Shop Etsy

How to style your rented home, by Joanna Thornhill

Jun 24, 2014

by Jo Casley handmade and vintage goods

Joanna Thornhill is a freelance interiors stylist and writer based in London, whose work features in magazines (including Craft from Woman’s Weekly, House Beautiful and Country Homes & Interiors) and websites (Houzz, Heart Home and WGSN), as well as on her own blog Stylist’s Own where she documents the shoestring renovation of her “ramshackle” Victorian terraced house.


She recently published her first book, Home for Now (£16.99, Cico Books available on Amazon), aimed at renters and first-time buyers looking for inexpensive decorating and styling tips to enhance their temporary abode, without upsetting their landlord!

Here, Joanna shares her five top tips for decorating a rented home using Etsy buys.

“I love rooting around Etsy’s virtual shelves – for me, it’s one of the best places on the web to find interesting craft and vintage items you simply wouldn’t find anywhere else, which, when you don’t have time to rummage round charity shops or craft fairs, can be a godsend. I didn’t doubt that I could highlight my five tips using solely Etsy purchases; the problem was editing it all down! But if you’re looking for ideas for your own rental, or simply don’t want to make costly or permanent changes to your home, try some of these out for yourself…


Keep your landlord happy by attaching artwork to your walls in impermanent, reversible ways. Washi tape (1) is a great place to start – simply tack up any prints by the corners, then remove without a trace when required. This nifty wooden poster hanger (2) can be used to hang prints of multiple sizes, and as it’s lightweight, it can be suspended from a single nail. Or go to the other extreme and look out for extra-large, heavy statement pieces you can simply lean up against the wall, like this old vintage advertising sign (3).


(1)MT Set of three slim washi tapes, £2.85, Fox and Star, (2)Wooden poster hanger, £14.64, Durido (3)Original Lyons tea metal shop advertising sign, £65, Goodnight Prudence.


Crates used as storage, from Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill.

Crates used as storage, from Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill. Photo by Emma Mitchell.

Shopping for storage needn’t mean trips to that ubiquitous Swedish superstore (you know the one) and if your home is somewhat temporary, let your storage match this. Vintage suitcases are great for holding myriad items in – start a collection and build it up over time. Sturdy numbers like this one (4) are great for going at the bottom of a pile. Old fruit or wine crates (5), similarly, offer a wealth of options. Stack them up to create freestanding bookcases, toiletry displays or even housing for plants and if you move out, they’re already packed! A wooden ladder (6) can provide both storage and display options too – lean one against a bathroom wall to hang towels on, store one in a bedroom for folded clothes or shoes, or if you’re able to drill in a few holes in the wall, suspend one horizontally as makeshift cubby shelving.


(4)Vintage apple red suitcase, £35, Rose and Water Vintage  (5) Vintage apple crate, £25, English Regalia   (6)Handmade decorative wooden ladder, £36, Pobi Shop


Surface and shelving space might be lacking in your home-for-now, but just simple elements, such as a few single blooms displayed in individual bottles (7) creates a homely touch. Old drinks crates with inbuilt bottle dividers (8) stood on their side can be invaluable for displaying smaller ornaments, as can old printer’s trays. Likewise, the letters themselves (9) can also make for great, versatile display items – start a collection, stack some up and have fun spelling out words for a quirky look.


(7)Vintage milk bottles, £10 each, Rebecca Hearts Vintage   (8)Vintage Crystal Club beverage crate, £25, The Unique Magpie   (9)Modern Home vintage letterpress word, £17.09, Handmade by Alison


Extra wide washi tape creates perfect straight lines, from Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill.

Extra wide washi tape creates perfect straight lines, from Home For Now by Joanna Thornhill. Photo by Emma Mitchell.

If you’re allowed to paint but not wallpaper, a patterned roller is the next best thing (10) for adding pattern, and it can easily be reversed to neutral with merely a coat of paint. Or consider creating a ‘feature wall’ on a temporary, non-fixed surface leant up against a wall, such as a large piece of wood (a spare sheet of MDF or even an old flat door would work just fine) and create your own decoupage display using old book pages (11), magazine cuttings or favourite sheets of retro wrapping paper for instant vintage chic. Washi tape can also be used to decorate walls – try running a few lengths vertically at key points in your room for an asymmetric contemporary stripe. Look out for extra-wide MT Casa washi tape (12), designed specifically for this purpose.


(10)Paint roller applicator for patterned paint rollers from Deerblue (patterned rollers sold separately), £10, Deerblue Design  (11)Paper ephemera (pack of ten pieces), £3.75, Vintage Curiosity Shop   (12)Japanese MT ‘Casa’ washi tape, £6.03, mechakucha808


If you’d rather leave your walls clear, make your furniture the focal point of your interior instead. Add vibrant paint to a cupboard or bookcase (13), making it the star of the show, or keep things subtle with just a splash of interest by updating furniture handles (14) – particularly handy if the furniture is your landlord’s and the holes are in the same place, as you can simply switch theirs back in again at a later date. Think about using items outside of their intended purpose – an old writing bureau (15) or even an old sewing table could work just as well to house a laptop, a chair could double as a bedside table or even stick some shelves in a redundant old wardrobe to transform it into an armoire.”


(13)Demi-lune painted 1940’s cabinet, £650, Hats, House and Home  (14)Wooden knob rose flower vintage embroidery design, £9, Chocolate Creative  (15)Vintage sideboard mid-century desk, £250, The Vintageware Store

What’s your top tip for making a rented home feel special?


  • Agasart

    Aga from AgasJourney said 5 years ago

    cool and handy ideas. Thank you for sharing!

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage from maggiemaevintage said 5 years ago

    always looking for creative ideas for repurposing..

  • SusanJeanPeters

    Susan Jean Peters from susanjeanpeters said 5 years ago

    Inspiring, practical and a great share.

  • paperpatternsilk

    Monica Memory from PaperPatternSilk said 5 years ago

    Lots of cute ideas here! Might have to implement a couple in my apartment, it's not nearly as cute as it could be. I'm already using old crates as storage though, so I've got that one down. : )

  • jeniciawright

    Jenicia from PaperType said 5 years ago

    Great blog post! I love the storage ideas, especially the vintage suitcase!

  • lyubovpics

    Lyubov Volosatova from Europeanartworks said 5 years ago

    Great ideas!!!

  • papertreeshop

    Moon Munson from papertreeshop said 5 years ago

    What great ideas! I'd love to try them all :)

  • adorapop

    Peggy Seymour from adorapop said 5 years ago

    I recently moved back into a rented apartment and it was difficult to adjust to not being able to put pictures up on the walls because I love them and have so many! I got around the problem by constructing a big fabric screen that I have propped against the wall. I can attach as many pictures as I want to that without getting in trouble and the fabric looks lovely too!

  • doodlemakes

    Louise Blakey from LouiseBlakeyDesigns said 5 years ago

    Love this, such an inspiring post!

  • redreddesign

    Holly from JuRocks said 5 years ago

    I love the temporary wall idea..saves me from trying to get bluetack marks off the wall!

  • margaretburns131

    Margaret from Sewinspiredbags said 5 years ago

    I love the storage ideas, and that gorgeous 1940's cabinet.....I'm going to use these ideas in my holiday home - am decorating that with vintage/2nd hand items. Thank you for the pictures and ideas!

  • baetensjosien

    Josien from JeTrouve said 5 years ago

    So inspirational! thnx

  • UnderMilkWood

    UnderMilkWood from UnderMilkWood said 5 years ago

    Love this inspirational article!

  • joannathornhill1

    Joanna Thornhill said 5 years ago

    Glad this has proved useful - plenty more ideas where they came from in the book! *subtle sales hint ;-)* @adorapop fab idea re the large canvas screen, I also like the idea of doing something similar with a large sheet of pegboard - it's such a cool look and lets you change arrangements on a whim without worrying about damage, whether you're able to make holes in walls or not!

  • shannipoop66

    Shannon Harris said 5 years ago

    What is the name of the paint color on the front of book? It is AWESOME SAUCE!!!!!

  • epicstitching

    Mel Ladner from epicstitching said 5 years ago

    There is an awkward space in our home behind a pillar that is very much "dead space" but begging for something unique. We thought the ladder converted into a lean-to shelf was such a fantastic idea we've been on the lookout for one for the last month. So awesome to see an idea we want to implement make a top list of decor ideas! Now I know it's the right move for that space.

  • jannetjelagendijk

    Jeanine Lagendijk Paolo Coffari from JJePa said 5 years ago

    We like a lot your ideas and way of presenting! Good luck from The Netherlands and Italy!

  • Glenberg

    Linda Soderberg from CinderellaButtons said 5 years ago

    These are great ideas. We have just transformed some tired old bedroom furniture, into modern pieces. We used various materials to cover them, just like yours in the blog they look brilliant.

  • lyndseyjames

    Lyndsey James from LyndseyJames said 5 years ago

    Lovely ideas! I'm loving the wide washi tape :) Thanks for sharing! LJ x

  • emilyjohndesigns

    emilyjohndesigns from EmilyJohnMakes said 5 years ago

    Really great inexpensive ideas - thanks for sharing

  • CoolCarCuffs

    Stuart Harvey from CoolCarCuffs said 5 years ago

    some pretty cool ideas for homeowners too ive seen lots of this washi tape lately on pinterest, im going to go get some! i also saw someone printing stuff on wax paper and then transferring it with a credit card to wooden crates. loving this idea

  • AgelessThings

    AgelessThings from VintageAgelessThings said 5 years ago

    Very nice ideas! Even though I own my own home and I see a few ideas I can use. I love the crates for some of my many books.

  • PrayerNotes

    Prayer Notes by Cynthia from PrayerNotes said 5 years ago

    Wonderful ideas!

  • dmlivett

    Dawn Marie Livett from CharismaJewellery said 5 years ago

    Great ideas, wonderful post

  • VinylImpression

    Edward Currer from Vinylimpression said 5 years ago

    These are great ideas, I particularly like the ladder for storage, we now have one in our house! I also love having a world map decal on my wall, completely removable with no wall damage so perfect for my rented space (even easier than painting!)

  • EkoArtLand

    Olga from LinenWoolRainbow said 5 years ago

    I love artwork ! It's beautiful !Thank you for sharing!

  • gabriellamoldo

    Gabriella Moldovanyi from LeaflingBags said 5 years ago

    great tips, thank you

  • selectarug1

    peter knight said 5 years ago

    Loved your ideas thanks for sharing,i am pretty much sure it will help many of us

  • winsomeyim

    WING SUM YIM from fabricAsians said 5 years ago

    It's beautiful!! Linen, cotton and silk soft interior decor are great!

Sign in to add your own