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).
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.
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.
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?