Renting a home need not cramp your interior style

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More and more of us are living in rented homes - but can we ever make them feel like our own? Joanna Thornhill talks about her mission to help tenants create stylish nests.

Our home should be a place where we can truly feel ourselves and show off our style and taste - but millions of us are living in someone else’s property, with all the limitations that imposes.

Tenants have to cope with decor choices that aren’t theirs and landlords’ rules on what they can and cannot do to rooms. To add to the frustration - especially for decor divas - current spiralling house prices mean it could be years before many can make the giant financial leap onto the property ladder.

After living in 12 rented homes, Joanna Thornhill knows exactly what it’s like to “have a sinking heart as you look at wallpaper that doesn’t appeal and furniture that’s seen better days, and to be unable to make even basic cosmetic alterations”.

She has come to the rescue with her new book, Home For Now, which bursts with inspiring ideas, practical advice, projects and tips to transform rooms without breaking the rules or busting the budget. It’s just as suitable for those who are nesting temporarily in their first-bought house or flat, before investing in their ‘forever’ home.

“I’ve found through personal experience and through visiting a range of homes for the book, that rather than feeling burdened by the challenges of living in a place that cannot really be changed, it’s possible to be empowered by those circumstances.”

Here are some of Joanna’s tips:

Hide hideous walls by cladding a large freestanding board in wooden planks, or simply use a trompe l’oeil wallpaper. B&Q’s vinyl Wood Effect Wallpaper in Brown by Lutece, £14.98, looks like planks (www.diy.com).

A tenancy agreement may stipulate that you cannot make changes to your home, but if there’s a specific task you feel needs doing you could approach the landlord to ask if you can do it yourself. Stick ‘em up

Pictures and photos instantly personalise a space but hanging these up can be a problem if the landlord will object to potential damage of walls from hooks and nails.

“Removable wall stickers, and increasingly, removable murals and even wallpapers have risen in popularity in recent years,” says Thornhill.

Make the most of paint leftovers or tester pots and create your own inexpensive artwork with a cheap canvas. Small cardboard gift boxes glued together create a display space,Small spaces mean storage is vital but as a tenant, spending thousands on bespoke fitted storage that you’d leave behind if you move is unlikely to be an option, says Thornhill.She suggests converting a redundant wardrobe into an armoire by adding shelves inside and, if the furniture is yours, paint it. Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill is published by CICO, priced £16.99. Available to readers for £11.99 (inc p&p). Visit www.cicobooks.co.uk or call 01256 302 699 quoting ref GLR 9OJ.