comments 5

rocking your rental: is it even worth it?


welcome to round two of rocking your rental! to read the introductory post on why i started this little design mini-series, click here.

decorating and designing a rental? really? is it even worth it? this is the question i get asked a lot when people find out that i am doing things to our rental property to make it more beautiful or more to my design taste. it is a totally legit question, and a concept that even mr oliver questions.

but i know that for me, loving my environment and being able to be creative within it is a big deal. most things that come with a rental property are practical, but rarely, if ever, are they to my design taste or beautiful. this does not bother a lot of people. maybe they don’t like a curtain fabric, but its a curtain and it’s there, so they keep it and don’t think twice about it. my husband vaguely fits into this category. i on the other hand (and here is where the crazy comes out) literally cannot stop thinking about it. so in order to not go totally and unrealistically nuts, i came up with 3 questions to ask myself when i came up against something i didn’t like in my rental:

1. does the practicality of it outweigh the dislike of the style? i ask myself this question first because, frankly, if i decide that it is such a practical need that the style will have to sacrificed, then i can easily let go of the obsessive thoughts and not have to move onto the other 2 questions. for example, we have these crazy, boxed-in (when the top and sides are flush to the wall to block out light), double-lined curtains in our bedroom. they are a cappuccino brown with a pattern of lighter cappuccino squares. not at all what i would have chosen. but we live on a main road with lots of street lights so the room is flooded with light when the sun goes down. we also have the original victorian windows (LOVE!) so it gets pretty damn cold in the winter. with these currents curtains our room is pitch black every night (i need this to sleep) and we don’t freeze or waste electricity trying to make up for having the lovely flow-y lace curtains i would prefer. i never would have chosen them but they are so practical that i chose to ignore them and instead enjoy warm, dark, cosy nights in my room. in our lounge however, the curtains were hideous and i took them down within a week of moving in, put in lovely flow-y lace ones and just sit under my cute wool throws and put another log on the fire. those curtains were soooo not practical enough to justify their grossness.

2. can i afford it/is it worth the overall spend? this is the boring, but obvious and necessary second question. if i do not like something, can i afford to replace it? this is a questions that only you will have the answer to. sorry folks no magic wands here. your budget is your budget! however, i did work out a nice way for richard and i to gauge if a project was worth the overall spend on a job. what we did was we took the price of the job (divided by) how many months we have left on our lease agreement. (most likely a lot of us are hoping to renew our agreements so we may well have a lot longer to enjoy the changes we are planning, but i like to be safe on these things). right now, the mint green linoleum floor in my bathroom is driving me nuts. so are the fake black and terra cotta ’tiles’ on my kitchen floor. so, i spent a few hours looking online for cheap, impermanent, but lovely flooring solutions. i found some lovely, colourful, victorian, geometric peel and stick floor tiles for 22 bucks a square metre. i measured the rooms up individually and divided the cost of each room by 12 so that i could do any or all of them depending on the sum. turns out, to change the floors it will be about 20 pounds a month over the year we have left on our lease. for me that is a no brainer… i want to do it! now all i have to do is run it past the budget man, see if he thinks that is worth it too and get going. for other things, like painting a wall, the cost worked out to a pound or 2 a month… we have already re-painted 4 rooms.

3. if i cannot afford it/it isn’t worth the spend, is there a way i can work with it to make it more pleasing? lets say that richard comes back and says, actually we don’t have 20 pounds a month in the budget for those floors, or he would rather spend 20 bucks a month on the garden. this may well happen… the suspense is killing me. but i am already thinking about this third question. the bathroom is much smaller so i could just do the bathroom in the cute new floor for a few bucks a month and get creative with the kitchen. maybe an area rug. disaster in the kitchen? probably… i am looking into large jute rugs that are hardwearing and soil resistant… who knows. maybe simply tone the terra cotta colour down with cool coloured accessories like this girl did with her dark marble fireplace. or maybe i go with the current tribal/native american industrial trend thing and play up the terra cotta massively! as you can tell, i haven’t quite decided or worked it out yet, but this is one of those fun problems that gets my creative juices going. i am sure–with the help of living etc and pinterest–i can create a kitchen space that i love being in whilst still keeping that terra cotta floor.

how do you decided what is worth keeping or changing?




  1. So glad to hear that I’m not the only one trying to “rock a rental.” 😉 Totally have started painting the walls (it seems like it will be an ongoing project for awhile as time and energy are not on my side) and have ideas to cover the unappealing red tile on our fireplace/mantle area by making some sort of cover using old wood from pallets I found outside. I get excited at the thought of that particular project but have yet to venture into the “how to’s” of it. Curtains have come down in the living room and will be replaced eventually. I WISH we had the money to replace the flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms but we just don’t so I simply try to ignore it. I have to remind myself I don’t own this house. Other then those things, furniture goes a long way. If you love the furniture you have and decorate with things you love then you can make whatever rental you have feel like home. 🙂 Oooh, it’d be so fun to sit and chat with you. 🙂

  2. Emma Huntley

    Sarah I love your blog!! this is totally where i’m at at the minute… we have some awful stuff in our rental (well, that only seem to bother me and not the ‘men’ of the house), and I do not seem to be getting anywhere with it… hence my (xmas gift) subscription to livingetc for budget friendly ideas! we still have curtain poles to put up after removing the horrendous frilly pelmets that were there previously… there’s picture nails on every wall with nothing on them… we have a pastel blue carpet throughout the whole ground floor… but then i think, ‘am i being ungrateful for the house we have as it is and the roof over our head?’ i am totally not, and would love to put my stamp on this place, for however long we have left… so keep these posts coming, i love it!!
    PS we miss you guys xxx

    • We miss y’all too Emma! Living etc is such a massive resource for me. I am
      Just a bit obsessed with it!! I anxiously await its arrival on the shelves every month. And don’t get too discouraged about your house. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I want to change and the lack of money or time we have but every new change brings life and motivation to keep planning. You will get there. You have such great taste anyway!

  3. Pingback: rocking your rental: what have you got to work with? | staying awake

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