or allowing you to pay for it or sometimes they will just do it as it was much needed anyway. Once I visited an apartment and the owner was willing to go down on the rent price; then I saw the terrible, old and dirty appliances (dishwasher, oven, microwave and washing machine) so I told her I was happy to pay for the asking price for the rent if she changed the appliances.
2/ Please do not overspend on furniture, unless you know you’re renting the space for at least 5years+ or unless it is a timeless, designer small piece ( chaise lounge, stools, coffee table, lighting fixture etc…). The reason behind this, is simple, if you spend a lot of money on a sofa or a dining table set and you move into a bigger rentals 2years later or plan on buying very soon, you do not know if its going to fit, and don’t fool yourself, it’s very likely that you’ll have to resell it at a much lower price than the purchase price! But don’t worry with all the resources there are nowadays, you can definitely create a polished space without breaking the bank (those who tell you otherwise are just snobs ;))
Knoll (Warren Platner iconic chair)
The furnished space (AKA the less flexible space)
1/ Choose the most neutral space possible. I know we all love charming little places, but it’s ok with neutral spaces it will be way easier to add your own little charming details that will make a house your home .
2/ Cleanliness, I cannot stress this enough! You are going to live with someone else’s furniture, so better check that it is pristine! Try to negotiate a mattress change, even at your own cost. Also check grouts in kitchen and bathrooms ( that goes also for the unfurnished rental).
3/ What if the landlord is a pain and wants to basically use his rental home as a storage for currently unwanted things? You love the space but it’s not so neutral and owner doesn’t want to remove accessories and/or some pieces of furniture? Don’t panic! Frames and art can be removed and placed in cupboards, under beds or behind the sofa; a sofa can be covered with a nice throw and accessorized with cute pillows (just buy new pillow covers and cover the ones you don’t like for the time of the rental), lighting fixtures might be easily disassembled and hidden in your storage space, same goes for some window treatments. However, keep your lifestyle in mind if you cannot change a single thing; i.e.: I used to live in a furnished rental in London, very neutral, modern so the perfect set to add my personal touch! However, the owner didn’t want us to remove the furniture in the second bedroom, I didn’t mind at the time because it was fine with my family status; but now I’m thinking, what if I wanted/needed to have a baby’s room rather than a guest room?! Same goes if you love entertaining and you end up with a table with 4 seating maximum (definitely a deal breaker for me)! In which case, it might be better to keep looking for something that suits your needs better!
Now here are the few things that you can do in both kind of rentals to create your home sweet home:
It’s all about the details and as much as I said you can’t overspend on furniture, you CAN splurge in home decor; because a nice vase or that tableware you always dreamt of entertaining with, will fit anywhere… These little details will definitely help elevate and customize the space, however difficult your landlord is! Also use your passion and incorporate in your decor as much as possible, you love horses, add pictures or art depicting it; you enjoy fine wines, add a nice wine cooler; you are passionate about fashion add books about your favorite designers on your coffee table…
1/ Let there be light!
Hate that old fashioned ceiling light? No table lamp on the nightstands ? Adding and changing lights with something that is more to your taste will definitely redefine the “ambiance” of the of every room… However do not invest too much in a chandelier or pendant ceiling light, because again it might not be big enough or small enough in your next home; and it is not that easy to place in a different room.
2/ Plants and flowers
I love to decorate with my favourite flowers and plants. It always makes a space more cosy by bringing colour and texture; it is also a good way to reflect your personality, as people often have a favorite flower and a favorite colour. Plants can also have a soothing effect, which is a good thing when you call a place “home”.
3/ Window treatment
It is such a great way to personalize your space by picking your favourite shades and/or patterns, especially if your landlord was not so flexible on paint or if you couldn’t change some pieces of furniture. It will definitely elevate the space. Again do not go and buy the most expensive custom window treatment if you know you are not going to rent for a long time (unless your landlord agrees to pay you back), windows are so different from one house to another and you might not be able to reuse it. In some cases, you might have to take down the current window treatment to replace with the one you like at your own cost AND might have to put back the old one or something similar before you leave. Nevertheless, if there already are window treatments such as curtains, it’s really easy to remove and replace them with ones more to your taste.
4/ Accent furniture and other styling accessories
It is an amazing way to add little things that will make your surroundings more “you”. Adding accent pillows to a neutral sofa or a nice, cosy and luxurious throw on your bed, placing that cute little side table,for your favorite books, next to your sofa. You might also be able to add some rugs, such as bedside shag rugs. The owner might not have thought of installing a console in the entryway or cute little hooks for your coats. Same goes for the bathroom, where you can add nice towel hangers, hampers and other baskets and stylish storage solutions. Buy nice things to create your perfect tablescape and cover this otherwise basic dining table.
5/ Changing the cupboards and closet knobs
This is is such an easy and quick fix. It’s a detail but we both know it’s also the little things that make a difference.
6/ A defining scent and your favourite books
In my opinion, this is the epitome of a cosy home, a scent that you love and that defines you; a few good books and you feel at home, anywhere really! Try it even when you’re away from home for a vacation; place your current reading on the nightstand and light your favorite candle, and you’ll instantly feel relaxed! So do not hesitate to style your shelves, coffee table, bathrooms with candles (even if its more for the look of it than the smell), and beautiful books… Also a good idea if you have a fireplace, fill it with candles! (also refer to my previous post about decorating your fireplace, it is such a lovely way to personalize a space 😉 ).
Diptyque Paris (my personal favorite)
6/ Art and photography
There is nothing more personal than family and friends pictures and art. Art is a great medium to reflect your soul and personality; and photos, well, a house filled with memories is “home”… You can create a little gallery wall to make the space more artsy and intimate.