Six ways to stamp your style on a rental

Don’t live with your landlord’s bland taste – take advice from these top designers

Change up your cupboard door handles. you can always change them back at the end of the tenancy

Have the Irish waved goodbye to the idea of owning their own homes? Statistics from last year noted that the number of Irish people buying property had fallen to a 50-year low. According to figures from the Central Statistics Office, compiled as part of its Quarterly National Household Survey, Irish society has changed significantly in the past 16 years. People are turning away from the dream of owning their own homes in favour of the flexibility – and uncertainty – of the increasingly tough rental market.

What this means is that many people are shelling out considerable sums to stay in a home created with someone else’s taste. Far too many Irish landlords err on the side of conservatism with cheap furniture, magnolia walls and kitchen units that have often seen better days.

So how best to put a personal stamp on an apartment or house that isn’t yours? How to disguise the things not to your taste and still have money left over? And how easy is it to make the spaces yours and still get your deposit back afterwards? We asked some experts for their best rental hacks.

The right rug can create impact, style and warmth, says interior designer Caroline Flannery

1. Invest in a good rug and a bookcase

Caroline Flannery, interior designer, Interiors by Caroline


“A well-considered rug can be a great investment particularly in a rental, where it may not be possible to modify the space without the permission of a less than enthusiastic landlord. The right rug can create instant impact, warmth, colour and style while also acting as a focal point in a room which may lack any architectural features of note. A lively rug can also draw attention away from the not-so-inspiring furnishings of a rental. Choose a rug that is the correct scale for the room – a very common mistake is going too small. As a rule of thumb the rug should be same proportions as the room with the furniture sitting on the rug. Where there are budget constraints, I sometimes layer a number of different rugs to create scale using sisal or jute rugs as the base with the feature rug placed on top. This creates a relaxed bohemian feel to a room.

"A simple bookcase can be a wonderful addition to a rental as it can create a focal point in an otherwise uninspiring room. The shelves can be styled with personal items, lighting, books and objects d'art with the added advantage of providing additional storage. It's worth taking a look at auctions where you can pick up good quality brown furniture for a steal which can be painted in your favourite colour." Instagram: @interiorsbycaroline, tel: 01-5594405.

Subtle lighting, good bedlinen will cosy up a space

2. Spend money on smaller statement pieces

Eadaoin Holden, Holden Interiors, Galway

“Personalise and cosy-up living spaces with a few statement pieces, rather than a lot of small items. Investing in things that can be taken with you when you leave. A large dramatic rug, some fun cushions and one or two statement artworks will reflect your personality. Plants add a lovely softness often missing in rental properties.

"Table and floor lamps also add atmosphere and warmth. Good bedlinen can really transform an otherwise boring bedroom. White duvet covers always look crisp and texture and colour can be added with woven throws and one or two large cushions. Oversized mirrors are great for giving life to a room and when cleverly placed add another dimension to a space – they don't have to be fixed to the wall either."

3. Start with white walls

Ruth Kennelly, RK Designs, Dublin

“Usually when a person takes on a rental they can’t change things like flooring or structure, but landlords often don’t mind if a property is returned freshly painted. They also don’t seem to mind if people hang their art on their walls properly. I suggest to tenants to ask for the property to be cleared of the furniture you don’t like, and then get it painted so you have a neutral canvas to start from.

“Rugs and laminate flooring can have a great impact if a room is painted white. Pick a couple of colours, like deep blues or mustards. I would be a huge advocate of giving rooms different personalities to create a sense of space, but in a small apartment rental, it’s safer to stick with white.

“Also, the use of mirrors is a great way to create the illusion of space, especially in apartment hallways. Even in a kitchen, you can buy antique mirrored backsplashes. If you put a mirror facing a window it will reflect all that lovely light.

"A lot of rental kitchens are ordinary and wouldn't have much personality, but what can be really nice is putting a small lamp on a kitchen worktop to create nice ambient lighting. Many people don't think of putting a lamp there and it can be very effective. In many rentals too, there isn't a fireplace, and I suggest putting bookshelves at different levels, where the chimney breast would ordinarily be, to create a focal point for the room."

Stick on-peel off wallpaper from

4. Spend on things you can take with you

Sarah Drumm & Lisa Marconi, DUST interiors

"One of the small things that you can change easily are doorknobs on kitchen units or wardrobes. It's a very overlooked technique and you can always change them back after your tenancy. Get really nice ones at Superfront, Buster + Punch and Anthropologie.

“Invest in gold Washi tape too, it’s a roll of tape that can look like you’ve added brass accents to the edges of cupboards or a countertop. When you’re leaving the apartment, you can just peel it off and it doesn’t leave a film.

“We came across some nice wall stickers and stick-on tiles recently, and a new peel and stick wallpaper also peels off a wall with no damage. A good website to check is

"Even if a place is fully furnished, I like to bring throws that add texture and layers. You might think there's no point in buying things as you'll only be there for a year, but you could end up living somewhere for five years, so you might as well make the effort to make things homely. Create a vignette corner – buy a nice drinks trolley that won't take up too much space, or a beautiful statement chair in a cool, eye-catching fabric."

Invest in a statement chair and an exotic plant or two

5. Buy a show-stopping plant

Suzie Mc Adam, Creative Director, Suzie McAdam design

“Big palm plants and good quality faux flowers add instant life and colour and go big to make a decent impact and break into expanses of bare wall space. Marks & Spencer and Dust have lovely faux flowers and adding branches such as pussy willow, which last for ages, will give height to the bouquet.

"Go to regular furniture sales and any markets and auctions to source inexpensive furniture that will add character to the rental. You want to look for antique-style or interesting furniture that has been reduced rather than heading to very mainstream stores that offer functional looking pieces. Rather than adding as many personal trinkets to whatever surfaces you can, which will look messy, try to add a few beautiful pieces that add to the colour and texture of a room to demonstrate your interior styling. No rental is going to show off your style and character so look for furniture that says something about you. And because you can take furniture with you, it's an area you can invest in. There are some pieces of furniture such as side tables and chairs, which you'll easily re-home in your future house. If you can, get one interesting piece that stands out. I love screens in fabric, metal, or any style."

Paint is an easy to way to tranform plain walls.Walls: Pitch Blue No.220 Estate Emulsion and Calke Green No.34 Estate Emulsion from Farrow & Ball

6. Focus on art

Jackie Carton, Style My Room by Design Solutions

“Photos, prints and artwork can be used to personalise a rental property. There are inspirational images aplenty on Pinterest of gallery walls, showing how to create a montage of photos for instant impact. It’s great to get those images out from our phones photo library and printed off, either on the home printer or in any of the high street stores/chemists. Use paper templates on the wall first, to ensure you are happy with the positions of everything before hanging.

"Artwork is so easily accessible nowadays too – a large piece can help anchor a room while representing your visual style. Bigger canvases can lean against the wall for a more casual effect. If the budget doesn't stretch to original paintings, numerous artists sell prints of their work. These are often sold at standard sizes to fit off-the-shelf frames – an inexpensive solution to those expanses of wall that need to be filled. And in terms if hanging systems, the 3M Command strip system is removable so there's no need to hammer nails into the walls."