Are you renting out your pad? Feeling a bit deflated thinking your hands are tied when it comes to decorating? Are you living in magnolia hell but don't know what to do about it for fear of kissing your deposit goodbye? Read on my friends cos I have just spent the past few weeks styling our new rented pad in the desert, and learned A LOT along the way. It's still a major work in progress but I can already share a few key principles with you so you don't have to sweat as much as I did.
Life is funny sometimes, isn't it? One tends to rent for years trying to scrape together enough for a deposit and if you're lucky (or some sort of human-squirrel hybrid, depends how you see it), you get to own your place at some point in your life. Mr Stella + the Stars and myself did all that, in the right chronological order and then three months ago, went slightly backwards and left our beloved East London (owned) pad behind to find a new (rented) place to live in the desert. More on the fun and games of this new adventure here. So I am now on the other side of the fence and renting a place again after almost nine years of blissfully decorating our homes without ever being accountable to anybody and certainly not to a landlord. As fate would have it, I worked with a few clients last year, helping them revamp their rented properties without breaking the bank, and over the past few weeks, well, I had to apply my own principles to... myself. Obviously every situation is different, every tenancy agreement has different clauses, every landlord has his/her various levels of flexibility but these five general tips should be useful to the majority so I thought i'd share them with you.
1. Style the place like you own it
I know, I know, I know, we've just established I/you don't own the place, so why would you spend money on redecorating it when you know you might not be in it in a couple of years? It's such a common thought that I have heard countless times and I really believe it's a slightly depressing way of looking at it. How about flipping the coin: This is the place I am going to spend every single day, for the next 12 months, at least, so it should be a beautiful, cosy place that makes me feel happy to hang around and that I enjoy getting back to at the end of each day? See where I am going there? There are so many ways to make a rented pad your own, and make it feel like a proper home without wasting too much energy and money, and I'd like to show you in the next few weeks that you really don't need to sell a limb to make it look stylish. Which brings me nicely to point numero deux.
2. Personalise the hell out of your pad
If I had a dirham for every time someone has told me: "but I don't want to spend too much on this or that because I am renting so it's a waste", I would have enough cash to be living in one of the Sheik's palaces by now. Adding personality doesn't mean wasting money, or trashing a rental and it certainly doesn't mean bordering bankruptcy. You may be mourning the fact that you can't pick the most beautiful floorboards, or knock down walls to transform that pokey living room into a bright open-plan space. So, get over it and start thinking outside the box: artwork, colourful throws, patterned cushions, statement lighting, funky trinkets, good candle holders, and any accessories you can think of: these are your new friends now. And can you see what they all have in common? They're all potentially cheap as chips and can be moved to the next place. If you can't change the structure or the colours, just go big on the accessories, and you will be amazed how you can just transform the look of a room with cleverly chosen decorative pieces.
3. Don't be a snob
Ok, so this is the only bit where you are allowed to pull the 'but we're renting' card. If you want to decorate your new rented place on a budget, It's understandable that you might not want to invest in timeless, super expensive pieces for each room. The solution? Just don't be a snob. I love discovering places that no one would put a foot in and finding absolute bargains. Yes some might have been made in China, and yes most of them might not be with me in a couple of years. But who cares? My advice is shop around and don't just stick to the usual suspects. I found some gems in places like Pan Emirates, and Home R Us, both of which I was told were 'not going to be my vibe at all'. I am not saying I would furnish my entire pad there, far from it. But don't let an ugly showroom put you off. I even found a few items at local supermarkets, and I am not ashamed to admit I bought some replicas of classic chair designs for our dining room. That's the key thing when shopping for a new place: mix your existing pieces with affordable options from the high street, sprinkle a few carefully chosen accessories from trusted designers and Bob's your uncle. There are so many places beyond IKEA, you just have to go out and browse.
4. Go mad with rugs
You're renting, so chances are, you haven't chosen the flooring of the property. And you've ended up with slightly bland cream-coloured tiles or ugly carpets, tired looking wooden floors or laminate. Either way, no biggie, just cover it all up with beautiful statement rugs. Rugs can completely transform a room, add texture and character, and are super duper easy to pack, unpack, transport and store, so you can just take them with you next time you move. I am partial to a vintage Moroccan rug but they can potentially lead to bankruptcy so have a look for Berber-style rugs on the high street.
5. Get your paintbrushes out
Changing the colour of your walls, is probably one of the cheapest and most transformative things you could do to your pad and If you live in Dubai, the costs are even lower than in the UK so I would say just GO. FOR. IT. Erm, actually before you go for it, and head to your nearest paint shop, make sure you check the terms of your tenancy agreement and speak to the owner of your place, but to be honest the majority of landlords don't really mind what you do and as long as you to return the property in the same state/colour as you left it so if you are willing to paint it back to magnolia/cream/off white or whatever colour your rental was in the first place, you should be allowed to paint any room in any colour you wish. We have so far repainted my daughter's room in Jazz Grey, and the master bedroom in blush pink?! Full post with tips on choosing paint colours for your walls coming very soon...
Oh and bonus tip, just because: get your lighting right. Do you know the first thing we did the minute we moved our stuff into our new pad? We replaced all the boring and ugly light fixtures with quirky (yet affordable ones) from the high street. All you need is an electrician (or a DIY savvy partner, which is not the case in the Stella + the Stars HQ I am sad to report), and a roll of bubble wrap (for packing the old ones). The whole living area and Stella's room (that's a total of four dull pendant ceiling lights), set us back just 600dhs (that's just over £100) so it's really worth the effort. You can store all the existing fixtures in the new light boxes and store them until it's time to move out.
Voila! There are many more ways to add personality to a space without upsetting your landlord (I'll do another post soon with more tips!) but this is a great way to get going if you have just moved into a rented property and don't know where to start.
PS: In totally unrelated news, Stella + the Stars has been nominated in the Amara Interior Blog Awards again this year, but this time in the Best International Interiors Blog category (massive YAY). If you're a fan of Le Blog, and have 16 seconds to spare, please pretty please, vote for us so we can make it to the shortlist again. CLICK HERE TO VOTE and thank you!