DIY : 10 Easy ways to turn your ugly rental house into a beautiful home

Looking at your rental home fills you with a sense of despair. What on earth made the landlord think drab and vomit were good ideas for a colour scheme? Does he realise people live here? People with hopes and dreams, people with a sense of style?

You need cosiness. You need practicality. You want your home to give you a hug when you come back from a long day at the office. You need to be able to invite your friends over for dinner and not hang your head in shame.

But how can you decorate your home when you can’t even drill holes in the walls, never mind knock one down? 
I know how you’re feeling. When I moved into our rental home, I took one look at the place and took to bed. Yes, like a Victorian heroine dissolving onto her fainting couch, I had to lie down because it was all just too much for me. But then a single thought popped into my head: I can make any space beautiful. 
So can you. You absolutely can have a cosy, welcoming love nest that screams your name. Here’s how you get there.

  1. Don’t wait for your ‘forever home’ to make it yours

When you can’t knock down walls or add an extension to your home, it can feel like you’re stuck with a less-than-perfect nest. But you don’t have to wait for ‘one day’ to make your home a cosy, inviting place — one you look forward to coming home to at the end of a long day.

Interior decoration can do wonders for any space. It can even hide less-than-perfect architectural features.

Most importantly: every stage of your life is worth being enjoyed, cherished and celebrated. So don’t wait till you’ve bought a house to feel at home. Throw the things you love at that space now, and see what a difference it makes!

2. Who says you have to put up with the landlord’s dodgy taste?

When you rent, it’s easy to focus on the aspects you’re stuck with, but what about those fixtures you can change?

Ugly curtains? Replace!

Fifty-year-old carpet? Put a rug over it! Lampshades and even cupboard handles can be changed.

And the ugly stuff? Crate that! Get yourself a nice waterproof crate where all the landlord’s furnishings of questionable taste lives. Store it out of sight until the day you move away.

3. Them bones? They don’t matter so much

Here’s a secret many wealthy people don’t know: it’s not about the bare bones of the place, it’s about a cohesive overall look. The homes that look most expensive usually aren’t the ones that actually cost the most. 
Great décor can hide a multitude of sins. The trick is having a cohesive overall look. Repeating similar colours, textures and themes throughout your home is a surefire way of achieving that overall look, like blue, coastal and weathered touches in this room.

4. Odd can work in your favour

Rental homes can come with the oddest architectural features. But even the most unusual feature can become a striking focal point with the right touch. 
 Case in point: this jutting-out wall that became a photo gallery.

5. Set the stage for action

The secret to getting around to everything you want to do in life? A distinct space for everything. And you don’t need heaps of space for this. It’s all about zoning.

Don’t push those couches on either side of a long room — your space will feel empty and impersonal. And don’t turn the spare room into an ‘everything’ room — it will become an unwelcoming storage area where no one ever goes.

If there isn’t a distinct zone for every activity, you probably won’t get around to doing it. So think about everything that needs to happen in your home, then dedicate a space to it. Perhaps you want a dining nook, reading corner and crafting desk, like in this room.

Having distinct zones makes your house look more homely and bigger at the same time. And you’re more likely to get around to everything you want to do in life if there’s a dedicated space for it.

6. Welcome yourself home

Your home is your oasis of calm in a busy world. It welcomes you home at the end of a long day

And nothing says says ‘welcome home’ like an entry way. And it’s super practical too. Muddy shoes, anyone?

You don’t have to have a foyer to create your own transition area, where you can take off your shoes and put the day’s cares behind you. 
Create one wherever you enter the house, whether it’s in the kitchen or into the living room. Think double duty: your entryway bench can double as a side table, like in this living area.

7. Clutter? What clutter?

Is this a bookshelf or a way to show off ornaments?

What about this bathroom ladder — is it there for storage, or to provide a much-needed decorative element to the most utilitarian room in the house?

How about this? Sure, it’s crockery, but isn’t it also beautifully decorative?

Rental homes can be notoriously short on storage, but when you make pieces do double duty, you can have space for everything you need.

The secret? Everything that’s ‘out’ needs to be beautiful. So display your pretty things and save precious storage space for those less-attractive items like food and shampoo bottles.

8. Light up your life

What is it with rental homes and dodgy lighting? When your house is dim, it can create a gloomy feeling.

This is easily changed by having a selection of floor and table lamps, strategically placed next to wherever people are bound to sit and chat, or to dip into a book.

I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint; comfortable chairs with lights beside them.

– Elsie de Wolfe, interior designer

9. Who says art needs to go on the walls?

Is your landlord iffy about nails? Adhesive hooks are a great alternative, but for heavier items, how about displaying them on surfaces?

Line up — or layer — paintings, prints or photographs in differing sizes on cabinets, sideboards or chests of drawers for a striking, contemporary look.

10. Create a sticky situation

No splashback? No problem! Adhesive tiles as a great — and temporary — addition to any rental kitchen — or anything you need covered — like this tiled wall.


Imagine having a beautiful, personal and practical home today. Imagine truly loving the stage of life you’re in right now.

Imagine having friends over for candlelight dinners that stretch on into the night. Imagine cosy movie nights, savouring your morning coffee in a special dining nook and curling up with a good book in your sunny reading spot. 
Who knows where you’ll be in a few years’ time? What matters is this moment. And you can have the house you love right now. Not one day. Not when you own your own home. Right now.


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