Looking for a rental property that was closer to friends and family, an easier journey to work and within a particular price range was not the easiest task for this young couple. ‘We started looking for a house to rent but there wasn’t much choice in our price range. When we first saw this property it ticked so many boxes for us that we put our deposit down straight away. We could hardly believe our luck,’ they say.
The property – a three-bedroom Victorian terrace in Somerset – was full of period charm, with its high ceilings and airy rooms. Although the house was completely empty, ready for whatever furniture the couple wanted to fill it with, it was decorated in the less-than-appealing shade of magnolia throughout. ‘Magnolia just isn’t for us,’ says one half of the couple, who is a designer. ‘It was all a bit tired and drab looking. Luckily our landlord was happy to allow us to decorate the house, and so our parents came and helped us paint all the rooms white.’ The couple were aiming for a light, fresh feel – the ideal backdrop for all the colourful accessories they wanted to display.
‘If this was my own home, I’d probably be more adventurous with the wall colour – I’m a big fan of bold brights, especially zingy yellow,’ – a truth that is in evidence throughout the house…
The couple didn't completely whitewash the property, though. Plenty of the original features such as fireplaces and timber floors are picked out as features. 'I love the weathered wooden floors and simple cream units in the kitchen - they let my quirky accessories and vibrant accessories stand out.'
Another key feature of the kitchen - and one of the couple's self-proclaimed greatest successes - was the kitchen island that they made. 'The kitchen is really spacious, so it was quite a selling point when we first saw the house. We put our dining table in the centre of the room to start with, but the space didn't really work when we had friends around for dinner - no-one knew whether to sit at the table or stand in the kitchen with nothing to lean on.' In the end, the couple found a crafty, budget solution; they fixed a length of kitchen worktop on to two Ikea bookcases they already owned, and secured it all to the floor. A length of grey-painted MDF formed a clean back for the unit. Job done!
With the cabinets being neutral, and the couple loving pattern and colour, they added a little energy to the kitchen with simple styling tricks. 'Wallpaper was a brilliant way to jazz up our freezer,' they say. And, because it's held in place by double-sided tape it can be updated as the mood takes them, or as it gets a bit scruffy - whichever comes first!
'The kitchen is really spacious, and looks out onto a lovely little courtyard garden so it was quite a selling point when we first saw the house,' say the couple. They have made the most of this space - especially since the addition of the breakfast bar, as now the dining table doesn't need to double as a food prep area.
'My in-laws gave us the wooden table - it's a great size for two, but it extends so it's also perfect when we have friends here.' The mix-and-match chairs are all tied together by using the same material to upholster the seat pads.
Displaying your personal mementoes creates character and makes a home more 'yours' - nowhere is this trickier, or more essential, than in a rented property. This couple got creative and strung up cards and photos around the house as a fresh take on bunting.
Similar mini pegs and postcards
The couple brought some furniture with them when they moved in, and have gradually added to their collection. 'It took a little while to get the layout just right, especially in the living room,' they say. 'We really want to make the most of the lovely bay window and emphasise the original fireplace.'
The couple were also conscious that they needed a lot of storage. So, as well as the shelves and cupboards built into the alcoves, they chose to use a vintage travel trunk - which they found 'buried under lots of other stuff in a junk shop' - as a coffee table.
The couple were certainly decorating on a budget, however 'rather than feel restricted in our choices, I think it's made us more creative when it comes to our home.'
Traces of this decorating philosophy can be seen throughout the house, and the living room is no exception. 'I collect scraps of fabric or recycle old curtains and duvet covers to re-cover chairs and make cushion, and I've hung my own abstract art on the walls.' The painting on the living room wall was created using paint samples on old canvases. 'I've found the stronger, more vibrant colours I like tend to be marked down in price, because they're not generally so popular. So they're a bargain!'
Unique pieces are the key to making a home feel personal, and this photo wall in the stairwell is a great example of a simple way to achieve that. 'We take so many photos and wanted to display them,' say the couple. 'The square format prints are easy to arrange on a wall. We keep adding to it each time we take new photos, and everyone enjoys seeing glimpses of our lives and spotting themselves in there as well!'
Get photos printed at
The spare room is a place for quiet reading and...doing the ironing! Even so, it's still decorated with care and attention and features plenty of handcrafted and upcycled projects. As well as hand-trimmed throws and cushions, there's a lampshade inspired by one of the couple's mums. 'She's a really keen dressmaker, so I decoupaged a plain shade with one of her old patterns!'
'As well as the shade I like having items around me that spark special memories. I framed a collection of little bits and bobs I've kept, like concert tickets and an old key - they're all treasures that have a special meaning for us. It's a nice way to be able to see them every day and also keep them safe.'
'I'm a massive fabric fan and love having bright designs out on display,' says one of the owners about her collection of textiles, neatly stored in the spare room. The shelving in this space - which perfectly personifies the couple's playful and thrifty approach to decorating - is also personalised with fun, colourful letters.
'We tried positioning our bed in a few different places, but its current location under the window feels comfortable and works for us. It means I can make a feature of the fireplace and there's space for our wardrobes too.'
The personalised touches in the bedroom are many and varied - from the repainted lamp bases and upcycled pine bedside cabinets to the mountain cushions on the bed. 'I made these after seeing something similar on Pinterest; I'll always have a go, even if things don't always work out.'
Similar bedside cabinets
Maison du Monde
There's no window in the bathroom, so clean white walls and some bright accessories make a huge difference. The varying shades of orange - a shift from the yellow that's prominent through the rest of the house - set off the dark wood ledges and slate floor tiles (out of shot) to make this space zesty and fresh.
Even though it's a rental house, and the options for decorating are limited, the couple have made it very much their own. From the extra storage in the kitchen to the personal touches via upcycling projects throughout, it's packed with their personalities.
'In an ideal world we'd seriously think about knocking through to make an open-plan kitchen and living room. Although that's not possible in our rented house, we think we've made it work for us and we're really happy here,' they say.