Home sweet home

> Tips to make a rented house more homely

LIKE it or not, owning a property unit marks success in life, which could be a reason why many Malaysians shun the idea of renting. Although house prices have risen over the past few years, so too has popularity in ownership of property for investment and to provide financial security in an unstable economy. However, not everyone can afford buying a house of their own, especially the young who are starting out on their careers. Hence, many young Malaysians have no choice but to rent to make ends meet and hold off owning a home of their own until later in life.

In the case of rentals, landlords usually try to keep units modestly furnished, if at all. Some reasons for this "bare essential" is to lessen the margins of expenditure on the landlord's side, having to repair or refurbish each time a tenant comes or goes. Due to this, landlords usually forbid tenants making permanent cosmetic changes to interiors of the home. In fact, some don't even allow a nail in the wall.

While this may pose a challenge and discourage home rentals as home may not come across as homely without that soft yellow light, family picture wall, your favourite themed interiors or even drapes instead of white office blinds – here are a few tips to help put a homely feel to rented residences.

Before decorating your rented crib, here are a few important details to take note of:

»Be sure to get written permission from the landlord if you want to make any permanent changes to the unit, such as painting a wall or knocking in some nails.
»Set a budget and stick to it. There is no point in spending much on a temporary address as you might need to repeat the process when you move again.
»If this is your first "home", it will be a good idea to look for furniture that can work in different settings and are portable. This would mean no fixed or permanent furniture like ceiling-to-floor wardrobes or built-in cabinets and such unless you are willing to leave them behind and the landlord has approved of it.
»Before starting any redecoration work, take photos of the home in the state that you first received it in. This is to avoid any misunderstanding with the landlord when you move out and return the unit/keys.
»Have boxes ready to keep any rental fixtures that you might want to replace with your own decor. These make it easier when moving out.

With all the safety nets in place, it is time to put your creativity to the test and work around permanent fixtures of your rented abode. Here are some suggestions for:

> Boring white walls
Wallpapers, with their bright, bold and beautiful colours and patterns, are quickly becoming a favourite of many home owners. Wallpapers also come in a diverse range of designs to suit every decorator's taste and for every decor theme. The rising popularity has also given way to a simpler and less permanent solution, which is removable wallpaper.

This paste-up which is easily removable, offers renters a much-needed relief to the uniform and mundane white walls that often plaster many Malaysian homes. With wallpaper, one can create an accent wall of misty forests for a subdued mood in the bedroom to help lull you to sleep or add personality to the living room with striped patterns or prints. Interior designer Kyle Schuneman used scotch tape to create a diagonal-striped "wallpaper" for the living room of his rented home. The diagonal stripes on either side of the mantel helped "anchor the room and highlight the fireplace as a focal point," said Schuneman.

For a decor that is slightly easier to put up, look for wall decals (also known as stickers). These are easier to find at hardware stores and DIY shops and are often sold at relatively low prices. These days, decals come in many configurations, as quotes, photo frames and even world maps, among others. Some recommendations suggest placing
a horizontal decal above the couch as an anchor in the living room or silhouettes of fantasy creatures to decorate children's rooms. When the time comes to move, just peel these off and throw them away.

> Stark naked floors
Flooring is usually the least of problems for Malaysian homes, which is why it is often a neglected part of the home scene that hardly receives any attention. Learning how to use rugs to define a space can help make rented living spaces feel more homely.

In the midst of house-hunting, lifestyle blogger and textile designer Joanna Hawley put up a post on how she used rugs to define spaces in her open-concept apartment.

"I'm no stranger to studio apartment living. In fact, I've never had a bedroom door as a renter. I didn't really think that a loft would be much different, but somehow this one does. Whatever the reason, I felt a need to define spaces within the loft and rugs were a quick and easy way to do that," Hawley wrote on her blog, jojotastic.com.

Starting with the bedroom, Hawley chose a soft 5ft x 7ft yarn rug in beige. The small size avoids an overpowering of the anchor rug, which is the one in the living room, but still aids in setting up the bedroom "zone".

The living room "zone" is marked by a 8ft x 10ft rug in shades of black, white and grey. The ornate design makes it a striking accent that draws attention towards the living area and away from the rest of the loft. The rug features a black border that visually tricks the eye into creating a separate zone from the rest of the loft. The neutral tones of the two rugs eases the process of complementing and conforming with furniture pieces of any colour.

> Dull and lifeless interiors
An earlier tip mentioned in the article advises to purchase furniture pieces that are both easy to move and complement with. This may lead many to stay on the safe side and go with neutral-coloured pieces. However, one should not stave off from bringing colour into the home via accent/small furnishing pieces.

While removable wallpaper can be used to remodel other parts of the home, Schuneman used peel-and-stick patterned wallpaper to give the built-in kitchen cabinets an upgrade. The stark white cabinets have since been given a designer touch with silver patterned stick-on wallpaper. Alternatively, use marble-designed removable wallpaper on kitchen countertops for a modern flavour and feel.

In bedrooms, purchase bedding, pillow cases, blankets and curtains in bright colours and designs. Whenever you switch them out, the pops of colour remain. The best part about using changeable items as colour accents is that every other week, it looks like you have redecorated the home, bringing a refreshed feeling to the home and the occupants. Bright colours are also known to complement neutral shades of furniture pieces.

An alternative to knocking in nails is to use stick-on hooks when hanging up photos. This will leave lesser damage to the walls, the most, glue stains which can be washed off or hidden behind a coat of paint. Renters can now bring in the "family feel" to their rented abodes by putting up a gallery wall of family photos with no worry of ruffling the landlord's feathers.

Lastly, do not let the short period of living in a rented space hold you back from decorating interiors the way you would in a property of your own. Be creative and diligent in finding non-permanent solutions that allow you to revert the unit to its original state on moving out.