The Secret To Making Your Rented Home Feel Happier

·13-min read

With the clocks about to go forward and the possibility of another winter lockdown looming, it’s more important than ever to inject joy into our homes.

When we say ‘joy’ we don’t necessarily mean going incredibly colourful (though of course this is what many people embrace): decorating with happiness means deliberately using colour, texture and emotional connection to make a space enriching and inviting. It’s like dopamine dressing for your home with a read on what vibe makes you happiest, whether you want to be soothed by cool tones and soft textures, or invigorated by paintbox brights and graphic prints.

Whether you’re a renter or homeowner there are ways to inject your space with happiness, making it your own. To inspire you, we spoke to five of our favourite interior Instagrammers about the most joyful spaces in their homes and how they decorate with happiness.

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Steph, @ohsorented, London

I get so much joy from this area in my flat because it’s where I come to relax in the evening and on the weekends. From the statement floor lamp and dancing tiger print to the gold coffee table and green velvet pouffe, there’s nothing better than being surrounded by all your favourite colours and art, especially when the light hits so beautifully at golden hour. Matcha latte at arms reach and Abba blaring on the speakers? Heavenly.

“I really love my radiator cover… which I’m not sure is a common thing for someone in their 20s to be so excited about? But, firstly I think it brings me so much joy because it transformed the space so much by hiding the ugly radiator. Secondly, it gives me a platform to display so many pretty accessories. And thirdly, I customised it myself with the cane webbing – so it makes me happy that it’s unique and nobody else has the same one.

“I am always drawn to pink and green as key colours to decorate a space with, followed by an array of pastels to complement and add vibrancy without being too overbearing. Light wood and rattan is definitely my favourite pairing to tone down the bolder colours I use and give a more natural vibe. I aim for my aesthetic to be cosy but still refreshing, using soft furnishings in light colours and adding plants and greenery where possible.

“As a renter, I think it’s important to focus on where you’re living in the present and not too much about ‘waiting until you’re a homeowner’. Even though I don’t own my flat and I don’t exactly know how long I will be living here, I still see it as mine to enjoy and make my own as I do spend quite a lot of my time here. Creating a space you love doesn’t have to be expensive either, there’s so many great DIY renter hacks (vinyl tiles as an example) when working on a budget. The home is for expressing yourself and creating a space that makes you feel at ease. Plus, there is something so satisfying about bringing your Pinterest board to life.”

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Liv, @renovating_cheznous, London

“Our living space brings me a lot of joy because it was something I had envisioned for a while and it was just so nice to see it come to life. I really wanted this room to feel cosy and I fell in love with the idea of coming home during the winter nights putting the fire on while watching your favourite movie. We’re expecting some furniture in a few weeks which will completely finish off the room.

“I don’t think a lot of people know this but our living room chimney is completely fake, our carpenter built it out to accommodate our bio ethanol fire. We tiled it up ourselves with brick slips to make it look as realistic as possible. The bio ethanol fireplace is a great alternative if you can’t have a log burner, it requires no installation, runs on bio ethanol fuel and lets off a nice amount of heat for those cosy nights.

“I think it’s important for you to feel relaxed and calm in your home as it’s essential for happiness. The outside world is really stressful so coming home to a peaceful and calming space is really important to me. We bought our house a couple of years ago, it was a serious fixer upper and needed complete remodelling. It’s been really satisfying turning it into our dream first home.”

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Jay, @paintthetownpastel, Orkney

“The kitchen is definitely the heart of the home, and the room that’s had the biggest transformation! It’s been hugely rewarding to take it from a dark, depressing space to one filled with light, colour and joy. It’s also totally unique to us – we took an ‘off the shelf’ kitchen and made it our own by painting it and sourcing our own brassware. I style it with flowers, candles and mismatched kitchenware for a look that’s creative but still cosy, which a kitchen definitely should be!

“I particularly cherish anything I’ve upcycled! There’s definitely more joy in a piece that you’ve had a creative hand in. I also love giving old pieces a new life – much cheaper and more eco-friendly than buying everything new! My latest upcycle is an old pine wardrobe painted in lavender and peach stripes.

“I love pastels (obviously!) but almost always mixed with brights. That for me is a really joyful combination – I find wall-to-wall pastels can look a bit insipid – the bright walls add that vital bit of zing! Colour is hugely important to me and my favourite paint brand right now is the brand new @yes.colours – they make eco-friendly paint in an incredible range of colours. Their Miami palette is definitely a bit of me!

“Rob and I both work from home so the house has to be joyful. It also has to work hard to meet our needs. We have an office space each (vital!) and I’ve zoned the colours to evoke a range of moods throughout – warm pink in the living room, cool peppermint in the bathroom, calming peach in my office.

“The house dates from the 19th Century and it’s important to me to preserve the original layout and as many of the original features as possible. We own it (rather than rent) but it’s a piece of history and I definitely feel the responsibility of that!”

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Zeena, @heartzeena, London

“Our living room is my happy place! I love the combination of colours, materials, plants and textures. It’s pure joy and comfort and all things that make a home in my eyes. We’re lucky to have found a flat with such big windows. I live with my husband in a one bedroom rented flat in Hackney and as creative people light is always a must have at home. The flat is south so even in the grey of winter we get such beautiful light. But for the sunless days we have made sure to fill this part of our home with colour and greenery. Plants give us life and it’s lovely to see our plant babies grow and our space evolves as they do too.

“My favourite items at the moment would have to be colourful throws that I recently designed in collaboration with the Tartan Blanket Company. They’re a boost of colour positivity when you need it most. There’s nothing quite like cosying up under a blanket at this time of year and they double up as scarves so you can wear them out as well as dress up your sofa in one too. The colours instantly lift my mood and are excellent joy spreaders. They’re a great way to add colour to your home and you if you’re not sure where to start so I love that they can bring some colour confidence.

“I’m a textile designer by training and studied at Chelsea school of art so for me textiles, texture and colour has always been something I’m very drawn to.

“You might have noticed but I’m a maximalist, I love to collect things. Textiles and cushions are one of my guilty pleasures and I have a ‘more is more’ motto. Texture and colour adds visual interest, it draws the eye around the room and it invites you in.

“We spend so much of our time at home, even more so in our post pandemic world it’s important to make the spaces we live in as joyful as possible as that joy is contagious and will in turn affect every aspect of our lives. Whether it be boosting your mood with colourful cushions and textiles, creating a dining space that isn’t your work from home desk or a bedroom that leaves you feeling rested and relaxed after a night’s sleep.

“I live in a rented one bedroom flat with my husband, it’s tiny and there’s no storage and it was a very empty white box when we moved in. For us we instantly wanted to put some personality into our space. Insert colour and greenery here. There is so much you can do to a space without touching the walls but I’d always encourage renters to talk to their landlord first as a lick of paint can transform a room. For example our bedroom didn’t truly feel ours until we painted a giant wavy wall art headboard on the wall. It took a couple of hours and brings joy every time we get into bed.”

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Caitlin, @houseofcait, Bristol

“I love our living room. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a different room for every purpose, then you’ve got to consider how to make a space adaptable for different needs (both practical and emotional). I’ve spent time carefully considering how I would want this space to make me feel at different times of day, on different occasions, etc. and have designed it so that with just a few small tweaks, I can completely change the purpose of the space. Even though it’s not quite finished yet (still on the hunt for that perfect area rug!) it’s already brought me a lot of joy and happiness through its versatility.

“My sofa brings me the most joy! Mainly because it’s squishy and comfy and wonderful, but also because we got it for a total bargain. It’s a sectional and we found multiple parts of it for free on Facebook Marketplace and in a skip! (Yes we threw away the covers and disinfected the living daylights out of it). Those lucky finds meant we could justify splashing out on some beautiful velvet sofa covers which we otherwise would’ve had to have spent a good few months saving up for.

“Colour plays a huge part in every room of the house for me. I will always use soft colours and white tones for bedding. For me (and I think for most people) softer tones make me feel far more zen and relaxed which is obviously pretty crucial for a good night’s sleep. When it comes to texture, that’s something I’ve only really started to take into proper consideration recently, and I don’t think I’ll ever look back! I love experimenting with clashing textures to make a space feel more alive and vibrant. Mixing natural, earthy textures with luxurious velvety textures is my favourite combination at the moment, I think.

“As a renter, there’s still a certain societal stigma around spending any sort of meaningful time, effort and money on your home. People tend to see it as a waste because you don’t own the property. I can see where they’re coming from with this, but I totally disagree with the sentiment that renting should mean you live in a boring, beige box with no personality. To me, there’s nothing more important than feeling the warm hug of coming home after a long day, and I know I simply would not feel that hug if I didn’t take time and effort into making my space feel special and personal. Especially after the last 18 months we’ve all had, home as a sanctuary has never been more important.

“Of course, one day I hope to own my own home, but I’m in no rush. I’m taking my time to build a collection of furniture, art and meaningful trinkets whilst I am renting, and those things can slot nicely into that home whenever it comes around. Until then I’m going to enjoy the luxury of being able to live in boujie areas that I’d never be able to afford to buy in!”

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Kirthanaa, @kirthanaa, London

“I love this area of my house as it gets the best light during the day, which is perfect for growing my plants that fill the space with life. One of my favourite things to do in this space is to recreate my experiences in other countries through making the cuisines that I have tried abroad. Doing this got me through the 2020 lockdowns as I held Mexican, Greek and Malaysian themed dinners for our household, based on my recent trips. It was the perfect way to nurture nostalgic escapism in my own home. I have now made this a tradition for my dinner parties where we’re now able to create new memories together.

“Scent is really important to me and I use my mist scent diffuser from Neom every day. I love Aesop scents. They’re simply wonderful – it lifts my mood instantly and helps me to unwind from a long day. Beyond scent I love to use colour to create the mood for my dinners, whether that’s darker blues to create an intimate setting, or pinks and yellows to have a brighter, summertime feel.

“My family has owned my current home for many years, but I have only been able to make the space my own more recently. I have poured my heart into creating a style that reflects my tastes and, more importantly, me as a person. As I try to be a warm and welcoming person, I have made my home a place that instantly puts people at ease, where they can relax and enjoy themselves. A home is more than four walls filled with a selection of objects, no matter how sentimental they are – it has to have a loving aura, which instils that feeling of absolute comfort, safety and weightlessness. In terms of the material things that help create this aura, I find lighting to be the most crucial, whether natural during the day or artificial for the evenings, followed by vibrant plants, tasteful furniture, and then a selection of objects to fill the space – such as vases, candleholders, flowers, pictures, and so on.”

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