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Generation Rent: How to transform your home (without annoying your landlord)

Medina Grillo reveals her top tips for decorating when you're renting

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Removable Peacock Feather wallpaper from Wallsauce

Removable Peacock Feather wallpaper from Wallsauce

Medina Grillo

Medina Grillo

French Connection Zinc sofa and armchair from DFS

French Connection Zinc sofa and armchair from DFS

Zuiver Tripod Floor Lamp from Woo Design

Zuiver Tripod Floor Lamp from Woo Design

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Removable Peacock Feather wallpaper from Wallsauce

So you're a renter. And you love interiors. But your current rental leaves a lot to be desired. There's flaking plaster on the ceiling, a worrisome stain on the floorboards and a nasty 1990s kitchen. A lick of paint and a bit of DIY would help a lot, and you're prepared to sink a bit of time and money into cosying up the gaff, but your landlord is a stickler and his favourite word is no.

That'd be no paint, no picture hooks, and definitely no wallpaper. You try to tell him that you're a talented upcycling enthusiast with a flair for colour, but he's having none of it. He's seen your type before. And he has your deposit. Game, set and match.

So there you are, on a lumpy sofa in a wood-chip and magnolia room, sighing over Instagram. It feels that everything is stacked against you and the only way to have agency over your own décor is to buy a place of your own.

Quite frankly, that isn't going to be happening any time soon. So you keep on saving (good plan) and put your creativity on hold (not so good). Living in an imaginary future isn't emotionally healthy behaviour. None of us know how long we're going be here and if we have decorative dreams to realise, we're best putting them into action now. Who knows if there will be interiors in the great hereafter?

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Zuiver Tripod Floor Lamp from Woo Design

Zuiver Tripod Floor Lamp from Woo Design

Zuiver Tripod Floor Lamp from Woo Design

Cue Medina Grillo. She's the blogger behind Grillo Designs and the author of Home Sweet Rented Home. This is a practical, set-by-step book for renters who want to improve their living spaces. It's subtitled "transform your home without losing your deposit" and dedicated to "all the renters whose landlords said they couldn't…" It's a book that's born from the hard graft of experience. Grillo, who describes herself as a serial-renter, writes that for many years she barely decorated the places she has lived. Now she's come out the other side.

"I've stopped preoccupying myself with the idea that my happiness is dependent on whatever might lie ahead in the future (in this case, buying a house). Contentment within your home is something you can find now, not in a far-off, home-owning future."

The first step is to know your enemy (my words, not hers). "In my experience," she writes, "there are three types of landlord." The first is the type that is totally against you doing any decorating and carries out inspections to make sure you haven't. The second is more open, but requires you to have everything back to the way it was when you leave.

"This is really important if you wish to get your security deposit back with a good reference for your next tenancy."

And the third is happy for you to upgrade the property at your own expense. In this case, to avoid distressing misunderstandings, make sure you have written consent from the landlord. An email chain will stand up in court.

She describes the first apartment that she and her husband went to view.

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Medina Grillo

Medina Grillo

Medina Grillo

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"Lots of magnolia," she said to the agent, who shrugged nonchalantly. "Are we allowed to paint the walls?" "Yes," said the agent, looking her straight in the eyes, "magnolia." After that horror story, Home Sweet Rented Home is a practical and highly pragmatic outline of home improvement and decoration projects for renters. Some will require permission from the landlord, some are reversible and others can be done anywhere. Let's call it the leave-no-trace principle of interior design.

For these projects, adhesive strips will be your friend. Or, as Grillo calls them, "revolutionary" adhesive strips. With them, you can create a gallery wall of artwork, infusing an otherwise empty room with colour and pattern. Prints are cost-effective, but frames can be costly. She suggests buying them from charity shops and spray painting them the same colour. Or using coloured Washi tape to create a stick-on frame. Then, when it's time to go, the gallery wall goes with you.

"When trying to remove stubborn strips from the wall, apply a little heat with a hairdryer for 20-30 seconds and then cut through the adhesive with a piece of dental floss," she writes. If you're buying Washi tape, I'd recommend the original Japanese brand - MT. A pack of 10 rolls in glorious colours costs €25.75 from Cass Art (free delivery if you spend more than €50).

Then, there's removable wallpaper. This is a sticky-back vinyl wallpaper that can be peeled off without undue effort. "There's a spoiler in the name really." It adds, as Grillo writes, "a touch of refinement and a new dimension to your home without the consequence of permanence."

She includes detailed, step-by-step instructions, but you'd want to be pretty committed to DIY. If I were going down this road myself, I'd hire someone. I've tried putting up wallpaper before and it wasn't a pretty sight. In terms of shopping, Chasing Paper and Walls Need Love both stock removable wallpaper for around €50 per metre, but it's also worth checking if your favourite wallpaper brand has a stick-and-peel option. Many of them do.

Tile stickers - decorative stickers that look like real tiles and can be applied to the existing wall or floor tiling - are another useful tool. I like the range by SirFace Graphics from Not On The High Street. They cost €30.40 for a set of 24 (each 10cm x 10cm) plus €6 delivery to Ireland.

If you have money to invest in décor, Grillo suggests you spend it on furniture. If you've got a stickler of a landlord, it might be the easiest, or possibly the only way, to impress your personality on a room. Introduce one statement piece and let the room revolve around it. Make it an attention-seeker. Hers is a mustard-yellow velvet sofa. It sounds stomach-churning, but she swears it's a beauty.

Mine is the battered kitchen table that I grew up with. It's moved house with me more times that I could mention. When I went to live in Scotland, it came too. When I came back, I brought it with me. In a horsebox.

"Statement pieces also draw attention away from the more permanent features you'd rather people didn't notice - the wall with the cracked air vent, for example?" Grillo writes. "Either go big or go home."

Home Sweet Rented Home by Medina Grillo is published by Octopus and costs around €18.


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