Interior Design for Rentals: Intro Part 2


No need to punish yourself any longer by living with a beige or magnolia interior. The key to making any home is continuity. Colour is the most effective why to unify an interior. Plan your colour palette as you would if you owned the property. Colour isn’t just about painting walls, there is a myriad of ways of introducing the new seasons colours, it just a case of where you choose to apply them. Colour can be inject with off the shelf decorative accessories or you can re-colour an existing item. You simply need to think laterally and apply it where it’s required. Colour is the thread that should run through every room.

If you plan to paint walls, seek permission first. Generally speaking landlords will allow painting within reason. Choose colours that make an impact and reflect your style but at the same time will cover easily. Pale, muted and mid tone colours would all cover easily within two coats of paint. Put together a document showing the possible colours in preference from 1 to 3. If you’re lucky the landlord will like your selection and will allow you to vacate the property without have to return the walls to their original colours. If this is the case, ensure you have this in writing and amend the lease accordingly. For the cost of a can of paint and a day of your time, painting a room is an investment into your happiness and pleasure; the foundation of your daily life.

Colour is key and with every opportunity you have to alter a space use it to introduce your colour palette. It’s woven through all the chapters offering alternative ways on how to introduce it either through quick fix options like cushions, throws and the odd decorative object to more personal touches such as re colouring or installing items. It’s when you take colour a step further into unexpected areas that a rental home starts to blossom.

Divide colour into three areas or three levels of investment

  • Level 1 soft furnishings and accessories; the cheap quick solution.
  • Level 2 Upholstery; seating and bed heads requiring a little more money and confidence.
  • And level 3, painting walls and furniture etc. This requires commitment and overall confidence.

Within each room apply these layers to create a well-balanced fusion of colour.



As you cross the threshold of what could potential be your new home, you immediately start to visualise which room could be your sitting room, were the sofa would be placed and the view once seated. You imagine your rug underfoot, then look at the walls and the ceiling and promptly ask yourself, ‘will I be able to hang my much loved family portraits?’, ‘can I hang my Louis Poulsen pendant light?’ There is no reason neither of these will be possible, it’s just a case of asking permission.

To ensure you’re able to integrate your possessions into their new abode start asking questions from the get go. Try and gauge the letting agent or landlords tolerance towards alternations. If your in Australia, you could be viewing the property filled with the existing tenants furnishings. Whilst in the UK it’s a much more one to one experience. Look around and take note of items like artworks that may be hanging in, what looks like, specific locations or glamorous pendant lights in entrances. Some will be more obvious than others. Ascertain whether these are the landlord or tenants. These are all signs as to whether you will be able to implement the alternations you intend.

More often than not you’ll be shown a property by a letting agent, ask them what the landlords position is on nailing, adding curtain poles and painting etc. At a guess they won’t commit an answer and shall refer you to the tenancy agreement. By introducing yourself to the agent they’ll be able to put a face to a name when you call. It is as this point that you need to decide, depending the rappour you build with them in that split second as to whether you divulge any of your thoughts and plans. My advice would be to gather information then present your plans professional and coherently in written form all at once prior to signing the lease. It will not aid your cause to give sporadic information; calling through amendments or sounding unsure of what you have requested will confuse the issue and may result you being filed in the ‘to hard to deal with’ basket.

Most tenancy agreements are standard and will outline something to the effect of ‘no alternations or removal of fittings and fixtures’, but on a case-by-case basis, and on the wanting good tenants, landlords will be flexible.

Prior to applying officially to occupy a property list your intentions, starting with the essentials, for example, needing locks for terrace doors and permission to install curtain poles for window coverings. These could be considered necessities under the tenancy agree of making the property fit and safe to occupy. They may also be listed under terms of maintenance.

The next level of permission would be considered as cosmetic changes. These would cover requests to paint, nail and changing of light fittings. The landlord will consider these to be a personal request or an upgrade. Hence, not essential.

You will have more chance of achieving your requests if you offer reassurances. The first step is to assure the landlord you will take the necessary precautions and preparations or will employ the services of a professional to make the alternations. A landlord’s nightmare is having a cowboy tradesman using their walls as a dartboard.

Should you feel resistance ask the landlord what would they require to enable you to carry our your requests. This could simply be a case of forwarding the names of tradesmen along with their references, this may suffice and be the reassurance the landlord needs to put them at ease. Address each hurdle they through in your path with the aim of both parties reaching a positive arrangement. But having said that, if the hurdles become mountain like and unreasonable avoid putting yourself in the position of taking on more than you feel financially or morally acceptable. Ensure you accept and feel comfortable with the final decision as holding any grudges will be detrimental to your happiness in the property. Avoid making it a contest of wills.

Below are some points to keep in mind on specific areas commonly requested.

Request to paint-

  • In the United Kingdom landlords aren’t required to paint a premises unless it’s a health and safety issue i.e. peeling paint or damp issue. Where as in America landlords are required to either paint before each tenancy or every three years. In either case you might be able to persuade your landlord to paint the property a colour you’d prefer or negotiate painting in your lease. In live/work premises you’re generally able to paint without any issue at all. If you find your property is due to be painted ask if the landlord is open to suggestions.
  • Improve your chances by requesting colours in muted and pale spectrum. Show selection of suitable colours that won’t offend the landlord.
  • Using the option of painting the wall back to the existing colour as leverage. If you do promise such things ensure you allow time at the end of the lease to do so. Request the colour details of the existing colour.
  • List the advantages of repainting the property i.e. it will entice good tenants along with updating the property.
  • To safe guard yourself on all the hard work you plan to invest in the property, try and secure a long lease at a fixed price prior to starting the work.
  • Try and negotiate the part or full reimbursement of any paint bought. Should this not be possible enquire as to whether the landlord would consider a rent-free period whilst painting the property.

Removing of existing furnishings;

  • Should you be able to removal existing furnishings firstly give the landlord the option to store. If this isn’t possible, store items safely so you are able to refit upon leaving. UK lease agreements state you aren’t allowed to do such alterations but note these are standard lease terms that may be flexible.
  • Document existing materials and colours; make three copies, each which can be signed by all parties involved.
  • Document all changes and related permission given by the letting agent and landlord. Make three copies, one for each part involved.



I cannot stress this enough. Having been at both ends of ladder, a tenant and a landlord, fore warned is fore armed. You will have more chance of being able to adjust and alter a space if you are up front from the start. The phrase you can run about you can hide comes to mind. One way or another you’ll be found out. The last thing you want to deal with is an inspection, even with the 48hrs notice they are obliged to give this won’t be enough time for you to repaint walls, reinstall fittings and repair holes.

Be realistic with you requests. Ask for the necessities from the onset. If you feel the cosmetic changes are also important to your happiness in the property also list them. However, prioritize the cosmetic changes, it might be worth staggering your requests by this I mean a month or so after moving in. In a property we recently rented that had no window coverings it was a essential that we dealt the issue straight away for privacy and security, the balcony doors and windows also required suitable locks. A landlord has to provide a safe and secure home. It’s only when you come to needing contents insurance do you realise that you are unable to obtain cover due to no locks or the incorrect locks on doors and especially windows. Generally upon explaining these sorts of problems the landlord will help solve the situation. Breakdown your request into essential on the basis of security or maintenance and personal cosmetic changes. By explaining how it affects your happiness in the property together with giving the letting agent or landlord options, you are more like to achieve a positive result. Simply asking if it’s a good time to talk will ensure they have time to listen, absorb and resolve our concerns.



Always aim to leave a property as you found it. Written condition reports or inventories are in place but can be problematic if not redundant to both tenant and landlord these days. Having been both in the recently I found having images on hand is in the best interest for all involved, especially when you find half way through your tenancy the landlord or letting agent has changed. But as I say this to good for both parties so if you intend on nailing or changing light fittings ensure you have repaired, replaced and returned the property to the same condition that has been recorded on camera. Having images will also ensure you aren’t accused for something that pre-existed.  During of our recent tenancy, having recorded images and documentation showing permission for changes saved us from the new letting agent withholding a portion of our security deposit. Don’t assume all letting agents play by the same rules and don’t underestimate how much they want to impress their new client- the landlord- by making them some extra cash at your expense.

All changes cost many, so break it down financial and decide how you would like to apply the most effective changes within your budget. Break each room into three areas: this can also be considered three levels of investment and commitment if you like. By applying a change to each area not only will you be able to apply your colour palette but you’ll be able distribute your finances to address each area of the interior design process.

  • Area 1 soft furnishings and accessories: the cheap and instant results.
  • Area 2 Upholstery: Requiring a little more money and confidence.
  • Area 3 Painting walls and furniture: This requires commitment and overall confidence.


Next week: Lighting