it may sound painfully obvious but talking to your landlord is the best place to start. whether you are currently looking or have lived in your rental for over a year. a short conversation to find out what they are happy for you to change or not is essential to personalising your space. i understand that this conversation can be super awkward because you are asking to change something that they, at some point, chose for their house out of their own style and taste, but if you don’t ask you will never know how much or little you have to work with. like our last landlord, you may get carte blanche to do whatever you want on the house as long as you pay for it. or, like our current landlord, you may be able to change some fixtures and fittings as long as you return it to the state you found it in when you move out and repaint within a neutral palate. and although this is the norm for renting, you may have a landlord who literally does not want anything touched. in which case you can take that into consideration when choosing which property to rent, or if you are already renting a home that isn’t to your taste, you can look for another house that will give you a bit more creative freedom. basically, if you know your boundaries, you can start getting creative and having fun within them. if you don’t know, you are stuck before you’ve started.
the same goes for finding/setting your budget. boring and depressing as it may be, finding out what you have to work with financially is vital to your creativity within your space. and remember, limitations are often the catalyst for creativity. who knows, your inability to buy wall hangings for your house may be just what you needed to discover your inner painter! i have certainly found this to be true in my case. i also have friends who have gotten creative with their finances to provide more slack for decorating. one friend collected and fixed up strollers she found on freecycle and sold them on eBay to generate some income while another frequently went through and collected things she do not like in her house, eBaying them to generate money to buy the things she really did like.
but by far and away, the biggest thing you have to work with is your stuff! even if you live in a space that has no flexibility for change AND you do not have the will, capacity or resources to move, you can still love your environment and be creative within it by making sure that you love, or see value in, everything that you own by carefully and consistantly curating your own stuff. the above quote has been my benchmark for curating our things for over a year now. i would love to say that in that year, my whole house has been purged of all un-beautiful, un-practical things, but if, like me, you are on a budget or have live-in little crazy people, it is a journey that requires baby steps. even so, a feeling of simplicity, beauty and purpose is emerging that i so enjoy.
i frequently bin, recycle or eBay items that i have not used in the past six months and i am slowly working my way through each room, swapping (or reworking) larger items that i am not in love with for those that i do love. one example is that we recently replaced the bed we bought on our honeymoon nine years ago with one that is more in line with our current taste and i cannot tell you how much i love my bedroom right now. it was a nearly free swap as i sold our old bed on eBay and found a great deal on our new bed. so simple and easy but intentionally curating our own belongings has brought a huge satisfaction result, without making any alterations to the actual property we live in.
there are thousands of ways you can adapt a photo inspiration or design idea to fit within whatever your rental limitations are, the possibilities are truly endless but in order to start dreaming, creating and working with your space, you’ve gotta know what you are working with. so go have that (potentially) awkward conversation, crunch those numbers and adjust your perspective towards the things you already own and you just might find yourself loving living in your rental.