Renting? We’ve got 5 ways to help you decorate without pounding a single nail or changing a wall color.
There are many terrible problems with the global economic crisis, not least that the fragile grasp we’ve been precariously maintaining on a flawed system is rapidly weakening and the whole thing is threatening to collapse and when the entire system goes down there is only three days worth of food in the shops and two days worth of fuel at the pumps and we’re gleefully piling headlong into a zombie apocalypse but with bankers instead of zombies and we’re going to need some tins of food and guns…do you own a gun? I don’t own a gun. There’s a can of chickpeas in the cupboard though.
Worse than all of that, however, is the whole mess means nice middle class people like my good self are suddenly unable to buy the house of their dreams. So I’m sitting here in my perfectly pleasant rental complaining about feeling like a student and talking about Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreements because it makes me feel a tiny bit closer to those dreary conversations over a nice Malbec about mortgage rates and isn’t something shocking and something else is a scandal and oh by the way look at our lovely new dado rail.
Owing to a glut of shallowness, the big problem I find with renting is it’s hard to make a house that someone else owns feel like home. I mean, really like home. We can’t decorate (I’ve lived with magnolia walls for so long now that I genuinely believe it is the only color paint available). We can’t knock out the horrific 70s stone fireplace. We can’t even arrange the kitchen so it makes sense (Why is the fridge in a whole other room? Why is there no space by the sink to put washing up? Why is there no work surface next to the stove?)
Still, if there’s one thing ahem-ahem years of renting has taught me, it’s that you can stamp your stamp on a place without drilling holes, knocking down walls or refitting the bathroom. Try these for size:
Peelable wall stickers
Vinyl wall stickers can distract from the fact that your walls are so bland it’s almost like they don’t exist. Actually, walls that only look like they exist might be quite cool in a secret-lair-hiding-behind-them way. Although I guess your neighbors would have something to say about their place being turned into a secret lair, so you’ll have to go with the decals. PVC-free and totally recyclable, they can also be peeled off when you move and transferred to your new pad.
It’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s oh so eco-friendly. A good bunch of plant friends scattered liberally around your house really can turn a pile of bricks into a welcoming home. Little Kokedama string gardens make a beautiful little design feature, or ridiculously outsized plants, like towering umbrella trees, distract from the bland wonderland of blank, off-white walls.
Alternatively, just find some plants you like, stick them on a shelf and talk to them every now and then.
You can’t put shelves up and you’re sick to death of bloody IKEA Billy bookcases. The only solution: get yourself to a yard sale and go on a rampage. Pick up battered vintage suitcases and use them to store clothes, stationary or miscellaneous stuff, like this or this, and old glasses or vases can be used to hold kitchen utensils or make-up. If you’ve got a fruit and veggie wholesaler nearby, old wooden apple crates are your storage-based best friend.
Jo-ann Fortune from vintagebrighton.com says: “If you’re on a budget and have only a small amount of space to play with, look out for mid-century pieces. Built for the smaller living spaces that were becoming more common in 1950s and 60s, mass production techniques made quality materials and innovative design affordable and second-hand pieces remain so. Look for sleek sideboards with sliding doors, extendable tables and stackable chairs, all of which combine the form and function for which mid-century design is celebrated.”
Nothing says home like that really awkward photo of you in your graduation gown or the picture of your family in complimenting wardrobe colors. Spurn those and get that stuff printed on actual photo paper with actual ink. Use a temporary glue spray to affix them to your wall montage style, or arrange them in one big frame and hope the landlord doesn’t notice one teeny tiny nail hole when you’ve gone.
Ultimately, home isn’t about a dual aspect lounge or a hand-made Italian kitchen (although we wouldn’t say no), it’s about how you feel. Take time to fall in love with your rental as the place you live right now, as one more rung on your ladder. No matter how frustrating, you’ll probably look back with fondness on the weird tap that needs jiggling to turn off properly or the socket that trips a fuse if you plug your cell phone and laptop in at the same time, so don’t wait, look on them with fondness now.
Most importantly, invite people over as soon as possible. Cook foodie-focused dinners, picnic on the living room floor, lean out of the window drinking wine and watch people walk past. Build a stock of happy memories to revisit and realize it’s not that home but the people inside the home that really make it a great place to be.