13 deposit-friendly ways to decorate a rented home

Making the most of a rented home can be challenging – but with a bit of inspiration, it is possible to create a dream home, no matter the name on the mortgage.

With the cost of living crisis continuing to bite, renting is having a moment right now. So much so that a third of renters have no intention of getting on the property ladder any time soon. That’s the equivalent of 1.48 million households in the UK all wanting to make their rental pad a home.

According to campaigners at Generation Rent, over 13 million people in the UK rent their home from a private landlord.

The problem is, with every let comes the likelihood of a tenancy agreement that could limit the changes a tenant can make. So how far can you push the creative boundaries to put your own stamp on your rented home?

Chris Hutchinson, CEO at tenant referencing provider Canopy, says that as a tenant, you typically need to keep the rental property in its original condition to avoid questions from your landlord or deductions from your deposit.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t personalise the space to make it feel like a forever home.

Chris says the extent to which you can redecorate your rental home will vary depending on your tenancy agreement.

“The best approach is to have an honest conversation with your landlord to understand what they are comfortable with,” he advises.

“Some may allow you to paint the walls in neutral colours or install shelving units for extra storage. Open communication is key, and most landlords will appreciate your honesty.”

With that in mind, we asked interior experts for their out-the-box tips on making a space feel like home, no matter how temporary.

Go for an oversized headboard 

In the bedroom, wallpaper might be off-limits due to lease terms, but you can still make a big impact with bold, large and decorative headboards that bring a unique accent to the room without causing any damage. 

“When looking for something a bit different and more personal, try placing a flattened-out concertina room divider behind your bed instead of a headboard,” suggests Anne Haimes, design director and founder of Anne Haimes Interiors.

“There are so many fun options available online, with lots of different textures and features to choose from. It’s a great way to add a unique touch to your space. 

“To compliment the look, add plenty of decorative cushions. Use large cushions no less than 60cm by 60cm, as these are perfect for sitting back and reading.” 

Statement headboards are gaining popularity in 2024
Image credit: The Headboard Workshop

Be light smart

Light fixtures are perfect for a quick way to make a rental feel more like home – all you have to do is replace the lampshades.

Anne says this will bring warmth and homeliness to a space while adding decorative flair.  

“Opt for a pretty fabric-style lampshade in a bedroom that needs a lift,” she adds.

“There are so many materials, patterns and colours available to choose from.”

Olivia Boardman, lead designer at My Bespoke Room, suggests swapping out standard light fixtures with stylish plug-in wall lamps or rechargeable wall lamps.

“Add lots of layered lighting with table and floor lamps and don’t worry if you don’t have enough sockets, as you can purchase rechargeable lights too,” she adds.

“Good lighting can dramatically change the feel of a room, making it super cosy and a great ambience.” 

Etsy decor trends 2023
Image credit: Etsy

Cover it up

In a furnished rental, furniture covers offer a game-changing way to transform a sofa you don’t love into something that better fits your style.

To keep the design timeless, Anne suggests opting for a neutral hue.

“You can always add your personal touch with colourful throws and scatter cushions,” she suggests.

“The added bonus is that the sofa will also be protected from wear and tear.” 

Make pseudo-structural changes 

Soft furnishings such as rugs, curtains, throws and cushions, are all your best friend when it comes to making a space feel homely. But the difficulty lies in adding a personal touch to walls and vertical spaces. 

“Using tall, free-standing bookshelves that lie flush against the wall and provide cubby-holes for decorations, frames and plants will allow you to decorate without risking damage from nails, stick-on pictures or wallpapers,” Anne explains.

“For a pseudo-structural change in an open plan kitchen-living room, dividing the room with a two-way bookshelf is also a clever solution,” she continues.

“This will transform the space and provide a new dimension, plus the bookshelf itself can be decorated with your personal touch. Each ‘cubby hole’ can house books, frames, house plants, and other decorative items.”

You can also use this concept to create a living wall.  

“This is the perfect way to bring the outdoors inside while making a rental property feel like your own oasis,” she adds.  

stylish shelving unit with decoration -

Go modular

If you’re not yet living in your forever home, opt for furniture that can adapt to whichever space you put it.

Oliver Burgess, architect and design studio manager at Resi, says modular sofas are a great choice if you’re renting as they can be reconfigured to suit your home, or made bigger simply by adding modules when needed.

“Invest in modular furniture that can be easily reconfigured to suit different spaces and layouts, making it easy to adapt to new rentals,” he adds.

modular sofa style in beige - best buys -
Image Credit: Swyft

Stack up some storage

Olivia suggests choosing multifunctional furniture pieces that offer storage solutions, such as a storage ottoman which can double as a coffee table with a tray on top.

Side tables with storage are another practical solution and ottoman storage beds free up clutter in the bedroom.

“These all help in keeping your rental tidy and clutter-free,” she adds.

Make your wallpaper removable

It used to be that wallpaper-ing a space was a semi-permanent move, only to be undone with a lengthy session with the steamer. But now you can change the look of your home on a temporary basis.

“Opt for peel-and-stick wallpaper which comes in various patterns and colours,” suggests Olivia.

“It’s easy to apply and remove without damaging the walls, allowing you to infuse your personal style into your space without risking your deposit.”

Oliver says wall decals will also add a pop of colour and pattern, without any wall damage.

Athalia wallpaper in bedroom
Image Credit: Studio Dean

Decorate the walls

A gallery wall is something that instantly adds style and character to your home, but all that hanging can be a time-consuming job.

“Instead, why not hang up a shelf or ledge and add your favourite prints, photos or accessories to it?” suggests Johanna Constantinou, interior trends expert at Tapi Carpets & Floors.

“This is a great way of adding your own personality to your home. Just remember when you move out to fill in any holes if needed.”

Fabric Wall Hangings are another option to bring personality to walls, without the risk of damage.

“Hang large pieces of fabric or tapestries to add colour and texture to your walls without making permanent changes,” Oliver adds.

He suggests using command hooks and strips for hanging artwork, mirrors, and other decor items to avoid drilling holes in the walls.

Do a tile cover-up

Going for a full re-tile in your rented kitchen or bathroom is likely to be out of the question, but thankfully there are some options for making over tiles that aren’t to your taste, including stick-ons.

Decals have come a long way in recent years, come in a variety of modern patterns and can fit over your existing tiles to completely change the look of the room.

Better still when you move out, you can peel them off again with no harm done to the originals.

Grey mosaic stick on kitchen tiles
Image Caption: Not On The High Street

Opt for magnetic paint

For an innovative idea, consider using magnetic paint to create a wall or a section of a wall that acts like a magnet board.

“You can then use magnetic frames and accessories to display art, photos, or important notes without needing nails or hooks,” Chris advises.  

“This is a great way to personalise your home without making permanent changes”.

Upgrade the flooring

Stuck with an uninspiring, somewhat threadbare carpet? Switch it up with some carpet tiles.

“Carpet tiles are a great, durable option for those renting over both long and short terms,” say Johanna from Tapi.

“They come in a variety of colours, textures, and pile options for the perfect underfoot feeling that suits your specific needs. Simple enough to fit and just as easy to remove, carpet tiles have a stick-and-peel adhesive system that allows you to pull them away once you’re finished.”

Johanna suggests using a hairdryer to warm the adhesive as you peel away, allowing for a smoother removal.

Alternatively, if floor coverings appear worn in places, consider purchasing area rugs to cover them.

“Not only will it freshen up the space for a very modest investment, but they also add texture and depth,” says Avalana Simpson, from Avalana.

Olivia recommends opting for bold, colourful area rugs to define spaces and add warmth to your rooms.

“They can cover unsightly flooring and are easy to take with you when you move,” she says.

Large living room with tan sofa and layered multi coloured stripe rugs
Image Credit: Habitat

Go big on cushions

Cushion and textiles have the power to elevate an entire space.

“Look for classic colour combinations such as moody blue and white to freshen up a space, or if you aren’t sure where to start use the design colour theory by using the colour wheel,” Avalana suggests.  

“Using colours opposite in the wheel are really complimentary so sage greens with bright pinks work wonderfully, so too does dark green and peach.”

living room with statement lighting, a cream plush sofa with a range fo colourful cushions, homeware on coffee table, a collection of green plants by bhs spring summer 2018

Make micro-improvements 

Sometimes the most subtle of upgrades can make a big difference to how you feel in your rental home.

“It’s a good idea to give some TLC to the forgotten areas of the house that likely haven’t been upgraded for years,” advises Marlena Kaminska, designer at ValueLights.

“Micro-improvements such as swapping your shower head, replacing crusty outlet covers and putting up new lampshades are subtle changes which can make all the difference to your living experience.”

While your landlord will appreciate like-for-like replacements for products of a newer finish, if you’re swapping out any fixtures for aesthetic purposes alone, Marlena advises ensuring you store the originals in a cupboard so you can reinstall them upon moving out.