Eight clever ways to make your rental house a home

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

I live in a beautiful old wooden house in inner Brisbane with my three kids. We've been here for nearly three years now, moving in when my ex-husband and I were still together.

We've all laughed, grown and shed many tears here, and when I got divorced, I went out of my way to create a beautiful haven for my kids and me that we could truly love.

I put pictures on the walls, I bought curtains and linen, and I stocked the house with furniture that looks great with the big windows and high ceilings. This house is our happy place.

But I'm aware that when my lease is up, the owners could easily call time on our stay here. It's happened before, and it will certainly happen again, that we'll have to move on and make our home somewhere else.

I don't mark my children's heights in the doorway, put hooks in the wall, or paint bedrooms. That's the nature of renting – nothing is forever.

I've learned to roll with the punches though, and make the best of the home we have, for the time that we have it.

Here are my tips on how to make your rental house a home:

1. Work with your existing aesthetic

Use existing features to your advantage, and don't try to turn a sleek inner city apartment into a country cottage. My current home has 12-foot ceilings and massive sash windows along the front, which let in a lot of light and add an airy quality, so I have added light coloured furnishings and blinds that are easy to pull up during the day.

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Of course, if you've move around a bit, your houses might be different each time. Try to keep your furniture neutral and add accents of personality with curtains, cushions and bed linen.

2. Foster open communication with your landlord and ask questions

Want to renovate, paint a wall or add some picture hooks? They can only say no, so why not ask? If you either add value to their house or make changes that you agree to reverse before you move out, they may be open to letting you make some changes that will help you feel more at home. And if they say no, you've lost nothing.

As someone who has both rented and been a landlord, I can say that a good tenant is worth their weight in gold, so if you pay your rent on time and keep everything in good order, your landlord may be keen to keep you happy.

3. Invest in rugs

They don't have to be expensive Persian numbers – you can pick up great cheap options from places like Ikea and Kmart that will add instant personality to a room and cover up any dodgy 1980s vinyl flooring you may have to deal with. New curtains can do the same, and you can easily take them all with you when you leave.

4. Add art without wrecking the joint

If you aren't allowed to put hooks in the walls, there are other options. You can get adhesive hooks from hardware stores, although in my experience they don't hold anything too heavy for a long time. And they may or may not fall on your child's head while they're sleeping and cause a night of absolute chaos and tears.

Be creative – rest artwork on mantelpieces or on top of shelves or furniture. Build from the floor up with a large, ornate mirror that will open up the room and bounce light back from the windows.

5. Buy some plants

Potted plants can add a lot of personality to a living space, and the bonus is you can take them with you when you move. Add hanging baskets to your veranda, ornate pots to your lounge room, and potted herbs to your kitchen windowsill.

They'll clean your air and add life to any room. Bonus points if you let the children help to decide what plants to buy, and then give them the chore of watering them each day.

6. Update a wall with decals

You can buy wall stickers that are guaranteed to not leave a mark when you remove them, and they can add a massive amount of personality to a room. From tiny polka dots to a large map of the world, you can find a decal to suit any room and personality.

These are particularly wonderful for the children's bedrooms, where they can be changed as your child grows up and their tastes change.

7. Replace the light shades

Most condition reports will have items of lighting such as "one light shade, white" – so replacing an old dusty shade isn't a problem, as long as you replace it with another white shade. You can pick up some beautiful cheap shades made of paper from home decorating shops that will update and transform any room.

8. Change the shower curtain

I changed the plain white shower curtain in our house for a tropical rainforest scene, which has totally transformed the feeling in the bathroom, and I tied in the colour scheme with our towels to create a coherent and beautiful aesthetic.