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Decorating Hacks for Renters

Living in a rental home can sometimes feel a little impersonal, especially when your contract restricts you from making any adaptations to make the space feel a little more homely. Here we look at some ingenious rental hacks that can turn your rental house into a home, and the best thing about them… they leave no trace when it's time to move out.


The walls in rental properties generally fall into two camps – ugly, dated wallpaper or acres of dull magnolia. Whilst the latter may be slightly more preferable, it can be pretty soulless, especially if you are unable to drill holes in the walls to hang pictures or put up shelves. The following hacks can help bring your walls to life, without a rawl plug in sight.

Tackle your tiles

Kitchens and bathrooms in rental properties can be at best, plain and functional, and at worst, stuck in the past with dated 1980's inspired tiles. The ingenious invention of tile tattoos can instantly transform a wall, and, as with the best rental hacks, they can simply be removed without trace when you move out. As Madeline, owner of Mibo puts it:

"These tile tattoos are perfect for a Saturday afternoon project, in just a few minutes your kitchen or bathroom can be completely transformed! These vinyl stickers are designed to be easily applied over existing 15cm x 15cm white tiles and once applied the decals are completely waterproof."

Make your wall into a feature

When looking at a room that has been given the floor to ceiling magnolia treatment, the natural instinct is to want to jazz up all four of the walls. Focusing on one wall, however, can create a striking effect and, most importantly means that you have less to put back to normal when you move out. Beauty, Home and Lifestyle expert Cilla, suggests the following approach to feature walls:

"Rather than marking out one wall in a space to paint or paper, which can both be costly to put right upon leaving the property, grab yourself some no more nails and a few whimsical plaques and hanging ornaments, along with photo frames of varying sizes and add a feature wall in this way."

Temporary Wallpaper

Wallpaper has become incredibly popular in recent years and can make a stunning impact on a room. Obviously traditional permanent wallpaper is a no-no for rental properties, but temporary wallpaper is a great alternative. It's now widely available in a vast range of styles and designs.

Kate Zaremba, who makes these removable wallpapers for her Kate Zaremba Company says:

"Once you've smoothed it out gently and it dries you can leave the paper up for as long as you like. It can last up to 20 years depending on environmental factors. Once you want to take it down it peels right off. The adhesive is gentle and water soluble so you can clean the walls off with water if there is any residue."

Framing wallpaper

The only downside to temporary wallpaper is that it can sometimes be quite expensive, especially for shorter lets. There is another option for wallpaper lovers however, which is as portable as it is effective; framed wallpaper. Invest in a large picture frame and simply frame the sheet of wall paper. Position two or three matching frames featuring the same wallpaper next to each other for a more dramatic effect.

Out of sight out of mind

Unless the rental property has been newly refurbished, it is unlikely that the walls are going to be pristine and mark free. One way to disguise general wear and tear is to simply cover it up, as Fantastic Services, a domestic service company who specialise in end of tenancy cleaning suggest:

"Wall hangings are a perfect way to brighten up a rental property and are an easy way to hide any unsightly paint marks or stains on a wall. They're super cheap and you can find them in markets and online and can they will create a statement in a matter of minutes"

Paint and go

If you are dead set on painting the walls, you can buy paintable paper, which sticks to the walls enabling you to paint on top of it. Then, when it's time to move out, you can simply remove the paper and the walls will return to their original condition. Try painting with chalkboard paint, to create an instantly customisable memo wall.

Smart hanging

It is unrealistic to suggest leaving all walls completely bare, without a single picture, mirror or clock, but if you are smart with the type of fixing that you use, you won't have to. Drilled holes, nails, tape and tack can all leave lasting marks, whether by staining the wall or damaging the paintwork, so how do you attach things to the walls and leave no trace?

Command Hooks are the renters best friend, as they are strong and securely hold all manner of objects. They are available as standard hooks or as picture hanging strips, which can be easily fixed to paintwork, wood and tiles, however it isn't recommended to fix them to wallpaper as it may rip when you remove them.

Magnetic walls

If you like chopping and changing your wall décor, why not consider creating a magnetic wall or area of wall? Far from being a complicated or expensive installation, magnetic areas can be hung in a similar way to wallpaper, and providing that you use the correct type of glue, you can easily remove it without trace. Magscapes, the inventors of magnetic wallpaper, gave the following advice:

"Magnetic walls make an ideal workaround for landlord leases. Magnetic wallcoverings are pasted to the wall like any wallcovering - and enable a range of uses in leased/rented properties that would otherwise have involved screws, pins and tracks.

Ideas that we have seen include picture frames, magnet pins to make gallery of pictures, writeable walls that are left clean, projectable walls and planners and study aids"


If there is one thing that saps the life out of a room, it's poor lighting, even more so when it is emitted by a single pitiful ceiling light. Unfortunately, this tends to be the extent of lighting that can be expected from most rental properties. The good news is, lighting is easy to change, it doesn't have to be expensive and you can take it with you when you move on. Take inspiration from some of these hacks:

LED Candles

Candles and tea lights can create a stunning effect, evoking a warm, relaxing environment in even the shabbiest setting. Unfortunately, many rental contracts prohibit the use of candles in the property. This is where LED candles come into their own, creating the same ambiance as the real thing without breaking any rules by creating a potential fire hazard.

Eye level lights

Counteract the draining effects of overhead lighting by positioning task lights at eyelevel, that way the eye will be drawn away from the poor lighting above. The general room for effective lighting is to position three lamps around the room to create an overall effect.

Light reflecting mirrors

One of the best ways to maximise the available light is to use mirrors. Command hooks are a great way to temporarily fix lighter mirrors to the wall, If possible, position two mirrors opposite each other for maximum light reflection. Don't worry if your mirror is too heavy to attach them to the wall without drilling big holes, larger chunkier mirrors can be equally effective propped up against a wall, rested on sturdy side tables or propped up on a mantle piece.

String lights

String lights are great for instantly creating a cosy atmosphere, and as they are so light they barely require any fixing, which is obviously great for rental properties. According to Beauty, Home and Lifestyle expert Cilla, string lights are the ideal lighting solution:

"String lights are simple yet effective, and can be used without the risk of damaging walls or needing to put things right when you move out. String lights come in all kinds of styles and can jazz up even the simplest space, making it feel much more cosy and adding the final touches to many rooms."

Here are five great hacks for using string lights:

1. Frame your window - Attaching string lights along the edges of your window frame and along the sill can create a stunning effect, especially when the fairy lights reflect off the window pane at night.

If you have a UPVC frame you can simply use small squares of magic tape or white tack to secure the string at regular intervals. Be more careful if the window frame is painted wood, so the paint doesn't peel off when you remove the fixings. Depending on the weight of the lights, tiny pins may be enough to tack the string to the frame.

2. Give your mirror the VIP treatment - Draping a string of lights around a mirror is a great way to create a decadent feel to your room, and again the reflection of the lights will accentuate the effect. If necessary, attach the lights to the frame, or you may find that you can simply drape them along the edge of the frame.

3. An alternative to flowers - Filling a large glass vase with a short string of lights can make a striking feature to a room, and better still, they can be positioned wherever you choose (especially if they are battery operated) and they require no fixing whatsoever!

4. Picture rail perfect – If you have a picture (or dado) rail in your room it can look particularly striking if you attach string lights along the entire rail. The trick here is to choose delicate lights which aren't too heavy, that way you could simply use masking tape on the top edge of the rail to secure the string.

5. Illuminate your furniture – Running a string of lights along shelves can look particularly effective especially if the shelves are minimally decorated. Cabinets with glass cupboard doors can also look amazing with fairy lights twinkling through.


Windows in rental properties are often dressed in bland blinds or tasteless curtains. A good start is to simply take them down and store them away! You may find that the atmosphere of the room changes, once the window space is opened up, so take a look at these ideas for tastefully and temporarily dressing your windows and making the most of the available light.

Window film

If your room is overlooked or has an unsightly view the temptation is to keep blinds closed, however this will obviously restrict the amount of natural light entering the room. An effective way of dealing with both issues is to apply temporary frosted window film to the window pane.

Karen Lansdowne from Brume sums it up,

"Window film is a great way to provide privacy and change the feel of a room without undertaking major alterations. The film can be easily removed if the landlord requires it, although hopefully they will see it as a benefit!".

Curtains and blinds

Create the illusion of bigger windows by hanging curtains on a wide pole, that allows the curtains to clear the window completely when they are open.


Staircases are often the most neglected area of a rental home, with the emphasis being placed on the main living rooms. Giving the stairway a little TLC however, can make a huge difference to the property, as ultimately it is the transition space between the two floors and can set the tone for what's to come.

Stair stickers

Another way to add a bit of personality to your stair treads is with removable stickers. There is a wide range of styles to choose from, from bright, vivid designs to inspirational or seasonal quotes.

Temporary stair risers

Wooden stair treads open up the opportunity to add a splash of colour and detail in the form of temporary stair treads. Simply cut to size, slot into place and then remove them when you move on.

Washi picture frames

One of the great things about a stairway is the vast expanse of wall available for decoration. Often this space is decorated with a collection of picture frames, which can look very effective, however the down side is attaching them to the wall can often leave marks behind. A great solution to this is to create your own frames using washi tape, which not only looks great, it can also be removed without a trace.

Six steps to creating washi tape frames:

1. Select a handful of images that you wish to frame, some washi tape (maybe mix and match a few different designs) and some sharp scissors or a craft knife.

2. Choose the image that you wish to sit in the centre of your arrangement.

3. Apply tape around the edges of the first picture to create a 'frame'. Try not to touch the adhesive side of the tape where possible.

4. Fix the first image to the wall.

5. Repeat the same process with the other images, building out the display picture by picture. Make sure you are keeping the spaces between images consistent (or consistently inconsistent!)

6. Carefully neaten up the edges of the frames with the craft knife. Press lightly on the tape so that you don't damage the wall behind.


If your rental property has some outside space, be that a balcony, yard or garden it makes sense to make the most of it, as it really can serve as an additional room. The problem is, maintaining a garden can take up a lot time, effort and money, which can sometimes feel like a bit of a waste if you are going to be moving on and leaving the outcome of your hard work for someone else to enjoy. The trick is to create a 'portable garden', which you can simply take with you when you move on.

Container Gardening

Pots and planters are great for creating an instant garden wherever you may live. If you wish to plant directly into the garden, keep plants in their pots to make them easier to remove when you are ready to move on.

The Sky's the Limit

Vertical Planting can be a godsend for renters, as the plant is cultivated in a planter and then grows up its own trellis, again making it easy to take with you.

Instant Lawn

If your outside space lacks greenery, why not invest in a ready-made lawn? There is some very realistic fake turf on the market, which can easily be laid, enjoyed and then removed.

Hanging baskets

Hanging baskets are a no brainer for renters, as they provide instant colour, that is completely portable. If possible, hang them in view of your window so you have a bright pop of colour every time you look outside.

Window boxes

No garden? No problem. Window boxes are a great way of creating a mini garden, right where you want to see it most. Be careful when choosing the plants to go in them, as fast or tall growing plants can quickly restrict the available light coming in through the window.

Surfaces (cupboards, appliances)

Furnished properties rarely contain anything than the most basic of fittings, and the furniture that we tend to buy to furnish our rental homes tends to be functional, and often cheap and cheerful. A little bit of customisation can work wonders at giving lack lustre furniture a new lease of life.


Wallpaper the inside of your bookcase to give it an instant makeover.


Disguise shabby radiators with radiator covers, not only will they look great, they create an instant shelf for books and framed pictures. Again, when you move out, just take it with you!

Kitchen work tops

Revamp ugly worktops with instant granite, it is easy to install, and better still, it is easy to remove!

Drawers and cabinets

Simply replacing the handles drawers and cabinets can give old furniture an instant new lease of life.


Give doors a make over by painting the edge of the door with a pop of bright colour. This obviously only applies to doors that are currently painted white and can easily be painted back when you move out.

White goods

If the white goods in your kitchen have seen better days, why not try customizing them? This funky fridge was given a simple yet effective make-over with gold coloured duct tape.


Add an element of interest to your shelves by decorating the edges with a simple strip of washi tape.

And finally, if you don't ask...

Sometimes, landlords can be a lot more lenient than you may expect, especially if you have built a good relationship with them. Although your contract may state that you cannot make any alterations to the property, this is often included as a safeguarding policy.

Obviously no landlord would agree to extreme design ideas, but if you are wishing to make neutral improvements to the property which will ultimately make it more desirable, what landlord is going to argue? Harvey Hancock from Martin and Co suggests that arranging a long tenancy will improve your chances of being able to customize your space:

"It sounds simple, but staying in one property for a long time will likely improve your relationship with the landlord. You'll get to know each other, you'll trust each other, and you'll help each other out when needed. If you have a long-term tenancy, just ask! You may be surprised how much a landlord will let you decorate a living room or bedroom if you have earned the right to do so. Pay the rent on time, deal with basic repairs and keep the property in good condition – your landlord may let you get your paints out as a reward!"

Further design ideas...