Ideas for decorating a rental home or apartment without losing your deposit

Our guide to decorating a rental house or rental apartment will help you stamp your personality on your living space... without losing your deposit!
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  • Looking for ideas for decorating a rental house or rental apartment without losing your deposit? We can help you stamp your personality on your living space without risking your hard earned cash.

    And we can suggest a long-term approach to buying furniture that will ensure you can take it with you from place to place. Or until you can afford to get onto the property ladder. We know from experience that decorating a rented property can be tricky. Aside from decorating on a budget, there are all sorts of things to consider – not least of all, your deposit.

    Experts at Made.com explain, ‘With property prices continuing to skyrocket, more of us are finding ourselves renting long-term, spending decades and even raising families in these borrowed properties. As such, the idea of the rental merely being ‘digs’ to bed down in for a few months before going off to buy that four-bed with the spacious back garden, is becoming an increasingly outdated notion.’

    ‘And while you’re probably not going to be replacing your landlord’s dodgy old kitchen or remodelling the structure of the property anytime soon, there’s plenty you can do to really personalise your space to make it feel like home – without spending loads of money or doing anything that might risk the terms of your rental.’

    Some landlords won’t allow any permanent changes to be made to their property. Others are happy to allow rooms to be repainted or even wallpapered – but don’t be surprised if they ask for approval or pattern.

    Or ask for you to return the property to its original state before you move out. We detail your rights below, so you know where you stand. Either way, there are plenty of ways to add personality to your space, and make the starkest of spaces feel like home. Follow these simple steps and you can’t go wrong…

    1. See what your contract allows

    Cottage style kitchen with Christmas decor

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    It’s wise to read your contract to see what changes are allowed before you reach for your hammer and nails or paintbrush and emulsion. Most will state that you can’t redecorate without your landlord’s written permission.

    That said, if you do ask for consent, ‘that permission must not be unreasonably withheld’. So if you did want to make minor alterations, like putting up shelves, it would be viewed as a ‘reasonable request’, and your landlord’s refusal would be seen as unreasonable.

    If your landlord does let you put up a shelf or hang a mirror, it’s reasonable for them to ask you to remove the shelf and fill any holes you’ve made in the walls before you move out. If you don’t, they can take money from your deposit to put things back to the way they were.

    And yes, the above image is of a rental apartment. Which should give you hope that you can make your rental home your own!

    2. Talk to your landlord or agent

    exterior of a large townhouse with double doors

    You may find you can do more than you thought if you contact your landlord directly. They may be happy for you to paint, wallpaper or even lay new flooring if they agree it will improve the property. Just make sure you get that consent in writing, so you and your deposit are protected.

    3. Choose modular furniture that can adapt to your needs

    small modular sofa with foot stool in a small space with artwork

    Image credit: Swyft

    ‘If you’re not yet in your forever home, think about choosing furniture that can adapt to whichever space you put it,’ says Kelly Collins, interior designer and Head of Creative at Swyft. ‘Modular sofas are a great choice if you’re renting. They can be reconfigured to suit your new space, or made bigger simply by adding modules when needed.’

    Swyft’s Model 03, shown, is a fine choice for a rental home, particularly an apartment. Its sofas-in-a-box are designed so that you should be able to fit them up the narrowest, most twisting staircase. And they fit through narrow doorways. You can start small, and order further seat and arm modules that join together – ideal if you move to a bigger space, or want to change your sofa’s configuration.

    4. Revamp the tiles with stickers

    blue kitchen with blue and yellow patterned tiles

    Image credit: Not On The High Street

    Retiling your kitchen or bathroom is likely to be out of the question is a rental home. So what do you do if you are stuck with tiles that aren’t to your taste? Get some tile stickers, that’s what. These decals can fit over your existing tiles to create a striking mosaic. And when you move out, you can peel them off again with no harm done to the originals.

    Buy now: Modern Geometric Tile Stickers, £22 for a pack of 24, Sirface Graphics at Not on the High Street

    5. Stick up a mural

    tree and lamp post sticker

    Image credit: David Brittain

    Adding character to a child’s room can be really tricky when you’re decorating a rental. The kids might be pestering you for an Avengers themed scheme or bright purple walls, so how do you give them a fun kids’ room that’s theirs without paint or wallpaper?

    You can customise your walls without risking the wrath of your landlord – wall stickers are a great way to add your own style to your home. And best of all, they’re completely removable and won’t even leave marks. So they won’t cause hassle when you move out.

    And yes, grown ups can have them too!

    6. Hang a canopy

    grey gender neutral nursery with elephant wallpaper

    Image credit: Wayfair

    In Dani Dyer’s gender neutral nursery, the Love Island star has applied plenty of neat decorating tricks that renters will find indispensable. Star of the show is a cute cot canopy that hangs from the ceiling.

    A canopy like this will make a cot or little one’s bed feel extra special. It can be secured in place with a small screw-in hook that will do minimal damage yet will provide safe support.

    7. Invest in statement bedlinen

    grey walls with white stencil and vintage style bed

    Image credit: Tim Young

    A good set of bedlinen will lift a simple room and add a touch of luxury to everyday surroundings. Pretty, bold colours like these won’t date and will add some summer sunshine all year round. Spend a little extra on a higher quality set and feel the benefit on cold winter mornings.

    8. Cover the floor

    How-to-decorate-a-rental-home-rugs-2

    Image credit: Nick Pope

    Don’t neglect your floor when decorating a rental property. Whether you’ve got wood flooring, laminate or carpet (let us guess, coir, right?), you’ll need to protect it to protect your deposit. A statement rug can change the look of a room as well as guarding your floor against stains and wear.

    9. Stack up some storage when decorating a rental property

    IKEA storage cubes with magazines, books and record with LEGO storage range

    Image credit: IKEA

    Modular storage is great for rented properties, not only will it fit any size or shape room, it’s also easy to remove at the end of a tenancy. An open design like this will allow you to display all your prized possessions, giving your home even more personality.

    If you are going big on storage, you should attach it to the wall for safety. It’s something you’ll need to discuss with your landlord, but that should be viewed as a reasonable request.

    You could even commission a carpenter to make bespoke storage that can be easily disassembled and reconfigured in your next property.

    10. Make it your own with a collection

    A selection of vintage books on a bookcase

    Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes

    A beautifully curated collection of books, vintage crockery or even toys can make as stunning a visual impact as something more decoratively permanent. Even decorating a rental with a collection of your favourite magazines can add a healthy pop of colour. Or why not peruse these Wall display ideas for more inspiration?

    11. Grow an indoor herb garden

    indoor herb garden with colourful planters and crates

    image credit: Nick Pope

    If you’re lucky your rental will have some private outdoor space. But if not, consider growing a indoor garden with these houseplant ideas. You don’t need lots of space – a corner of kitchen worktop or a sunny windowsill in a living room will do. Use pots to add the extra colour you’d usually achieve with flowers.

    12. Lean don’t hang when decorating a rental

    vintage style lean-to mirrors with a rattan basket and artwork against a wall

    Image credit: Nick Pope

    Rather than pepper your walls with nails that you’ll eventually need to remove and fill in, lean larger pictures and mirrors against the wall for a boho, informal feel when decorating a rental. This will also make them easy to switch or reposition if you fancy a change.

    13. Go bold with artwork

    blue floral artwork in blue frames in a room with blue accents

    Image credit: Tim Young

    Be brave and fill your walls with funky artwork. Forget the classic student posters and opt for more grown-up fare, such as lettering prints and screen prints from sites such as Etsy or Bouf.com. Or do what we’ve done here and frame wallpaper samples in coordinated frames.

    14. Make wallpaper panels

    wallpaper panel on a white desk in a white room

    If you’re not able to wallpaper your home, you can also get around the problem (and save your deposit) by adding wallpaper to plywood panels and leaning them against walls. Not only is it a cheap way of adding colour and pattern to a room, but you can also change your colour scheme as often as you want, or use it to create zones within a bedroom for rest and study.

    15. Cover up with a wall hanging

    large tropical wall hanging over a bed in a bedroom with pink accents

    Image credit: Mel Yates

    Got something on your walls you need to cover up? Whether it’s a doorframe, a crack or a stain, opt for a wall hanging as a quick fix. Used in a bedroom, a wall hanging can also make a gorgeous headboard, and aren’t as difficult to make as you might have thought.

    16. Show off prized possessions

    open kitchen shelving

    Image credit: IKEA

    If your kitchen is lacking in character but you’ve got a gorgeous collection of cookware, consider open kitchen shelving or a freestanding dresser. Display pretty crockery, cookware and dry goods in jars to inject some personality into the space.

    Can I lose my deposit if I redecorate?

    gret bedroom with personalised pillows and collection of artwork above bed

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Yes, you can lose at least part of your deposit if you decorate the property and don’t ask permission. The Government’s ‘Model Agreement for a Shorthand Assured Tenancy’, which many landlords and estate agents will use as guidelines for their own tenancy agreements, is clear on the subject.

    By signing a contract, it says: ‘The Tenant agrees that the Landlord may make reasonable deductions from the deposit at the end of the Tenancy… where the Tenant has made any addition or alteration to the Property. Or has redecorated the Property without the Landlord’s prior written consent (see clause C4.2), to cover the reasonable costs incurred by the Landlord in removing or reversing any such addition or alteration or in reinstating the former decorative scheme.’

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