By Kerena Berry
Three decades ago, finance pundits and advisers were starting to offer a concept that seemed audacious: people who rent properties may be better off than homeowners. There were, and still are, a multitude of factors contributing to the notion (far too many to list here) but suffice to say that if you’re sick of hearing your friends brag about their property investments, stop rolling your eyes because you just might be the smartest person in the room. With rising prices, the weight of responsibility and limitations on lifestyle, leases are looking better than mortgages. The best part? Renting a property certainly doesn’t exclude you from the most enjoyable part of owning a home: renovating! In fact, the key phrase to remember when living anywhere long term is the Designbx slogan: room to be you. You may not own it, but it’s your home, and your home should reflect your style and personality. So start getting to know your landlord and build a relationship that will make some of these handy hints a reality.
Get the bones right
Are those walls closing in on you are they the backdrop to your life? It may be time to paint, especially if you’re looking at a long lease. In most cases when you are adding value to property, the landlord or agent will be open to change (often they may pay if you organise trades or it may be a 50/50 split). But be mindful of your colour proposition. You may be facing an uphill battle if you propose olive green polka dots on a pink background. A neutral tone may be easier to get approval for. Warm greys offset with white is a fantastic base for almost any style.
One of the most annoying aspect of rentals is the lack of storage. Owners and agents are selling space, first and foremost, so size matters, often at the cost of practical storage space. Thankfully the aesthetic appeal of dual purpose furniture and clever storage units is on the rise. Often the items are so cleverly designed that they go beyond what you’d consider visually acceptable to become a room’s key feature (and you’ll have room for whatever you’re addicted to collecting!).
Thou shalt not do vertical blinds! If you’re standing in front of your window with your hands on your hips, frowning at the window treatments, chances are you have to act, otherwise the look will annoy you for the entire duration of your life in that space. Let’s remove that ugliness but not get rid of it (you’ll need to reinstall it when you move out). Once those windows are bare, the sky’s the limit. Layer your window treatments to help create a more opulent and personalized space.
Rental hardware is often durable and not aesthetically pleasing. Swap out existing hardware with something that screams your style. While it’s a more considerable investment, your personal hardware is just like your furniture: it goes where you go and instantly makes any new property feel like home. Once again, remember to keep old hardware to swap back when moving out (ready for the next leaseholders who will probably remove it and store it in the garage!).
There may be a lot of things in life we’d like to sweep under the rug, but the most obvious is an unattractive, damaged or stained floor! Rugs are also the groundwork for your design. There’s nothing like an additional layer to spice up a room, especially if you’re struggling to fill a space, or want some colour. But let’s not go overboard and certainly not completely fill the whole floorspace. If you’ve got that many stains to cover, you need a new property. Also, statistically, people who own more than seven large rugs are more likely to become hermits or old cat ladies (okay, that was a lie).
Light up your life!
Lighting is a fundamental element to any design phase. Functional and aesthetic, this is one design element that can often be a cinch to add. Play with scale to create wow focal points throughout your home. Use colour to brighten neutral spaces or go wild and string lights like it’s the P&O Fairstar. Let your style sing! Using lighting behind furniture items like bookcases or open shelving allows you to use bare bulbs (cheap and affordable) but creates a custom lighting solution for your home.
Something to lean on
Not all landlords are open to adding hooks to the walls for artwork. In fact, most property managers probably have nightmares about hooks and nails. Don’t worry; there is always a way! Get your lean on. Use furniture surface, furniture tops, floors, window sills, open shelves…anything to get your art out there. We recommend odd numbers where possiblepart of design 1:01. At the end of the day, who’s house do you want to live in? You can live a space that feels like a demonstration model or one that reflects the style (or design sins) of the owner. Contractually, it’s your home for the duration of the lease, so make it feel that way. Build strong relationships with the landlord and estate agent, preferably early, and make sure your rental home has ‘room to be you’.
Kerena Berry is an interior designer and Cofounder of Designbx, Australia’s online interior design solution.