How to make a rented house a home

With an increasing number of people priced out of buying a property in the UK, renting has become routine. But how can you transform this temporary dwelling into your home without breaking the bank or the tenancy agreement?

The number of renters in Britain is on the rise. According to The Department for Communities and Local Government, social and private renters account for 34% of households in England.

A slowdown in mortgage lending and the increasing size of deposits required to get a mortgage means many are left at the bottom of the property ladder, forced into living in homes that are not really their own.

So what can the increasing number of renters do to make themselves feel at home in rented accommodation?

Furnished vs. unfurnished

Let’s start with the type of property to choose in the first place. For private renters there are number of questions you should ask before you rent. One of them is whether to get a property that is furnished or unfurnished.

A furnished house means you may be faced with cheap, less-than-adequate furniture and unsightly fixtures and fittings. You may be able to work with what is already there, but if you have the unfortunate situation of being lumbered with an MDF monstrosity and blue patterned sofas, transforming the space could be exasperating.  

An unfurnished house on the other hand is usually cheaper to rent and will give you the opportunity to invest in some furniture that suits the existing décor. It also means you are not forced to use furniture that may have had a longer history than you. There is nothing better than getting into a bed you know is bug free!

It will cost a bit extra initially, but wouldn’t you be happier with a house kitted out to your own taste rather than your landlord’s?

What's more, should you reach a position where you can afford to buy a home of your own, you will already have furniture to fill it with!

Work with your landlord

Of course you may not have the option to choose, given how fiercely competitive the renting market is at the moment. Furnished or unfurnished, you may wish to make alterations to the property in one way or another to make it more habitable.

Sadly most tenancy agreements won’t allow you to change any of the permanent fixtures and fittings or paint the walls. It is worth checking your agreement to see what the rules are but “not carrying out alterations to the property without the landlord’s permission” is a line that features prominently on most agreements.

This barrier is perhaps when most start to feel like visitors in their own home.

If the décor is something you feel is affecting your time in the property, try talking to your landlord or letting agent. In my experience landlords are generally happy to let you make alterations like painting the walls (especially if you offer to do it yourself), but letting agents can be trickier as they have to wait for a landlord’s permission.

Get creative

If you get stuck with a landlord who just isn’t interested in what you want or need done to the property, there are a variety of ways to make your home a better place using fairly inexpensive methods that couldn’t offend even the strictest home owner. These are just a few ideas:

Wall stickers

A great way to jazz up plain walls without encouraging the wrath of your landlord. The stickers can be removed easily at the end of your tenancy leaving no marks on the walls.

Work with a colour scheme

OK, so you disagree with green carpets, but you are stuck with them for the time being. If you are faced with a colour you are not sure how to work with, try using a colour wheel to see what other shades you could use to compliment or contrast.

Work around not damaging the walls

Not being able to drill anything into the walls is a battle if you need extra storage. There are ways around this, though. If you want hooks for your coats, why not try a coat stand instead. And as for hooks in the bathroom, try a set that goes over the door.

Furniture key pieces

Even with the most awful MDF furniture suite, a bold piece of furniture like a side table or chair could inject a bit of personality and draw the eye away from ugly pieces dotted around the room.

Wall hangings

These can add style and cover up an unsightly wall.


Split up unsightly furniture so they don’t overburden and rearrange to suit you. In some cases you may just want to hide an ugly painting in a cupboard to improve your home.

Use throws

Perhaps your landlord thought the vomit-coloured sofa was nice, but you certainly don’t. A throw is a quick and cheap way to hide the colour of a piece of furniture you can’t really replace.


Rugs are a great way to cover up an ugly orange carpet, but even better at making sure nothing spills on the ugly orange carpet jeopardising your deposit money.

Personalise the space

Renting a home does not mean that you must live in a space devoid of any character. The simplest way to make a space truly yours is to personalise it.


As long as you have smiling faces from pictures of friends and family, a cold dreary flat suddenly comes alive.

Cool knick-knacks

Don’t hide the nice things you collected travelling or were given as a gift - display them for all to see.


Using a nice print in a nice frame from your favourite artist or movie poster makes a statement about who you are.

House proud

Cover up decorating mishaps on your landlord’s side and transform a space from just a two bed maisonette to your two bed maisonette.

With a few personal items, a bit of cooperation from your landlord and some creativity a rented space can become home in no time.

These are just my ideas, but why not share your tips for making a rented place homely below.

More on renting:

Ask these questions before you rent!

How to rent out your home

Blip or bust: the end of the rental boom?

Number of people renting set to increase

Renting a car is cheaper than buying one

The renting vs. buying showdown!


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