New lease of life: how to make the most of a rental property

Not owning your own home doesn’t mean that you can’t make it marvellous, as this south Manchester apartment shows

Midcentury design classics paired with contemporary pieces; colour-coordinated objects on simple white shelving; art and textiles that add pattern to a space… That’s what you get when you walk into a creative couple’s home where imagination and style nous compensate for the lack of a generous budget.

The south Manchester apartment that artist Laurie Maun shares with partner Dominic Owen, founder of unisex clothing brand Heresy, and their newborn baby, Sonny, is an exercise in versatile living. Having always lived in rental homes, they’ve honed their decor skills and furniture choices to easily add character to a space – but without the DIY.

Clean lines: stained-glass windows, plants in the white-tiled bathroom.
Clean lines: stained-glass windows, plants in the white-tiled bathroom. Photograph: Claire Bingham

“With renting, the cons probably outweigh the pros, but I like the flexibility,” explains Laurie, who moved with Dominic from London to Didsbury two years ago. “It allows an opportunity to explore new areas and try before you buy. We’ve been ready to buy for a little while, but the market is scary at the minute. If we had gone straight into a house sale, it could have been the wrong decision.”

The cons? “We’ve had bad luck the past few years with landlords selling and realised how quickly you can get kicked out – which is why we won’t be decorating. To invest time and money making someone else’s property nicer doesn’t really appeal. It’s why we’re drawn to interiors with white walls and wooden floors that you can easily make look nice.” Here, the stained-glass bay window and large, white-tiled bathroom are a plus.

Home comforts: the Ligne Roset Togo sofa and a woven rug in the living room.
Home comforts: the Ligne Roset Togo sofa and a woven rug in the living room. Photograph: Claire Bingham

Laurie has a few tricks for transforming a rental into a stylish family home that feels your own. Art plays a huge role and plants are an easy and affordable way to add personality. She also has rugs in all the rooms. “I think they bring a room together,” she says. “When we moved in, there were picture hooks already up in all the key areas. The plants we had before and the rugs are easy to move to any new space. Luckily, they were the perfect fit.”

In a rented property, it can be difficult to put your stamp on it without risking your deposit. “The general rule is to ask for permission,” she says. Don’t assume you will be allowed to paint, change curtains, or put shelves up on the walls: check the terms of your lease first.

Kids’ stuff: artworks, toys and new linen curtains in the nursery.
Kids’ stuff: artworks, toys and new linen curtains in the nursery. Photograph: Claire Bingham

One thing Laurie did install was new curtains in the bedroom and Sonny’s nursery. She chose a simple colour and fabric – linen, in the hope they will work in any new place. But her colourful artwork is the main way she injects personality. If lease terms don’t allow pictures to be hung on walls, then boards or canvases wallpapered or painted in colours you love can be propped up instead. She describes her style as “neither introvert nor extrovert, but something in the middle. It’s quite minimal and soft, but there are some bold pops of colour, too. I like seeing more contemporary pieces paired with older design styles. I also like the look of natural fibres, like the woven rugs, against the coloured plastic stools. The contrast works for me.”

The furniture pieces are all investment buys. “Since we started living together, we have built up our collection. We have a little furniture pot. When we reach the amount needed, we treat ourselves to one more piece.” The latest buy is the Ligne Roset Togo sofa, which the couple found on Gumtree. “We couldn’t believe our luck, we got such a good deal,” Laurie says. “I was after a neutral-coloured version, so I was excited to find this.”

Laurie’s latest collection of paintings was inspired by the stained-glass windows of the living room. “I was painting from home when Sonny was having his naps, so was looking around my immediate surroundings for ideas.” The house may not be theirs, but they are making the most of what they have.

Claire Bingham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
New lease of life: how to redecorate a rental property
You don’t have to be a home owner or have lots of money to create a ‘natural and nourishing home’, says Africa Daley-Clarke

Nell Card

22, Feb, 2020 @4:00 PM

Article image
Character study: second lease of life for a Victorian home
New rooms filled with old furniture give this north London terrace back to its roots

Jo Leevers

25, Feb, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
French evolution: a historic mansion in Paris is given a new lease of life
Restored original features rub shoulders with design classics in this glorious Parisian home

Kate Lawson

08, Nov, 2020 @10:30 AM

Article image
Bold and brave: design in a rental house
With creative use of colour and lots of art, living in a rental property was no barrier to creating an inspiring, individual home for this designer

Kate Lawson

06, Jul, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
Making a splash: a rental flat that’s awash with colour
For designer Anna Jacobs, colour is an essential mood enhancer – and buoyant aquatics proved the perfect backdrop for her family

Isabelle Lane

29, Feb, 2020 @4:00 PM

Article image
Property fantasies are quickly ruined by reality | Eva Wiseman
Allowing yourself to daydream about the perfect home is one thing, but the romance is spoiled as soon as you open the door on to the real world, finds Eva Wiseman

Eva Wiseman

22, Aug, 2021 @7:30 AM

Article image
The UK’s 50 most fabulous independent shops
Quirky, original and a joy to browse in, independent shops are the lifeblood of many of our high streets. Even better when they come with a great website. You’ll have your own favourites, of course, but here are 50 to check out

Scarlett Conlon, Annalisa Barbieri, Louise Boland and Andy Perry

28, Nov, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Home advantage: making the most of WFH
What are the secrets to successful home working? Three creatives share their top tips. By Nell Card

Nell Card

27, Jun, 2020 @3:00 PM

Article image
Life on the ocean wave
A makeover for this one-bed flat in St Leonards harks back to the building’s Art Deco origins. By Jo Leevers

Jo Leevers

14, Sep, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
Life in a Modern masterpiece home
A rare intact British Modernist house has been decorated as if the era never ended, finds Serena Fokschaner

Serena Fokschaner

03, Sep, 2017 @5:00 AM