How to Make a Rented House a Home with Emma Jane Palin

Design blogger and serial renter, Emma Jane Palin, is an expert at putting her own stamp on a rental property whilst still holding onto her deposit.

Emma (along with her partner and their pooch, George) is currently bringing a little Californian cool to a British seaside abode. Here she shares her advice on how to make a rented house a home.

Those of us living in rental properties know all too well the questionable taste of landlords. Dated décor, faded carpets, cheap as chips fixtures and fittings… Not exactly the stuff interior design dreams are made of.

However, with a little creativity and knowhow, it might be easier than you think to make exciting design changes to a flat or a house, even if home ownership seems a long way off.

‘Imagine you’re an interior designer. You wouldn't do up a home for a client without pitching to them first. And the same applies here.’

It’s all about getting off on the right foot, says Emma. ‘I decided to take the power into my own hands long ago and made sure that any landlord was willing to let us decorate before moving in. And I think that confidence has worked in my favour.’

She stresses that it’s important to have a clear plan and tell landlords exactly what you'd like to do. Mood boards sometimes come in handy, Emma tells us. ‘Imagine you’re an interior designer. You wouldn't do up a home for a client without pitching to them first. And the same applies here.’

In Emma’s experience, landlords rarely say no to improvements that ultimately add value to their properties. She and her partner have painted, taken up flooring, sanded floorboards…

They’ve also made lots of smaller changes. Things that make a big impact but can easily be undone (as per a tenancy contract) when it comes time to pack up and move on.

One wall painted a statement colour (or in Emma’s signature stripes), upping the lighting and introducing the right accessories like Framed Photo Prints can make all the difference.

‘I think my vibe is quite Californian, a muted colour palette with lots of natural materials and retro touches.’

Since moving into their current Margate home late last year, they’ve been very busy. Inspired by an impressive blank canvas set over three floors, they’ve already worked their magic on the majority of the house, with just two rooms and a garden left to tackle.

How would she describe her interior style? ‘I think my vibe is quite Californian,’ says Emma, ‘A muted colour palette with lots of natural materials and retro touches.’

‘Both my partner and I are massive fans of mid-century furniture,’ she continues, ‘So we like to incorporate statement pieces with bohemian accents.

For the moment, the master bedroom up in the loft is Emma’s favourite room in the house. ‘It's the perfect encapsulation of my style and is just so lovely to hang around in,’ she tells us.

‘It's modern but also has seventies references and is full of warm hues. I love an earthy colour palette. Plus, you can't beat our rattan bed - it really is a showstopper.’

So don’t put those design ideas on ice. If you’re in a rental property and just itching to introduce a little of your own style to the place, check out Emma’s tips below on how to make a rented house a home.

How to Make a Rented House a Home: Emma’s Top Tips

There are so many easy updates you can make. But here are some of the things I do almost instantly upon moving into a new rental property.

#1 Hang Artwork

I use picture hanging strips to hang all my artwork and have never had any issues with wall damage. (Just make sure you follow the instructions!) I mix up art prints with photographs and Polaroids for gallery walls that have oodles of personality.

#2 Tie In Your Soft Furnishings

While you might think that a brown carpet can't be salvaged, you can totally work it to your advantage. Add neutral tones with blankets and cushions as well as dusty pink hues that will take some of the attention away from the floor. It's all about accessorising accessory and nothing is a better accessory than a high quality photo book, that make's for an ideal coffee table book.

#3 Consider Removable Wallpaper


There are tons of new products out there now, specifically aimed at renters. And they actually work! Vinyl wallpaper can instantly refresh your walls and can easily be removed at the end of your tenancy.

#4 Choose Furniture for the Long Term

When it comes to furniture, I like to buy investment pieces rather than quick fixes. That way furniture lasts through a tenancy and beyond (and tends to steal the attention when anyone comes to visit). I think it’s really worthwhile spending a little more to get furniture that you really adore.

Big thanks to Emma for sharing her photography and interior tips. You can see more of her rental interiors over on Instagram and her website.

And if you’re on a mission to personalise your rented abode, check out our Photo Tiles – stickable (and restickable) wall art that doesn’t require nails.