how to decorate without decorating

‘What does that mean?’ I hear you say. Well, after having spent three years in university accommodation, with many friends still living in rented housing awaiting the opportunity to buy their own property, I am aware of those white/cream/magnolia walls and (usually) brown carpets adorning the circumferences of living spaces. In rented housing, you are sometimes allowed to decorate to your own taste. You can paint the walls and sometimes even hang wallpaper. But not always. And often, why would you want to invest the money when it’s not your own property?

So how can you make this blank, unexciting canvas your own without a lick of paint and a change of carpet?

Trust me, it is possible.

There are two things you can do.
1) Embrace the neutral
2) Add colour

Embracing the neutral can be great – so long as that’s your taste and you add your personality into it as well. This means that you go with the white/beige walls and often, using furniture made of natural materials is the preference. Also, the accessories tie in with the neutral palette all working together to create a clean and usually classy-looking space.

The second option – adding colour – is usually the better way to make a rented house your home. Most people do like to use colour (not everyone though) and so looking at the ways you can do this without paint touching the walls is the main theme of this post.

First you have to consider the main areas of the room: windows, walls and floor.
If you cannot touch the walls and the flooring is already decided for you, you need to work with that and around that.

So what can you do with the walls? Hanging artwork and photos is a great way to add your own touch to a room. A wall needs something on it, an added bit of interest, so choosing things to hang on it is an important step to consider.
But what about those of you who aren’t allowed to hang things up in your rented property?
Some landlords/ladies do not want excessive amounts of nails hammered into the walls of their property. So this makes being able to hang pictures impossible. There are some ways around it, but also other methods of livening up the walls without using frames or ‘damaging’ them in some way.
If you have any other surfaces, like a mantle piece or a dresser or a console table, you can use this to lean pictures or mirrors on. This way they are leaning against the wall as though they are hanging as a decorative item, but they aren’t.
Alternatively, you can forget that, and skip to Plan B. Finding other ways to break up the blank spaces.
In a bedroom, this can be done with a statement headboard. You can get headboards that rise to the height of the ceiling. They can be covered in any fabric of your choice and you instantly have a block of colour at the centre of your room to add interest, personality and individuality that the décor of a  rented property rarely offers.

Now, the flooring. There is not a lot you can do with flooring that is already there, so you have to work with it. Usually it is kept neutral for you, so adding a rug is an instant way to add colour and create a scheme for your room, tying everything together.
Don’t get a rug that is too small. They are supposed to fill the central space of say, the sitting area, and so technically the furniture should be on or touching the rug. It shouldn’t just be the size of a postage stamp under the coffee table. I don’t always agree with this rule 100%. I think it needs to be relative to the space. So no, don’t have one that is way too small, but equally, it doesn’t always have to cover virtually the entire carpet! In the instance of rentals however, if you are stuck with a terrible carpet, it might not be a bad idea to get the biggest rug you can to cover what’s underneath.

Windows. This are always a major part of a space, and the joy of windows is that you can use any window dressing you want. In rentals, this is entirely up to you. Some properties come with curtains or blinds already – but these are things you CAN change. You just need to remember to change them back when you move out.
Again, this is an excellent opportunity to tie a scheme together. If you have a rug in a certain colour, you’ll use the window dressings as an opportunity to echo that and work with it. This is where your personality comes into it. This is yours, and everything you put in the room from now on is yours. You can start to make this house your home. And the best part? You get to take it all with you when you move on.

Those are the three main aspects of any room. Now you get to think about furniture and accessories. The things that make this space yours.

Statement furniture is an excellent idea. Instead of a neutral coloured sofa – get one that stands out against the cream walls. Get an exciting lampshade. Add pops of colour through throws and cushions, bedside lamps, the utensils pot on your kitchen counter and the photo frames that sit on the surfaces. Put some things on display. Like cookery books in the kitchen. Colourful towels in the bathroom. Choose your bedding wisely. And your bed. It’s the feature of that room, so let it speak louder than the plain walls. Make sure you love everything you put in your home, and that it really shows who you are and what you’re about.

It’s so easy not to feel fully settled in a place you know isn’t truly yours. But this way, you can make it your own. And because you can take everything with you, it’s an investment for your future home too.

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