How to make your rented house or unit feel more like home

When you’re renting, it’s easy to feel that the freedom to really put your stamp on a place is out of reach.

True, you might be stuck with somebody else’s choice of paint and trimmings. And chances are you don’t have much spare cash, or perhaps you’re reluctant to spend on nice homey things if you have no solid idea how long it will be before you move again.

But everybody deserves to have a home that feels like a sanctuary, whatever the circumstances. Liking where we live and being able to relax when we walk through the door is important for our wellbeing and quality of life.

With two decades of renting under my belt, there are certain things I’ve discovered that really have been worth it. Be mindful of your own budget and goals, of course, but here are some of the key renting friendly investments that really do make a big difference.

1. Lamps and lightshades
Lighting is key for creating atmosphere, whether that’s cosy and calming, romantic or sophisticated – being able to switch off the big light has a huge impact.

Investing in a lamp or two will instantly have an impact on how you feel in your space, and could you swap in your own lampshade on the main light in a living space? This is an easy way to add a pop of colour and personality and help frame the room in a way that’s more to your taste.

2. A rug or two
You don’t have free rein with the decor, but you can still tailor your rented space and rugs are great for this. Not only do rugs have a big visual impact, they also add some all-important warmth and comfort – and you simply roll them up to take with you when you move on. There’s a good range of fun and stylish designs at affordable price points these days.

Consider this a key ingredient in any living space, and if the budget allows, how about something sumptuous for the bedroom to sink your toes into when you roll out of bed?

3. Art that lights your heart
For many renters, being able to hang as much art as you want is often top of the homeowning lust list – but renting doesn’t have to mean completely putting these desires on hold.

Your landlord may agree to a few nails (do always check, and don’t go hammering unless you’re sure it’s safe), or perhaps there’s a picture rail you can make use of. If those aren’t options, get creative and lean a large frame against a wall. Either way, bringing in a bit of art – something that lights you up every time you see it – is worth pursuing.

Again, if the budget is tight, you don’t need to spend a fortune. Check out second-hand frames (op shops are good for this) and acrylic frames for large prints, and get your own favourite photos printed online (perhaps a beloved landscape) or buy a large poster print. This isn’t about starting a mega-bucks art collection; it’s about creating a home you feel good in and that reflects you.

4. A big plant

Plants and greenery help boost wellbeing, clean the air and liven up rooms. When you’re not especially green-fingered and there’s a hundred other things you need to budget for, plants can easily slip to the bottom of the list. I fantasised about surrounding myself with plants for ages before allowing myself to actually buy some – and I am 100 per cent glad I did.

They really do make a difference, and if you get ones that are hardy and easy to care for, they’ll last ages. If your budget is tight, stay away from the hyped-up brands and get a basic palm from a local garden centre. It’ll do the job just as well.

5. A few nice kitchen bits
One of the keys to a contented life is injecting joy into the small, everyday things – and kitchen bits feature a lot in small, everyday things. I’m not saying blow the budget on fancy coffee machines. I am saying savour the first drink of the day and have it in a favourite mug. Then have your lunchtime soup in a special bowl. And maybe skip the takeaways for a while and save up for an amazing big pot so you can experiment with homemade curries. Your soul and belly will thank you.

6. Some cosy throws

Hygge may not be a massive marketing buzzword anymore, but it’s still something worth aiming for when creating a home. Blankets and throws are always a welcome addition – they make everything cosier, add colour and texture, and they’ll probably last a lifetime. Even the blandest of living rooms can be overhauled with a few cushions, throws and blankets draped over sofa backs or rolled and tucked into a basket, Scandi hotel style.

How have you made your rented accommodation feel more like home? What’s the best piece of furniture you’ve bought?

– With PA

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