How To: Make your house a home whilst renting.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Seeing as the posts I do on our flat remain the most popular on my blog I thought I'd write a sort of guide for how I've made myself at home during the time we've rented. Obviously most people know that whilst renting you are pretty limited in just what decorating you are able to do, nothing permenant or potentially damaging to the property is permitted so you have to employ some thinking outside of the box where what I like to call 'fluffing' the place is concerned. I know this guide will be really useful to students so I can hopefully make a few budget friendly suggestions along the way too. I understand the distress that moving out and away from your family can cause and it doesn't help that for the most part the first year experience is set within a dull, bland white box of a room that is reminiscent of a hospital or prison cell! I found that I settled into my new surroundings so much easier when it was decorated just how I wanted it, not only was it comforting for me to inject a little bit of my personality into my room but it helped when the time eventually came to start chatting to my new flat-mates as they were so impressed with how homely and inviting my room felt. (I'd like to thank my mama for passing down the flair for interior design!)

I'll split this guide up into sections of the house so I can form some sort of order although I know for students chances are just one room will be the centre of your world for the next three years. Honestly treasure that while you can, at least you don't have to worry about keeping an entire house clean & organised!


Seeing as most of what you do in a bedroom involves sleeping you don't need to do too much to this room, as if you're lucky and have a seperate bedroom then you don't spend much time in there anyway.

The focal point of the room is going to be the bed, which is actually the easiest way to inject a bit of excitement into the room through the bed linen you use! I have an unnatural addiction to purchasing duvet sets so have 4 or 5 different designs I can pull out if I'm feeling the room needs a new look. Buy a duvet that is one size up from the acutal size of the bed, you will thank me for it when your a big toasty cinnammon bun wrapped up inside the giant quilt. You honestly have a world of choice where duvet designs are concerned, some of my favourites obviously include Cath Kidston (£££) but good old favourites such as Marks & Spencers and Argos are also good to consider. As the bed can also act as a sofa for students investing in some extra cushions and blankets can be a good idea too. Considering the other soft furnishings in the room is a good idea too, a nice set of curtains can really help brighten up a room. Voil and netting can act as a good privacy screen as well as being sheer enough to let light through and the different textures can be interesting. Just take the old curtains down and store them away until its time to move out. If you have a headboard over your bed, buying some fabric and pinning it over the old one in complimentary colours to your scheme is a good idea. Just like elsewhere in your house lighting plays a really important part in the mood of the room, standing lamps will light the whole room in a nice glow as opposed to switching on what I like to call "the big light." Beside lamps and fairy lights are your friends where the bedroom is concerned (students: check fairy lights are permitted in your halls first.) You could also consider something like a Wall Decal which I have in my bedroom, there are hundreds of different designs and they are semi-permenant and peel off without leaving any residue. Think out of the box and turn things you would normally hide away into a display, hang your favourite items of clothing on the wall and display shoes on shelves or jewellery on hooks. For something a bit more decadent maybe consider a mosquito net or specially made bed canopy for the real boudoir feel. Making a display on your bedside table can be a nice way to make the room cosy as well as making a feature of the practical things you may need before bedtime, keep a few of your favourite books on there and maybe try find a vintage carafe for water which looks nicer than bottles or random glasses.

Living room

This is the most important space in the home in my opinion (well, the kitchen is pretty great too seeing as it contains food.) After moving out of student accomodation and into our flat with my husband having a seperate living room was a bit of a novelty and its where I've gone totally wild in expressing my personality and everything I love. Soft furnishings are your friend again, if the sofa is ugly then buy a massive throw or some nice material to throw over it, I went to town with the colour scheme for my living room but the general theme is red and blue. I'm really lucky as we have a really nice focal point in the room that is our 'fake' mantlepiece with the big shelving unit and mirror attached to the wall. This is where I've displayed most of our little knick knacks which I've just picked up along the way, charity shops and car boots are your friends for cheap ornaments and tat that you can display, if you have shelving then don't leave it empty, even displaying a few of your favourite books gives the place a bit of a 'lived in' feeling. As our flat is all laminate flooring I have a big rug in our living room to warm the place up a bit, this was a wedding gift and was quite expensive so for those of you on a budget consider cheaper options, Ikea have a great range of affordable rugs and they do wonders for hiding worn out carpets.

Photographs are probably the single most important decorative item in making a place feel like home, you can make montages with blu tack, or use string and mini pegs to attach them to the wall. My prinstagram DIY frames are one of my new favourite features of our living room and have taken pride of place on our "montage wall." Another DIY idea could be to cover canvases in nice material simply by wrapping them up and stapling at the back, I picked up some of these from my local charity shop for a few quid but it could easily be done yourself. Plants are hard work but they are definitely good decoration, I recommend spider plants and cacti for you less green-fingered people like me, I've managed to keep a spider plant alive for 2 years now and I regularly forget to water it! They are real troopers and planted in a nice pot can be a good feature. Or you could even go for something simpler such as fake flowers in a vase. Lighting is again an important part of decoration and we have a standing lamp with an impressive shade which lights the whole room and looks great stood in the corner, as well as a few smaller lamps and of course my favourite, a few strings of fairy lights. I can't recommend Ikea enough for your lighting needs (and just about anything else you need for your home.) Some of my other favourite decorative features are strings of bunting (homemade is really simple, just cut out triangles from scrap material and stitch or glue to ribbon) photo frames, photo canvases, and some extra furniture items such as bean bags and pouffes. If you're stuck for storage think of multi-purpose items such as using a chest or trunk as a coffee table.

These don't really need much focus but one thing I can recommend is purchasing some grouting whitener or mould and mildew remover, because chances are that your bathroom tiles are going to be pretty grotty and an instant boost to the room is to return the grouting to a nearly new state by cleaning it. Purchasing a cheap bathroom standing cabinet is a really good idea, mine was a hand-me-down from my Auntie and I have taken it with me through every house I've lived in for the past 6 years. They are perfect for storing away cleaning products and toilet roll as well as displaying beauty products or folding up towels onto. One thing that I never really considered until recently was being able to replace the shower head! They actually remove pretty easily and you can purchase a brand new fancy one for pretty cheap, I'm considering buying a 'monsoon' effect shower head which I've seen in Poundstretcher for just a couple of pounds. A new shower curtain and colour co-ordinating towels/bath mat are also good considerations. Candles are also lovely for the bathroom although students again check that there isn't a clause in your contract that forbids use of them.

In the kitchen its all about displaying those fancy gadgets you've acquired. I'm a big fan of the "country cottage" look so have decided to keep on display my tea set and cake stand as well as making use of the many different patterned tea towels that are available. Magnets on your fridge/freezer are a great way to spruce up the place, we have a collection of them as I purchase one from everywhere we travel to and its serves as a great reminder of the adventures we have had as a couple. A really useful piece of furniture I could recommend is a freestanding butchers block, we have very limited cupboard space in our kitchen and absolutely no drawers, but I found this little stand in a local charity shop which included a drawer to keep our cutlery in as well as a small bottle rack and space to keep crockery and plates. Hanging up a nice apron on a hook on the wall is just a small little idea that can give a nice finishing touch to the room, even if you never wear it! And consider things like noticeboards and keyhooks to keep track of shopping lists and other bits of paper that may need organising. Finally a few recipe books stacked on a shelf or on the bench serve as a good reference library and give the kitchen a lived in feel, as well as displaying things like herbs/spices, pasta and oils in jars and bottles.

Garden/Outside Space
If you're lucky enough to rent somewhere with outside space don't forget about it! It can be a really lovely addition to your home with just a few little touch-ups not to mention gardening is supposed to work wonders for personal well-being. Think about getting a few pots with easy to look after plants/flowers inside (peonies and iris' are some of my suggestions) you don't even need to buy specific garden plant pots, you can save a bit of money and re-use things like food tins as long as you add holes in the bottom for drainage. You can also get a little bit extra green-fingered and have a go at cultivating a herb garden.

Well that's all of my ideas exhausted for now, I hope this has been helpful to some people. I think the best way to approach renting is with an open mind, think of the place as a completely blank canvas ready for you to fill with things that reflect your personality. Even if you're not staying there for very long, making a house feel like home can do wonders for your sense of belonging. I know it took me a very long time to truly settle into living away from my family, but once I started to focus on making our flat feel like home it really helped me!

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Abbey House Museum

Sunday, 26 August 2012

It's been the massively rare occasion where I've had a Saturday off work so not wanting to let time with my husband pass by unceremoniously we decided to hop on a bus up to Kirkstall to make a visit to Abbey House Museum and Kirkstall Abbey. We'd been to Kirstkall Abbey a few times before and I'm always impressed at how magnificent it is, but seeing as it was raining we decided we'd head straight for Abbey House. It's a really lovely little museum featuring an authentically recreated Victorian era street with an apothecary, undertakers, haberdashery, greengrocers and a traditional Victorian pub! The upstairs bit of the museum featured a history of entertainment in Leeds and had displays relating to our famous musicians, variety performers, sportsmen and even a whole display dedicated specially to Leeds Festival. We had a really nice day even if it only was a few hours. Just before it started to chuck it down with rain we managed to have a little look around the food market that was on at the Abbey and picked up some scrumptious looking home-made cakes which I'm going to enjoy with a cup of tea right now.
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Home is most certainly where the heart is.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

We're back home now after the renovation works on our flat had been completed and you have no idea how good it feels to be amongst my clutter once again. I took the opportunity to switch things up a bit and make a few changes to our d├ęcor as well as giving the kitchen a fresh coat of paint. I love my home with all of my heart even if we don't own it, its done us good these past couple of years and been the holder of lots of happy memories I will cherish forever.