Home For Now: Make Your Rented Space Beautiful

Hundreds of ideas to customise your space on a budget

Sometimes I look at my twitter feed and it feels like everyone is writing or publishing a book. The other day, I took delivery of a weighty coffee table tome I needed for a feature I’m writing for The Financial Times, and the courier asked if he could send me a copy of his “comedy thriller heist set in Las Vegas that I self-published”. I said yes. What else could I say? He knows where I live, there seemed little point in refusing.

rooms are tackled one by one with clear diy instructions at the end of each chapter

So, er, I guess I’ll let you know how that turns out … Anyway, this book, Home For Now, by stylist Joanna Thornhill is more of a sure thing. Fed up with years of renting only to finally buy her first house and realise that not only did she have no money left over to decorate, but that she probably never would again, Joanna used all her styling and DIY skills to paint, build and create the home she wanted.

Jo is a professional stylist and knows how to make a room look good on a budget

Then she wrote it all down in a book. She works round the restrictions placed on rented homes – can’t hang a picture? Try suspending a sheet of wallpaper from a clothes hanger. Can’t afford a coffee table? Use a log found on a country walk. And don’t knock that, you can currently buy a half-painted (sorry dip-dyed) log from Anthropologie for £248. Shall I pause while you get your breath back?

storge is often an issue in rented flats

There are hundreds of ideas which Jo looks at room by room; from re-upholstering a chair with no sewing (the staple gun is your friend) to advice on how to arrange your pictures (she’s a professional stylist trust her on this) you can work through this book page by page using and adapting her ideas for your own space.

repurpose an old wardrobe by adding shelves and painting it

She has several ideas for ugly fireplaces – the bane of many a rented flat – including pretty screens, hiding it behind a large piece of art, or adding a shelf. Not to mention turning it into a drinks cabinet.  And I love the idea of customising an old drawer for a display unit. One of my favourite looks is the black and white stripe wardrobe. After all, if you can’t paint the walls then be dramatic with your own furniture. It’s also a great way to modernise old brown furniture.

customise an old drawer as a display unit

There’s lots of advice on storage and controlling the clutter, something we could all do with no matter where we live, and that I think, is the key to what makes this book a success.

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hide an ugly fireplace (which this isn’t) with a large painting or a screen

It speaks to all of us who want to bring a personal touch to our homes but don’t know how. It’s not just for renters or first time buyers. What about children, whose minds and needs change constantly for about the first 15 years of their lives? Jo has instructions for making your own wallpaper from vintage books, updating that old brown furniture and getting the most out of tiny spaces: hint – use the walls and the ceilings as storage.

make your own rug and use curtains to divide open plan spaces

This book means that you don’t just have to schlep off to that giant Swedish store on the outskirts of town (I’m a big fan by the way but not from skirting to ceiling) and buy everything they have. The problem with that is that your home then looks exactly like the house next door. And all your mates. And after a glass or three of wine you won’t know whose place you’re in.

arrange lots of pictures to create a personalised display

So embrace your inner stylist, bring out your creativity and spend the next sunny weekend wandering round the car boot sales. You never know what you might find. Or what you can do with it when you have.

Home For Now (Cico books) is out on 14 April 2014 but you can pre-order here

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. please please please can you remind me where to get the hanging rail suspended by leather straps, I have looked everywhere on your site, but cant seem to find it again!!

    1. DD, the hanging rail that I think you’re looking for is by Ferm Living. You can get it for £149 at Made In, for example.

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