Decorating tricks for Generation rent

How to maintain your own sense of style without upsetting the landlord, by Annie Deakin

Does renting mean that you care less about your home? Not on your nelly, say interior designers who are fast discovering a gap in the market. Being budged off the housing ladder may cause chaos with long-term dreams but it won't hold Brits back from creating a stylish home. Generation Rent, as recently dubbed by Halifax, are the aspiring first-time buyers who - courtesy of high property prices and tough lending policies - have given up on ever owning a property. And so, they put their money where their rent is, often with professional designer's help, and create stylish homes to be proud of. ‘Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean that your property shouldn’t be just the way you want it,’ says interior designer Annabelle Holland. 'People renting still want to decorate for their needs.'

‘I can see a huge trend in interior designs for rental as people are finding it difficult to buy property. People come to me wanting help in decorating a rental space. There is a need for a lower cost online decorating service,' says Holland who was once shortlisted as 'The Next Big Thing in Interior Design' by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen and Editor of Elle Decoration, Michelle Ogundehin. Holland created her Boxed Room Design package offering traditional interior design at a fraction of the cost (www.annabelleholland.com). 'I offer an online service for £300 a room; clients fill in a questionnaire, saying what they like and don’t like, upload photos and give dimensions.' She posts clients a box of ideas, fabric samples and miniature paint pots to suit their style requirements.

Most landlords are happy for their properties to be redecorated. Some, happy to relinquish any responsibility, might give their tenant money to do so. ‘The main thing a landlord wants is to never have an empty property,’ says Holland who suggests using your rental agreement as a bargaining tool. If you volunteer to redecorate yourself or to organise professional decorators, request a reduction in rent. You are, after all, increasing the rental property's value. 'Or agree to extend your contract, only if the decorating takes place,' says Holland. 'It’s in a landlord’s interest; a well-kept property will be easier to rent out at the end of a tenancy agreement.’

While landlords often surrender to a paint job, they rarely indulge a tenant’s desire for proper wallpaper. Feeling daring? Use a cornstarch and water mixture to paste lightweight fabric to your walls, just like you would with wallpaper. To remove, spray with water and gently peel off, then wash starch off with a sponge. In theory, it shouldn't mark the walls. Selotape, and even masking tape damages paintwork and Blu-Tack leaves behind grease marks. White Tack is less likely to stain. Holland recommends wall stickers from Not On The High Street.

There are many tricks for decorating a rental without the need of communication with your landlord. Flooring tends to be overlooked by landlords because it is so expensive. 'As a tenant, you’re not going to want to rip out carpets yourself. Invest in large rugs that hide stains and can be taken with you when you move on. By doing so, you also protect yourself from further dirtying the carpet and losing the deposit. 'I like rugs from Niki Jones or Designer Guild. If you hate your landlord’s curtains, hook up a new set of your own.' If the existing curtains are attached by hooks to a track or to rings on a pole, you should be able to swap them over quite easily. Store the landlord’s curtains carefully in a dust-free, dry area, and away from direct sunlight to ensure they do not get damaged.

‘Don’t be put off buying key pieces like art or furniture just because you’re renting. You can take these to a future home but do choose versatile items,’ says Holland. ‘If you’re currently renting a big loft space and want a big sofa, think about a modular sofa that can be broken up and fit into smaller spaces in your next home. Invest in lamps, or even just funky lampshades to place over the landlord's lamps to brighten up your space,’ says Holland recommending Graham & Green and John Lewis. ‘As for mirrors, go to Brissi or Sweatpea and Willow.' Cover a knackered sofa with an extra large throw from OKA. To stop it looking messy, fasten with decorative pins.

So, all is not lost for our generation of renters. Renouncing an ambition to ever own property won't hold Brits back from decorating with style. 'In the short term, interior designers are adapting to the rental property,' says Holland. Being kept off the housing ladder won't stop young Brits - and their interior designers - caring about their homes.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website mydeco.com.

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