There’s no place like home, but these days for many of us, home is likely to be somewhere you rent.
Last year, the rate of UK home ownership dropped from 73 per cent a decade ago to just 63 per cent in 2018.
More of us are renting, and it’s not just new graduates and millennials, as you might imagine – middle-agers too. If home ownership is a distant dream, it makes sense to settle in and make the most of where you are now.
But of course, decorating a rented house or flat isn’t the same as doing up your own property.
Unless you have an explicit green-light from your landlord, it’s unwise to start making any changes to the structure or look of the property (such as painting walls or remodelling the bathroom) lest you lose your deposit, or even worse, end up owing them money to change everything back when you leave.
That said, there are a few clever interiors inventions and products to bring your rented space to life and make it feel like home. Instead of mentally earmarking pieces for your “one day” castle, investing in a few choice pieces can make all the difference.
That’s why we’ve tried and tested some of the best homewares available, all with renters in mind.
NuWallpaper grand trellis grey self adhesive wallpaper: £27 per roll, Dunelm
If you’re a long term renter and can no longer stand to look at those bland walls, there’s now a solution that doesn’t involve paint. Removable wallpaper is backed with adhesive that’s strong enough to keep the paper up but gentle enough to remove without damaging your walls – or your deposit. You can use it to transform a small room like your loo or create a feature wall in less than an hour.
We tried it on our hallway, on one wall measuring H90in x W85in and the only extra equipment we needed was a chair to reach the top of the wall, a pair of scissors to cut the panels, and a Stanley knife to neatly trim off the edges. The trickiest part was lining up the pattern but thanks to the light tacky adhesive it was easy to move around and adjust until it matched up perfectly. A squeegee would come in handy to push out air bubbles, but we used our hands to smooth the paper against the walls which worked just as well.
Covering walls is definitely a two-person job, but the paper is versatile and can be used elsewhere, such as doors, table tops and cabinets, which you can manage solo. Removing the paper is almost as simple as putting it up – simply lift from the edges and pull away.
Even DIY-phobes will be amazed at the ease at which removable wallpaper goes up and can bring a space to life. If you’re planning to rent for the foreseeable future, this is an easy, mess-free way to make your space your own.
Rosdorf Park Kirkley 60cm table lamp: £47.99, Wayfair
Good lighting has the ability to completely alter the ambience of a room, taking it from HMP-esque to boutique hotel chic. Whether you’re looking for a table or floor lamp to brighten up your space, Wayfair has a huge selection and regularly holds sales so it’s worth checking back to search for bargains.
This contemporary white and gold table lamp has a silk-wrapped cord, which we think is always a nice touch. Be warned, there is a little construction involved to get this lamp up and running but it’s so obvious how the three parts – base, shade and lamp anchor – fit together and we were able to do it intuitively without a manual – which was a good job there wasn’t one.
At 60cm tall, it’s quite large so unless you have a particularly airy bedroom it may throw your rooms proportions out of whack. We found it looked best as a hallway table lamp and living room light as the tall shade funnels light out gently across the room. Takes a screw light bulb, not provided.
You Got This print by Holly Pereira: £40 unframed, Nine by Nine
Liven up the landlord’s-choice magnolia walls with a statement print from online art shop Nine By Nine. It spotlights nine new designs every month and each artist gets a fair commission on their prints sold, helping to nurture budding talent. With only 50 of each print made, these are very exclusive pieces.
Available in A2 and A3 sizes, the prints are split into categories, such as botanical, empowering and motivational, some featuring swirly fonts and upbeat mottos, others pastel animals and dreamlike worlds. They’re printed on reassuringly thick 210gsm Hahnemühle matte paper and you can add a sturdy frame in black, white or oak to complete your order. Just be sure to use Command Strips to attach your new purchase to the walls and avoid the risk of scarring those precious cream walls.
Rick and Howard plant: From £8, Patch Plants
If you want a bit of greenery to breathe life into your digs, you need greenhouse Patch Plants. The online shop not only stocks your garden variety, but also more exotic ones that may be flying underneath your radar, from statement plants to tiny succulents. Find the best one for you by using the site’s filters to narrow down the selection to those that either need a lot of sun, thrive best in shade or can handle the wind.
We went for Rick, a spiky indoor corn plant that comes in three heights and Howard, a sleek Aspidistra billed the Tony Stark of plants thanks to its almost indestructible nature; all it needs is a spritz of water a couple of times a week. Despite our dismal personal history with houseplants, a month in and both plants are flourishing with perky and glossy leaves.
One of our favourite things about Patch Plants is that it gives straightforward care tips for each plant to ensure they thrive in their new homes, both beneath each plant description and via email. You can also add pots and planters to your Patch Plants order, from tapered matte ceramic to concrete, clay and even woven seagrass baskets if that’s your thing. Delivery is fast (1-2 days) and come from the company’s in-house couriers who know how to care for your precious cargo while it’s in transit.
Tabblue speaker table: £169, Prezzy Box
It took us longer to get all the components of this 2-in-1 Tabblue speaker table out of the box than it did to set it up – that’s how easy it is. Simply screw each of the three hairpin-style legs into the back of the circular wood veneer base, flip it over, and voila – done!
Prezzybox is best known for selling novelty gift items but it also stocks some great homewares like this cool circular table with a built-in speaker system that projects pin-sharp sound in every direction. The speaker sits in the base, concealed behind elegant grey fabric and embroidered function buttons. You can move it around without tripping over wires thanks to the superb battery life. It’s the perfect party starter or just to use while watching telly without having to shell out for an expensive built-in sound system.
Brass & Wood retro magazine rack: £65, Rose & Grey
One thing pretty everyone could do more of with is storage that’s nice enough to be kept in plain sight. If you’re into the industrial look, you’ll love this stripped-back brass wire and wood magazine rack from homewares site Rose & Grey.
Standing 32.5cm high, it’s not quite tall enough to use as a substitute coffee table but we found it performs well as a magazine holder/ plant pot stand/ safe perch for a cuppa while reading. Display periodicals in the basket rack and lower shelves or use as an alternative way to showcase framed prints, decorative items and artwork.
The Loewy Art Deco window film: From £14.70, PurlFrost
Window films are a fuss-free way to give yourself some privacy without damaging glass or window frames. PurlFrost offers designs ranging from plain frosts to elegant Art Deco – there’s even solar control films to regulate temperatures in places that get a lot of sun, like conservatories.
We tried the Lowey Art Deco style, which was cut precisely to our window’s dimensions by the helpful PurlFrost team. The film sheets come in a strong cardboard roll with a clear set of instructions and a felt squeegee packed inside. Applying them to glass is easy; after washing your windows, make a solution of a couple of drops of washing up liquid with water in a spray bottle and use it to spritz your windows. Next, peel back the film and spray the sticky back with the water solution (this stops it rolling back and sticking on itself) before sliding into position on the window. Use the squeegee to push air bubbles and excess water to the edges and wiping clean. Then simply repeat the process to cover multiple panes.
The entire process took less than 20 minutes for six panes. It’s a really clever, cost-effective solution for anyone renting on a ground floor or facing busy roads, giving yourself a bit of privacy without completely blocking out natural daylight.
Soft world set of vases: £15, JD Williams Home
The next time you bring home a bouquet, give your blooms the setting they deserve instead of slinging them into that pint glass that somehow followed you back from the pub.
This set of vases from JD Williams Home comes in a trio of pale hues – grey, orange and pink – that look prettiest on a sunlit window ledge, while the industrial feel of the ribbed glass and metallic finishings keep them from looking twee.
Split the set across rooms or gather them at the dining table when throwing your next dinner party to make an easy centrepiece.
Medina Rug in Pink 120x170cm (5’7″x4’0″): £99.99, The Rug Seller
Stuck with laminate flooring, or just can’t stand the sight of your carpets? Cover them up with a beautiful rug from The Rug Seller. Based in Manchester, the online retailer has a massive range of floor coverings to choose from, with prices and designs to suit most budgets, tastes and rooms.
Delivery is free and they promise the cheapest online rugs in the UK. But don’t make the mistake of thinking low prices equals poor quality; we tested a pink 5’7″x4’0″ Medina Rug from their collection and were very impressed with the quality of the pile, which was soft and pleasant underfoot, and the secure non-slip coating on the underside to prevent slipping and sliding.
It also hoovers brilliantly, as the pile is soft but not too thick to hide every day floor detritus. What we liked most was how the rug instantly changed the dimensions of our room, drawing the eye across the floor and making it feel more homely.
&Klevering Amsterdam white and gold dotted storage Jar: £17, Amara
If you recently caught Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix you may now be scanning your abode Terminator-style, vowing to eliminate anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. While we agree that it’s a good idea to shift dead items from your home, adding a few choice knick knacks is what stops a space from looking like a hollow showroom.
We’re quite taken with this design-led Dalek-esque ceramic jar from Amara. Embellished all over with small golden orbs, it’s an easy way to add instant style points to your bathroom cabinet, kitchen counter or makeup bureau.
Fill it with everything from chocolate truffles to cotton wool balls or just as somewhere to stash your keys. It’s cute, it’s unusual, it’s a conversation starter. In short, it’s a keeper.
Michelle Keegan Home Sabina tassel easy-fit light shade: £69.99, Very Home
It’s official; fringes are everywhere, from foreheads to bag trims and now, homewares too. With a design that wouldn’t look out of place in a 50s starlet’s dressing room, Very Home’s lamp shade is a real statement piece that brings a private-members kind of glamour to bedrooms as well as living rooms. With all the statement of a crystal chandelier but none of the upkeep obligations, the lamp shade is from Michelle Keegan’s homewares collection at Very.
A gold-toned frame supports the shade, lavishly finished with tiers of blush-coloured fringe and once a lightbulb is in place, bathes the room with an ambient soft glow that’s ideal for lounging – if not quite reading.
EDRIC multi-coloured wool and silk throw: £100, Habitat
Every home needs a decent throw, either to add to bed linen for a cosy extra layer of warmth or to snuggle under the sofa on lazy weekend afternoons. Habitat’s high quality hand-woven Edric throw is super comfortable, made from a winning blend of rich wool and silk on a multi-coloured block design that will suit a range of interiors. The fringed throw is lightweight yet warm with a robust weave that makes it feel both homemade and deliciously luxe. It instantly adds a splash of colour to white-painted rented homes.
Codify pencil holder: £44, Anthropologie
There’s nothing like a messy desk to throw your home office out of whack. Bring order to the chaos with a chic organiser like this one, available exclusively at Anthropologie.
While the price tag might seem a bit steep, don’t underestimate the versatility of the six-compartment piece. We used it as a table setting with scented candles and flowers, a makeup brush organiser and a stylish cutlery caddy as well as for its intended use. Measures H 13cm, W 39cm, D 10cm.
The verdict: Homewares for renters
For us, the one thing that made the biggest transformation to a room was the removable NuWallpaper from Dunelm. Easier to apply than traditional wallpaper and less time-consuming and messy than paint, it’s also easy to change as the mood takes you and completely remove from walls, making it a dream for anyone who rents. For something that makes a smaller statement, The Rug Seller’s Medina rug and indoor house plants from Patch Plants instantly made our space feel more welcoming and homely.
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