Primary school teacher Amelia Olsson is house proud. She’s spent her 20s living in different share houses with different people, but has consistently made each one feel like home with her own personal style.
“It’s really important for me to be able to come home to a relaxed space that feels like me,” she says.
“When my house is ordered I feel more ordered in my life, too.”
But decorating a rental home doesn’t come easily for everyone. Some of us fall into the trap of thinking we’re just a tenant in someone else’s home, so why bother? Or worse, have been made to feel that good style is only accessible with a big budget.
So instead, we fill our home with the necessities: the bed, fridge, dining table, couch and television (or more likely a laptop to stream our favourite shows in bed) and everything stays the same until we move onto next house.
If that doesn’t sound great, know that there are ways to work with what you’ve got to transform the house you’re renting (and possibly sharing) into a warm, inviting and stylish space.
We spoke to Amelia and interior designer and stylist Stephanie Stamatis to find out how.
“Chat to your landlord or real estate agent and find out what cosmetic changes you can make to the home as it will give you a scope to play with,” Ms Stamatis says.
Ask if you can hang artwork, swap curtains or plant a veggie patch in the garden, anything that allows you to inject some of your own personality into the space on a larger scale.
When it comes to styling our homes, many of us get sucked into impulse purchases, leading to mismatched interiors.
When Amelia first moved into her Melbourne share house, she was aware that the “house already had an existing style” and instead focused on making her room the best it could be.
“I keep it minimal and have nice bed linen, an artwork my little sister painted me and some of my personal trinkets out, but will switch them out if things start to look messy,” she says.
“My work is really busy and I love being able to come home to this relaxing space.”
Ms Stamatis has a similar approach.
“I’m really big on creating personal space for mental space, and it’s important to carve a space that is totally yours and you feel comfortable within,” she says.
For rooms without built-in wardrobes, Ms Stamatis suggests keeping things looking tidy by using timber clothes hangers or hiding cables and smalls in stackable boxes.
Bed linen and storage also make a visual statement.
“It’s probably going to be the first thing you see and really anchors the room, so choose something you want to live with,” she says.
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“Creating galleries of artworks, especially in a share house, is a really special way to represent everyone in the home,” Ms Stamatis says.
Whether you opt for a group or individual hang, Ms Stamatis recommends finding frames for your pieces.
“Go to the op shop and look for frames that are a similar colour or material and punch out the sad clown out and replace it with your pieces.”
Trust your own taste, check out local galleries and choose work to mark moments in your life, says one collector.
Amelia’s home displays a collection of artworks belonging to herself and four housemates.
“Framing makes a huge difference. One of my favourite pieces is a postcard I really love framed,” she says.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a poster from a magazine or a photo you’ve taken. As long as you frame it, it’ll look more put together.”
From posters, postcards, personal photography and even “scribbles from friends”, Ms Stamatis says there are no rules when collecting and displaying work that you love.
If hanging art is not an option, lean your art against walls, benches and bookshelves instead.
“Try layering it, so a smaller work sits in front of a larger one.”
“The mood of a room can easily be remedied by light so make sure you always check your light source,” Ms Stamatis says.
A simple fix can be switching out existing globes for ones which diffuse warm or cool light.
Warm light shines yellow and is appropriate for bedrooms and lounge rooms, whereas cool light shines brightly and is good for kitchens and bathrooms.
“If you’ve inherited bent venetians [blinds] or tired curtains, ask your landlord if you can take them down. Your window is your view to the world and needs to let light in and be clean.”
She suggests replacing with a curtain rod with curtain hooks and clips and attaching pre-made plain linen curtains or repurposing flat bed sheets in a neutral tone.
“Always display a mix of things on your bookshelves, coffee table and other surfaces,” Ms Stamatis says.
“Pile them with books, vases with fresh flowers, a tray with incense, whatever you like.”
Amelia does the same in her house, but she’s conscious of clutter in a house of five.
“We like to display our beautiful things — in the kitchen we’ve got our favourite pots out, some vases and nice glasses — but always keep benches clean and do a cull if things start to look messy,” she says.
“Another thing we love is keeping our fruit in a big bowl on the kitchen table and, if we’ve got some spare money, buying fresh flowers for the house. They are small things but make the house feel nice.”
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