How to decorate a rented house or apartment – from furniture choices to painting the walls

Decorating a rental property can be more fun than you think
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Wondering how to decorate a rented house or rental apartment without losing your deposit? We can help your 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. There are all sorts of things to consider – not least of all, your deposit. Some landlords won’t allow any permanent changes to be made to their property.

    Planning to revamp your home? Check out our DIY and decorating ideas

    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

    Have-a-look-around-this-country-style-Thirties-rented-cottage-in-Norfolk-kitch

    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!

    See the house

    2. Talk to your landlord or agent

    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

    How-to-decorate-a-rented-house-Swyft

    Image credit: Swyfthome.com

    ‘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.

    Related: Best sofas in a box – fancy a sofa that arrives in boxes and is assembled in five minutes?

    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 renting. The kids might be pestering you for an Avengers themed scheme or bright purple walls, so how do you give them a fun children’s 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

    Dani-dyer-gender-neutral-nursery-4

    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

    Invest in pretty bedlinen | How to decorate a rented property | easy decorating ideas | PHOTO GALLERY | housetohome

    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. Whether you’ve got wooden floorboards, 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

    IKEA LEGO storage range 3

    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

    How-to-decorate-a-rental-home books

    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.

    Related: Wall display ideas – how to turn a blank wall into something special… and even surprising

    11. Grow an indoor herb garden

    How-to-decorate-a-rental-home-herb

    Image credit: Nick Pope

    If you’re lucky your rental will have some private outdoor space. But if not, consider growing a indoor garden. 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

    How-to-decorate-a-rental-home-mirrors

    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. This will also make them easy to switch or reposition if you fancy a change.

    13. Go bold with artwork

    Hallway colour schemes

    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 screenprints 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

    Add wallpapered panels | How to decorate a rented property | easy decorating ideas | PHOTO GALLERY | housetohome

    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 wallhanging

    Think about wall hangings | How to decorate a rented property | easy decorating ideas | PHOTO GALLERY | housetohome

    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.

    Can I lose my deposit if I redecorate?

    Be-inspired-by-this-Scandi-style-Seventies-end-of-terrace-rental-in-Middlesbrough-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.

    Related: 32 Easy DIY projects and fun makes to do this weekend for every room in the house!

    By signing a contract, its 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.’

    All the latest from Ideal Home