More young couples are renting in Ireland today than ever before. For many of us, buying an option at the minute or any time in the near future. A common dilemma for many people renting is how to personalise and decorate the rental to your taste, without costing yourself a fortune.

As an Interior Designer and Architect, I have struggled to make my own one bed apartment a welcoming and inviting space on a budget. However, with a little imagination and elbow grease, any rental can feel like home. While some of those ideas can be expensive they are an investment as many of them can be removed, packed up and brought to your next rental.

Former Dublin gasometer converted to modern apartments. Photo Credit - William Murphy (Flickr)

Former Dublin gasometer converted to modern apartments. Photo Credit – William Murphy (Flickr)

1. Paint

Plain white walls are synonymous with rental apartments. They make the apartment look bigger and brighter, but also make it seem cold and uninviting. Your landlord might not let you change the colour of the walls, but there is nothing to stop you painting your rental now and then changing it back to the original colour before you move out. If you are only going to live in the place for a year or less it might not be worth painting a whole room, but painting one wall a bold colour will make a real statement.

2. Flooring

Wooden flooring is the old reliable in rental properties, it is relatively inexpensive and durable. It can become tired, scratched and buffed though if not correctly cared for. Adding rugs and runners are an easy way to add colour and texture to any space. IKEA and Dunnes Stores have a fantastic range of coloured, patterned and fur rugs in a range of sizes from as little as €50. Rugs are so versatile and can be easily moved to your next rental.

Zebra Cowhide Rug. Photo Credit - Wicker Paradise (Flickr)

Zebra Cowhide Rug. Photo Credit – Wicker Paradise (Flickr)

3. Cushions & Throws

Have you a chunky black leather sofa in the middle of your living room that neither looks good or comfortable? Add some cushions, a variety of colours and shapes from high street stores is the simplest way to change the overall appearance of the sofa. They also make it more comfortable! If you’re creative and want something unique, buy a couple of yards of fabric, tassels and buttons and make your own cushions. A matching throw over the back of the sofa will take the harsh look off it as you walk into the room.

Sofa decorated with scatter cushions. Photo Credit - Hazel Nicholson (Flickr)

Sofa decorated with scatter cushions. Photo Credit – Hazel Nicholson (Flickr)

4. Artwork

Unless you’re living in student accommodation please don’t put unframed posters or photos on the walls. You can find inexpensive frames in Penneys, Tesco or Dunnes Stores, perfect for creating a photo wall. If you’re a fashion lover like me, framed shopping bags create the perfect feature wall beside your dressing table. Artwork doesn’t have to be on the wall. Framed photos of family and friends personalise your rental and are ideal on the mantle piece or window frames.

5. Storage

Storage is always a problem in Irish homes, and especially in rental properties. Typically, everything is jammed into small built in wardrobes, under the bed and behind doors. Why not use your storage solutions as a means of decoration? White bookshelves from Argos or IKEA are the perfect solution. Wicker baskets or cardboard boxes covered in wrapping paper ensure your storage isn’t an eyesore. Small storage boxes are ideal for gloves, scarves, hats and make up etc., and all the little things that are usually thrown into a drawer, never to be found again!

Smart Storage Solutions - Wicker Baskets. Photo Credit - Wicker Paradise (Flickr)

Smart Storage Solutions – Wicker Baskets. Photo Credit – Wicker Paradise (Flickr)

6. Bedroom

Your bedroom should be much than more someplace to sleep. It should be calming, relaxing and a comfortable space to unwind in after a tough day at work. So often the bedroom is forgotten about when people are decorating.

When it comes to the bedroom, it all starts with the bed. Buy yourself good quality bedlinen and make your bed look like something you’d spot in a magazine. Good fluffy pillows, pillow shams and cushions all add to the comfort and overall look of your bed. A bed throw or blanket draped across the bottom of the bed not only adds to the overall appearance of your bed but is perfect for curling up in on a cold winter’s night. Most rental properties will come with bedside lockers and lamps. Bedside lockers with an elegant lamp will complete your perfect boudoir. They’re also a practical place to put your phone and glasses when you’re in bed! Ikea have a fantastic range of bedside lockers. If your budget is tight, go along to a car boot sale or second hand shop. Pick up 2 bedside lockers and paint them to match your bedroom’s colour scheme.

Bedroom Inspiration. Photo Credit - Amy Leu (Flickr)

Bedroom Inspiration. Photo Credit – Amy Leu (Flickr)

7. Lighting 

Attractive lighting and lighting fixtures isn’t always a priority in rental properties. Ugly lamp shades in the bedroom can easily be replaced by attractive and inexpensive stylish shades. Adding dimmer switches and changing the bulbs can have a huge impact on the space. Feature floor lamps beside the armchair in the living room brighten up a dark corner as well as providing the ideal light for reading at nighttime. Decorative table lamps throughout your rental will help set the mood. Don’t forget candles, tea light candles in decorative holders are ideal at nighttime when you do not want too strong a light.

Selection of modern lighting options for your rental. Photo Credit - Erin Williamson (Flickr)

Selection of modern lighting options for your rental. Photo Credit – Erin Williamson (Flickr)

8. Hardware

Rental kitchens and bedrooms often have boring door knobs and drawer pulls. By simply changing the door knobs in your kitchen you’ll liven the place up and create interest, without costing yourself a fortune. Article in the Powerscourt Shopping Centre have a fantastic range of door knobs. Remember they do not have to match. Selecting door knobs with a similar pattern or with the same colour scheme is perfect. Likewise, in the bedroom change the drawer pulls for delicate glass pulls. It is a relatively inexpensive way of creating an expensive and luxurious feel.

Colourful drawer pulls to modernise old boring furniture. Photo Credit - Steph L (Flickr)

Colourful drawer pulls to modernise old boring furniture. Photo Credit – Steph L (Flickr)

9. Plants

I love indoor plants, unfortunately they don’t love me and end up dying. It doesn’t stop me trying though. A few houseplants can go a long way towards making an apartment feel warm and alive. Luscious green plants are soothing and give year round colour to your apartment by using decorative and colourful pots. If you’re like me and not particularly green fingered, why not opt for good quality artificial plants and flowers. A bunch of artificial flowers in a glass vase is ideal on your hallway table.

Indoor Plants. Photo Credit - Jupiter Firelyte (Flickr)

Indoor Plants. Photo Credit – Jupiter Firelyte (Flickr)

10. Mirrors

A well placed mirror can make a small space feel large, a narrow space feel wide and make the darkest rooms seem bright by bouncing light around the room. Chose a brightly coloured or ornate frame and they become a piece of artwork on the wall.