I began renting when I was in my first year of University. I lived on-campus in an apartment-style building with five strangers. The under-floor heating was inconsistent — at best — and the kitchen was basically a kitchenette. No oven, a tiny stove, and a microwave. I never once used the microwave because one of my roommates used it every single morning to heat up a bowl of milk alongside a piece of bread smothered in ketchup. Gross.
After that, Harry and I moved into a studio-style space in a heritage office-turned-accommodation building that had no windows — again, University housing — and for the first time in a year I had access to an oven… that we shared with everyone on our floor. Again: not ideal, but so much better than what I had access to before.
Then, we moved north to the Sunshine Coast and lived in a tiny two bedroom unit that was infested with cockroaches. After that came the townhouse that was filled with mould and smelled weird all the time.
Now, we’re in a place that we barely dreamed of being possible all those years ago, when I would romanticise the idea of being able to bake cupcakes whenever I pleased — spoiler alert: I don’t think I’ve baked cupcakes in the three years we’ve lived here — and when the possibility of having a ginormous bath all to myself as a twenty-something seemed completely unrealistic.
I’ve learnt so much over the years about decorating a borrowed space, and so much of what I know now has come from making decor mistakes, spending way more than I need to and not understanding the power of negative space.
Here are a few tips for those feeling a little lost when it comes to decorating a rental:
Try a mirror
You can probably see from the above pictures that I love mirrors. I have them in almost every room in my house, and here’s why: they make your space look bigger and brighter than it actually is.
By placing mirrors in opportune spots [i.e. next to or opposite a window], they naturally reflect light around the room and give the illusion of depth. I also like to place them directly opposite interesting points within the room. We have a mirror in our dining room that reflects the kitchen space, and it helps break up the white wall without adding too much visual stimulation.
Something else I like to do with mirrors is place them directly next to plants. I think they make the plant look more interesting — more alive, even — and create an extremely visual point within the room. It’ll also make it seem like you have more greenery within the room than you actually do, and that’s a total win/win.
In terms of hanging vs. leaning, I have opted for the leaning methods with most of our mirrors, as they’re damn heavy. Through doing this, I realised the power of a perfectly leaned mirror, in that it makes your roof appear higher and naturally lifts things the eye line off the ground a little. Make sure to use small protective pads on the top corners behind the mirror, to avoid wall damage.
Clutter is a killer
Nothing is more unappealing to me than clutter. I just have no time for it.
As an adult, I feel that everything should have a place; and if it doesn’t then it needs to go. As a child, I grew up in a house with a lot of clutter on the kitchen island, and I feel like that clutter created a culture for other areas to build up with clutter, too. It’s just some paperwork and pens and a random hair pin — yes — but in time you’ll find that a pair of glasses will make their way to that pile, alongside some loyalty cards, receipts and unopened mail, too. Clutter breeds clutter. Get rid of it.
Having little to no clutter in the house makes rental inspections a breeze, too. There’s no hiding random bits in the linen cupboard and haphazardly sorting through paperwork right as your landlord knocks on the door. Everything has its natural place, and as a result, your house will always be tidy.
Big plants or nothing
I used to love collecting small plants in tiny pots and placing them around my home. Here’s why I don’t do that anymore: small plants suck. They are needier than a child and seem to attract weird little flying bugs every month or so, not to mention the fact that they are like cat-meth. I’m talking paws, nose, face and butt right in that soil. In it, and then spreading it all over the floor. Fab.
Obviously, I’m just not into small plants — at all. Also, too many of them can look a little… cluttery. And you’ve read the point above: we’re not into that here.
I feel like investing a handful of big plants over dozens of tiny ones is the best choice, and they also become more of a focal point within a room when compared to the visual impact of small plants.
Here’s a little tip for those with pets: invest in some minimal stools to sit your big plants on top of. They’ll be clear of prying paws and noses, while looking larger and raising the line of sight in your space. We have all of our plants on simple black stools from IKEA and they’re absolutely thriving.
Go lightweight on the walls
While we don’t have much art on the walls because we’ve only been allowed a limited number of hooks, the art we do have is suuuuper lightweight.
One of my biggest fears is properly damaging the walls — like properly destroying it to the point of needing a full-on repair. I’ve heard disaster stories about heavy frames ripping holes in walls and hooks collapsing under strain; shattering expensive artwork on the floor. We used to hang massive artwork in our previous rentals, but found the damage to the walls was significant enough to need remedy upon deciding to leave. We’ve never had any of our deposit withheld from us, but I do believe we’ve come close as a result of heavy artwork fixtures.
So, I now opt for select lightweight pieces that offer maximum impact with minimal structural damage required [a.k.a. no three-pronged hooks with massive nails and rusted fixtures].
My favourite piece of artwork in our house is a poster by Spanish designer Fran Rodríguez, framed with lightweight pieces of smoked ash timber and hung by a natural weave thread. It’s positioned directly above our entryway table, and exudes this smoky feminine energy that makes me feel both inspired and at peace when I look at it. It’s hung with a small, smooth gold nail that requires only a tiny hole in the wall above the artwork. Again: maximum impact, minimal damage.
The team at Photowall were so kind to send me this beautiful piece of art, and I’m so excited to share a little about the Swedish print company with you all.
Photowall was started in Sweden back in 2006 by a team with a strong desire for design. Despite having no printing experience, the owners thought it would be such an incredible idea to print wallpapers digitally, and be able to send them anywhere in the world at an affordable price. Since then, Photowall has been producing quality and eco-friendly wallpapers, murals, canvases, framed prints and posters.
I’m really proud to be working with Photowall, as they are a company that invests their time in reducing their environmental impact. They understand that their business uses paper to manufacture their products, so they’ve put processes and systems in place to reduce waste, however and wherever possible. Prints are made-to-order, which means that there is no excess stock going to waste, and the ink used is both biodegradable and safe for the environment. Waste materials that are created from the manufacturing process are transferred to a recycling facility. Additionally, Photowall works with Vi Agroforestry, a Swedish organisation that plants trees in Africa every year, to offset their paper consumption. Alongside all of this, Photowall works closely with their design partners at their headquarters in Skarpnäck, giving full credit to the creators of their featured artworks, ensuring that creatives are paid for their work and recognised for it too.
The above piece is called In Bloom II, and you can order your very own here. If you’re interested in another similar design, you should should check out In Bloom I here, and see more of Fran Rodríguez’ work here.10