10 Ideas for Making Your Rental Feel Like Home
If you’ve just moved into a new set of walls, congratulations! This is an exciting time and the fun part is converting this fresh space into your own. Creating a sense of home comes with time and patience and the trick is to not overlook the small details like scent, lighting and artwork. It may take a little longer to settle in to a rental house but it is absolutely possible to make it a place you love to be.
Before Branko and I moved into our current home we lived in a rental house for many years. This rental was not the most homely of places when we first walked through the doors. It was a big dark, dusty, cold house. The curtains in all of the rooms were from the 70's and you could tell they had never been dismounted for a clean, the carpet was an icy grey tone, and it was dirty, really, really dirty. We had to photograph the condition it was left in and get reimbursed for our cleaning as the previous tenants had left it in such a terrible state. For quite some time that house did not feel like home but we knew it had potential, it just needed a dose of good vibes. As soon as we started collecting our own furniture pieces and sprucing the place up, the feeling of an empty, sad place dwindled and was replaced with our personality and soul.
Here are some ideas on how to change a rental property into a place that you can truly call home.
1: Clean it baby!
When you first move into a rental or new home; it's time to clean baby! No matter how spotless it seems, it is an important step in getting to know your new place. The act of cleaning does not have to feel like a chore, in fact, it can be a therapeutic practice. As you wipe down surfaces, pour your love and intentions as you go. As you vacuum, envision the unwanted dirt, dust, feelings getting sucked out of the floor and banish them. As you mop, think about how your new floor will be the foundation for an exciting new chapter. Cleaning is a chance for you to start on the right foot and begin to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings.
2: Fab furniture
When Branko and I moved into our rental house, we had a few items that Branko had bought before we were together. This included a bright red couch, a TV system and a very bachelor-esque bedroom suite. There was nothing we had bought together as a couple yet or really anything that felt like “us”. We began the search for more pieces for our home and we were lucky enough to live right near an amazing second-hand shop and a really cool auction house. These places became our go-to for all of our furniture and actually sparked our love for sourcing second-hand.
Vintage and second hand pieces will bring uniqueness, character and charm to your home. If you live with a partner, friend or sibling, make a day of it and go shopping together every now and then. The furniture and decor you choose when you’re with someone special will become your favourite pieces that hold meaning and those memories will last a lifetime. Many of the pieces we bought for our old house remain with us and they are even more special to us now!
Adding colour in the form of furniture is an easy way to brighten up a rental without having to paint anything! You can browse our furniture and larger items here
3: Cosy rugs
Our old rental had the most atrocious corpse-grey carpet throughout the home. While every part of me wanted to rip it up to expose the floorboards underneath, our landlord said otherwise (I can never understand why people carpet up nice old floorboards, they’re so much easier to keep clean!). We opted for great big colourful rugs instead and this completely transformed the space from cold and grey to comfortable and inviting.
Inexpensive rugs are the way to go and there are often some for sale on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. If you’re finding it difficult to source the perfect size rug, a great compromise is getting a rug that is slightly smaller and layering it on a larger jute rug.
We recommend always getting pre-loved rugs professionally cleaned.
The rug wall at our workshop
4: Indoor plants bring all the good vibes
There are many benefits to having plants in the home. They remove toxins from the air, they reduce stress and provide a calming affect so you can relax and sleep restfully, they provide a sense of well-being and will improve the overall atmosphere of your home. You don’t need to have an indoor jungle; simply one plant in each room will do wonders to energise the space – but of course, the more the merrier! If you’re a beginner indoor gardener, low maintenance plants such as spider plants, Zanzibar gem, mother in law’s tongue, syngoniums, pothos, monstera and palms are non-fussy varieties that are perfect to start out your collection.
5: Outdoor garden
Let’s not forget about outdoor areas! Outdoor pot plants are exceptionally helpful in transforming a house. Flowers in pots by the front door are inviting and they can really liven up your entrance, which is an important but often overlooked part of the home. Perennial flowers that are ideal for containers include daisies, lavender, seaside daisies, geraniums and pelargoniums. And there are also many, many annual varieties that you can add from season to season.
Herbs in pots by the back door to use in the kitchen will give you a sense of well-being. There really is something grounding about growing your own produce. Choose herbs you’ll use in cooking like parsley, rosemary, mint, basil, oregano and sage. If you have a sunny windowsill in the kitchen, you can grow herbs there too.
Any unsightly areas in your garden can be masked by succulents in pots which will add life and sculpture. Plus you can easily grow more plants from cuttings; it’s certainly the best way to get more plants for free!
It is true that plants can become costly; when we first moved out we didn’t have the cash to splurge on pot plants so we scoured Gumtree, garage sales and markets. These are great ways to find already established plants in ornate pots. The best part about growing plants in pots is that you can take them with you wherever you move to in the future. Most of the plants we hunted down all those years ago are still with us and thriving!
6: Replace those drab curtains
Our rental had horrible, dusty curtains in every room which darkened the mood and feeling of the house. We swapped these out for brand new curtains with the permission of the landlord (we kept the old ones in a box in the shed to put back when we moved out). You will most likely need to invest in this yourself but it’s something you can take with you if you ever move to a new location. You can find curtains op-shopping or make them yourself, honestly though, this is where IKEA will make your life easy (and this is probably the only time I’ll ever recommend going there lol). There is no substitute for what natural sunlight can do for a space. Open those curtains up!
7: Light up the room
At night the only light we had was a fluorescent light in the lounge room (yeah ok WHO installs a fluorescent light in the middle of a lounge room ceiling?!). Adding lamps with warm globes changed our lives! Salt lamps are incredible for ambience. There is no shortage of lamps at second-hand stores either, just be sure to get them checked by an electrician before using them.
If your space is small and dark, try the age-old tactic of adding mirrors on the adjacent wall to the windows. Mirrors reflect the natural light and will instantly create the illusion of a larger space and brighten the room. Magic!
Ambient lighting in our workshop bedroom
8: Make your home smell good
Scent is an important aspect of creating a beautiful, inviting space. Investing in an aromatherapy diffuser is something I wish I had done earlier. The options are endless when it comes to essential oil blends, and there are some really great quality ones out there (be sure to use pure essential oils and not fragrance oils).
Candles are another way you can make your home smell amazing while also adding to the ambience.
We also burn incense a lot. The scent is extremely powerful in creating a calming, soothing environment. Nothing feels better than after cleaning the home to light a stick of incense and to sit down and relax!
9: Fill your space with art
Adding art to a house is the best way to let your personality shine! You might love bright, abstract art or be attracted to simple designs, whatever your taste; there are so many talented artists out there. You don’t have to have the budget for an original work, most artists sell prints of their pieces for a fraction of the cost. Combine local artists' work, vintage art and artwork you’ve created yourself and you'll have a house that reflects your individuality in no time.
If you are in a rental where nailing holes into the walls is out of the question, simply leaning art works against the wall will suffice (this looks pretty darn cool and effortless if you ask me). Sometimes there might even be nails or holes already in the walls from old tenants so be sure to utilise these.
This awesome peacock is available online. You can view all of our available artworks here
10: Friends & family
The most important ingredient to transform any house into a home is spending time with friends and family. Invite your favourite people over for dinner, Netflix, drinks, whatever it is you love to do and just enjoy your time together. Memories, good times and laughter are what truly convert those brick walls into a place that you can call home.
I hope your new space begins to feel like a sanctuary filled with good vibes soon. If you have any of your own tips, we’d love for you to share. Be sure to comment below!