Homeowners aren’t the only people who deserve to love the space they live in. This is far from a revolutionary statement, but there are great reasons to invest energy and time into a space you’re renting.

Like many things you try the first time, your initial experience isn’t always perfect. My first lease left me a little jaded, but years of experience and perusing lifestyle blogs, property listings, and creative Instagram accounts have me reformed. Connecting with creatives and seeing how others have styled (and settled) their homes greatly impacted how I feel about renting. So today, when faced with design quirks and occasional lease insecurity, I tend to delight in the challenge.

I have zero delusions about the cost of some of the spaces I see on my feeds – and creating beautiful homes can be pricey, especially on a single income. But a fixed budget has a way of forcing creativity!

Whether you’re happy renting or busy saving for a deposit, there are plenty of ways to make your rental feel like home and have you feeling settled, without worrying about the future.

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Keep something alive around

Nothing says ‘I live here,’ better than signs of actual life. There’s no need to turn your place into a literal urban jungle, but adding a pothos or leafy friend to your home can add much-needed colour and light. One way to use your window space is to hang cuttings from little jars in macrame hangers to soak up root-growing sunshine.

Start your lease off fresh with a clean

Properties are often leased in the same condition you see them at the viewing, so it doesn’t hurt to give everything a good wipe down and dust once you get your key. The mess isn’t always super obvious, but don’t underestimate the power of an initial wipedown. I was surprised by how much more natural light I had once I gave my windows a good clean – especially helpful if you have plants and it’s heading into winter!

Switch out light globes that don’t spark joy

Swapping out the extreme glow beaming out of my overheads in two different tones (yes, really) was one of the best ‘design’ decisions when I moved in. I instantly felt more relaxed and didn’t dread turning on the overheads so I could jigsaw my way through the 2020 lockdown. With the addition of floor lamps and fairy lights, my place feels cosy even once the sun goes down. 

Invest in key pieces for now and the future

It’s worth putting aside a budget for pieces of furniture to take with you when you do eventually move. Doing this will benefit you in your current home and the places you’ll live in the future. When I first started renting, it was more about practicality and having pieces that functioned. Now, as I get a better feel for my style, the more I feel comfortable investing in pieces I know will last and feel proud to own.

Don’t forget your story

It might seem obvious, but a great way to make your space look and feel like your own is to bring in pieces you love. Consider the possessions that bring you joy when you see them, then put them in a spot where they can shine. For me, that looks like a corner display shelf with pieces I’ve collected over time.

Set up a corner that speaks to you

Create a little corner or moment in your place that speaks to you – it could be a reading nook, your nightstand or a corner shelf – and your home will instantly feel more like your own. My vintage bar cart is a good example. The cart sits right near a window that invites a stream of sunshine and is styled with plants and a few choice decor pieces. It’s one of those areas in my space which makes me happy just looking at it. 

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How do I do a quick refresh while keeping my landlord happy?

If you’re looking for a way to walk the line between a total apartment refresh and leaving no trace, try these tricks:

  • Pick up some hanging strips: Make an impact without making a mark. Hanging strips are a great way to display a piece of art or hold a mirror without damaging the paintwork.
  • Look at adhesive hooks: Easy-peel hooks like those from 3M are great for everything from hanging bags to photo frames. They can also be an excellent compromise to hang your curtains for as long as you live there.
  • Consider temporary wall decals: If your kitchen or living space needs a little refresh, think about removable wallpaper to avoid any worry about causing damage.

If you’re renting, it’s 100% worth the effort of making it feel like home. Even with a few tiny changes, you’ll soon see how a little effort can transform how you feel about your rental.

Lauren Vardy

Lauren Vardy was the Content Marketing Manager at Rent.com.au between 2015 and 2023. Formerly a journalist at Fairfax Media and Rural Press, Lauren's expertise extends to various media groups in Australia and internationally, including the Esperance Express, Southeast Asia Globe, Colosoul Magazine, The Sunday Times, and more.