Here’s how you can turn your rental property into a dream home.

When you’re renting it’s easy to think it’s not worth doing too much as it’s not your house – however, keep in mind, it is your home.

I’ve had some lovely private rental situations where the landlords and ladies did let me do little alterations around the home, such as dig a small garden bed or paint the internal walls – and they were fabulous about it.

However, some owners and real estate agents are more difficult, so always seek permission in writing first if you want to make any substantial changes. Whether you are allowed to make any substantial or structural changes or not, you can certainly make the following superficial changes if you please (just remember to have everything back to how it was when you leave)…

  • Take a look at your light fittings. If they’re stock standard and completely uninspiring, change the shades. This is a simple DIY. However, if you want to change the wiring, you’ll need to call in an electrician. Because of the cost, this is better only for longterm rentals (to give you a rough idea, my electrician charged me $80 to replace an oyster fitting with a chandelier, and then around the same to change it back).
  • If window treatments are functional but uninspiring, perhaps plain roller or (heaven forbid) vertical blinds, retain them for their usability but add a rod and sheer curtain to beautify. Alternatively, replace treatments altogether. Make a simple little curtain from calico or muslin – or buy affordable white timber venetians, or similar, from your local hardware store and install. This is an easy DIY as the blinds will come with brackets and screws, you’ll only need access to a cordless drill.
  • If you have unattractive overhead cupboard doors, try removing them to create open shelving instead. You may find the cupboard carcases are a plain white and much more appealing to live with. Update cupboard doors by replacing the handles; just remember to keep the old ones so you can pop them back on when you move out.
  • Use wall decals to decorate a nursery or children’s room. (I think they can look a little cheap in other rooms, but the designer options for children’s spaces are adorable). These days you can even purchase temporary wallpapers, which are (fairly) simple to install and very easy to remove (try
  • If you’d love a linen upholstered bedhead but don’t want to leave holes in the wall – make a much taller bedhead that rests directly on the ground – easy to take with you and no patching up of walls. No shelves in the wardrobe? Just add affordable bookcases to provide extra storage.
  • If you have a lot of art, consider mounting a picture rail, professional tracking system or shelf, which will leave you with fewer holes to repair when you leave. Alternatively, attach foam pads to the backs of large pieces and gently lean them against the wall. For lighter pieces, simply use removable self-adhesive hooks (as a stylist, I use them all the time on location and they work brilliantly).
  • If unattractive floors are your problem, layer with area rugs. Invest in generously sized hand-knotted wool rugs if your budget allows, or go for smaller cotton and sisal rugs and layer if you need to keep costs down. If all else fails, use the art of distraction! Draw the eye up by hanging beautiful mirrors or art.
  • Don’t forget to decorate your outdoor areas as well. A fresh doormat and large potted plants make for a welcoming entry – and a mix of potted and hanging flowers will prettify any entertainment area. You can waste a lot of money buying furniture when renting, as it may not fit into your next home – save money by buying appropriately sized second hand pieces and freshen with a lick of paint.
  • If you love healthy eating and would love a kitchen garden, don’t let renting deter you. Simply opt for pots or a portable raised garden bed over a traditional garden bed, so you can take it with you when you go. You may even like to grow a miniature orchard, simply source dwarf varieties or fruit trees and grow in pots.

In today’s market the reality is renting is a long-term probability for many of us – so request a longer lease and spend a little time and money on turning your rental into your home – and enjoy!

Tahn Scoon’s book, The Thoughtful Home: Creating a home with heart on any budget, is available now through New Holland Publishers.