Decorating a Rental Or How To Do It On A Budget

August 13, 2013

Recently I shared with you photos of my bedroom makeover. As probably anyone else, who lives in a rented house I had to face the following challenges:

– Restrictions made by the owners. Luckily mine were quite flexible and allowed be to change the walls and ceiling finishes, however it doesn’t always happen.

– If you rent a house with furniture already, you have to accept that this is a given, so you can’t change it or get rid of it.

– And the last and probably the most  important challenge is the money issue, as many of us wouldn’t want to invest a lot of money in the refurbishment, if the house is not our property.

Today, I will mainly talk about the last point and will share some tips, where you can cut your costs when decorating a rental.

Where to save:

1) Does the brand really matter?

When I was choosing the paint for my bedroom, I asked the vendor for more budget friendly options. He recommended me the paint which was made on the same factory as one famous brand and he assured me that the quality is more or less the same. Since my bedroom is divided in two areas, I decided to paint them differently to visually enhance this separation. Out of curiosity I took that famous brand for one area and then the cheaper version for the second. What can I say? I didn’t notice any major difference. Looking at my bedroom, can you tell me which section is covered with the paint which is twice more expensive than the other?

bedroom after 2

2) Look for bargains

Talk to the vendors, tell them that you refurbish a rental and you want to do it on a budget. When I came to choose a standing mirror, I initially got a quote for 80 dollars but when I said that I am renovating a rented apartment, the vendor showed me a wonderful mirror human height with a tiny scratch on the back which I didn’t even notice and said he will give me it for … 12 dollars! Now looking at this wonderful mirror, can you tell me where this scratch is? I will not exaggerate by saying that actually only I know about it.

bedroom 10

3) Save on materials

We all know that natural generally costs more than artificial. In interior design there are several areas where you shouldn’t save on materials at any cost. For example, I will not be able to sleep on synthetic fabrics. However, back to my mirror. I could have ordered a fancy frame made from natural wood, which would cost me a fortune. What I did, I ordered a fancy frame, but made from plastic. Now, honestly, can you really tell me about it from a glance?

4) DIY

Expose your creativity and step into the crafty world.  I had to hire a tailor to make a headboard for my bed, but if I had a sewing machine, I am sure I could do it myself.

This beautiful side table from a reclaimed wood very easy to do yourself. Image source.

This beautiful side table from a reclaimed wood and it is very easy to do it yourself. Image source.

5) Flea Markets

It is amazing what kind of objects you can find sometimes on flea markets, garage sales and antique shops. You can purchase something really unique without paying a lot of money for it. Thus, I got a vintage suitcase actually for free:  the shop keeper gave me it as a present when I bought an antique chest of drawers. Now I use it as a bed side table.

My flea market finds in Armenia.

Flea market in Armenia

6) Save on the hidden side

The backside of my headboard is made from fabric left overs: tailor just sewed them together. Sometimes it is very easy to save on the backsides and hidden corners by using cheaper materials there.

Where not to save:

1) Equipment

Looking for everything cheap I bought: 1) paint brush so soft that it was ruined after 5 minutes of use, 2) spatula made from iron and not from steel so it was all covered with rust, 3) roller so inconvenient that my hands were all aching after painting. As the result I had to come back to the shop and buy everything again, now more quality. Remember, cheapest is the dearest.

2) Textiles

Beautiful curtains, cushions and throws will create unforgettable atmosphere at your house. I am not talking to go to Rubelli or Etro, completely understand that not everybody can afford it. But searching for fabrics, choose the quality ones, preferably made from natural fibres. They will last and they will make a huge impact in the room.

September 6, 2013 at 10:46 am

I didn’t notice your room was two colors until now, great touch!!!

Surrounded By Pretty Blog

September 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I know, I purposely made this colour transition very smooth to achieve very serene and calm environment. Thank you 🙂

September 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

This is great! I decorate my own home which we own following many of your principles. That’s where I part ways from saving on materials because even if I’m the only one who knows it’s plastic instead of wood, it bothers me. But for a rental and furnishings you won’t keep, you’re perfectly right!

That is a marvelous flea market photo! I’d love if you’d do more posts on flea markets over there. Here in the southern US, our flea markets tend to be junk markets–several steps below “junque” markets! So I use antique malls and several stand-alone antique stores I have come to know over the years, and that’s one reason I can have solid wood furniture instead of big box store furniture that will need to be tossed in 10 years.

Your hints about not skimping on materials and fabrics are excellent. There’s nothing like high thread count cotton sheets for a good night’s sleep!

September 7, 2013 at 5:30 am

Thank you, Susan! It is great to read that you use the same principles at home as me! Can understand your point about wood and plastic – when I have my own house I would apply it too )). Another important thing to consider is eco-friendliness of the material. Generally, of course, wood is more eco-friendly than plastic, however I have read yesterday that around 60 percent of tropical wood is important illegally destroying completely the tropical forests. Important thing to consider when buying a beautiful mahogany table!
Flea market in Yerevan is honestly amazing. I am not tired to go there every day! Will definitely post more about it. Have you read my posts about flea market in Tbilisi? –
Sad to hear that you don’t have interesting flea markets in your area – it is really a wonderful source for designers to search for something unique.

September 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm

I did read your Tbilisi flea market post. By the way, if you ever get to Paris, the flea market at Porte de Clignancourt, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, is absolutely fantastic!!!

I read that buying antique furniture, which also goes for flea market buys, is the ultimate “green” choice because you’re recycling, repurposing and preserving. It makes complete sense!

September 8, 2013 at 8:55 am

I’ve been to Paris but never to flea market there – thank you for great tip, as we are planning to go this year.
Completely agree with you that flea market finds are the ultimate green choice.

September 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

P.S. I’ve been unable to comment on some of your posts lately. I don’t know what WP is doing!

September 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Hi Anna! I think these are great tips for anyone decorating on a budget – whether you own or rent!! Very useful article 🙂


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