Rental Raters Blog

9th October 2014

Paint Free Home Makeovers

Written by
Daisy Buchanan
Daisy Buchanan
Follow author @NotRollergirl

Daisy Buchanan is an author, journalist and broadcaster who writes about sex, feminism and reality telly. She's a columnist for The Debrief, The Telegraph and The Mirror amongst others, and lives in a rented flat in Greenwich with her boyfriend, where she enjoys being within walking distance of some of London's loveliest pubs.

Paint Free Home Makeovers

When you’re on a tight budget and you’re looking for somewhere to rent, you tend to focus on the bare necessities. Can you walk down the road where the house is located without tripping over someone who will try to steal your own bike and sell it back to you? Is there a way of lighting the gas ignition which doesn’t require a flare gun? Are there windows? Do they have actual glass panes, or are they just gaps? Beggars can’t be choosers, and people looking in the £600 a month bracket can’t wait until they stumble upon the bedroom already painted in their favourite shade of Farrow and Ball.

So aesthetics take a back seat, and home improvement isn’t always an easy option. It’s not technically your home, and anyway, you might well look around and feel that the only thing that could improve it is a thorough sand blasting. Chances are that you’re not allowed to paint or do anything permanent, and if you’ve not got much money to spend, just starting a refurbishment project can feel a bit depressing. I’ve spent hours in Liberty wondering if there’s an £85 cushion in the world that could transform the various hovels I have lived in, and always left empty handed and in tears. But I’ve managed to fix some spaces with a little bit of money and a lot of effort, and made the darkest, dankest rooms worth coming home to. I’ve also filled tiny bedrooms with cut price flowers and scented candles only to realise that it felt like living in church. Don’t do that. But here’s what worked

Repurpose your stuff

You probably already own more than half of the things you need to make your room beautiful. If you’re like me, your books will probably be arranged in the order you need them to be in order to use them. For example, if you’re a keen fact checker with a slow broadband connection, you’ll have the Guinness Book Of World Records next to your bed. We’ve all laughed at people who colour code their books, but it’s definitely worth considering the aesthetic potential of what you’re reading. If you’re short on space to display your treasures, invest a tenner in an Ikea Billy.

You’ve probably also got scarves, hats, teapots and weird gifts infant relatives have made you. Not all of these are decorative, but stay open minded as some of them will work. Hang on to old magazines too. If you’ve ever subscribed to the National Geographic, a few ripped out pictures and clip frames will turn a suburban nest into a celebration of the exotic.

Thinking big

If you’re looking for a statement piece – something that says ‘hurrah, I live here!’ and not ‘terribly sorry, I can move that candle holder if it’s in your way’, you’ll want to scale up your purchases. It might take a bit of hunting, and some tricky logistical delivery manouveres, but an old fashioned screen is a great purchase if you don’t have much flexibility when it comes to buying furniture. The hinges will make sure it will work in any space you have available, you can use it to reconfigure your room or just hide a laundry hamper, and you can get some really pretty ones from about fifty quid. Another cheap transformer is the instant mural, in the form of a peel-able wall sticker. Choose a design you love, or create your own here without unduly distressing your landlord.

The great outdoors

If you’ve ever looked at your rented property in dismay, thinking “It’s like somebody died in here” you need to fill it up with living things. Presumably pets are contractually verboten, and anyway, we could never recommend that anyone gets a guinea pig for the sake of interior design – but mature, robust house plants make a big difference. If you think you can’t look after plants, it isn’t because your green finger is rotten. You’ve probably been trying to grow something small, from scratch, where it hadn’t a chance because of sun/cold/mould. Here are some great, hardy indoor plants that are almost impossible to kill we love the Fiddle Leaf Fig and the Purple Shamrock.

Keeping it clean

As boring as it sounds, making your space sparkle can really transform it – and if you’re prepared to put the effort in, you can do a thorough deep clean on the cheap, and turn your flat into the sort of place where you’re not only unashamed when you invite guests over, but they automatically remove their shoes because they’re keen to make sure they don’t scuff up your pristine pad. Two teaspoons of lemon juice in a litre of water will clean your mirrors and remove hard to shift stains from worktops, chopping boards and parquet floors. You can make your toilet bowl beautiful if you treat it with equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Let the combination fizz for at least two minutes, and then grab the Marigolds and scrub at any pernicious stains. A cup of baking soda also absorbs any lingering unpleasant smells in your fridge. And a strong, thick instant coffee conceals scratches and marks on dark wooden furniture – apply sparingly and everything will look like new.