Interior design cheats for rental homes

Just because you don’t own the home you live in doesn’t mean you can’t completely make it your own, says Vancouver interior designer and home stylist Laura Melling. 


“More and more, Vancouver is just too expensive,” she says. “I think a lot of people are intentionally choosing to rent, and  just because it’s a rental, it doesn’t mean you should spend any less time or energy on a space because at the end of the day, it’s still the home you’re coming home to.”


Choosing a few key pieces, for your home is key, Melling says. 


“It can be a mash up,” she says. “And really eclectic. It doesn’t have to be all the same style it can be a lot more interesting and reflective of someone’s personality.”


Melling often works with Vancouver homebuilder Mosaic Homes, and recently handled the interior design for their Fremont Living development, a collection of rental homes in Port Coquitlam.




Gallery walls work wonders in making rental homes your own. Photo: Janis Nicolay


“We’re not changing any finishes,” she says. “It’s more about how can you style the space with furniture, textiles, objects and artwork to really make it your own. We used really soft linen drapery, for example, in the Fremont space, and I think that really did a lot to warm it up – otherwise, it’s white walls, it’s very clean. And then the rugs and linen, that’s where we relax the space and warm it up.”


Something people can easily do in rental homes to personalize and stylize them is a gallery wall, Melling says.


“At the Fremont, we did a pretty eclectic gallery wall that was a combination of photography, textile pieces and prints,” she says. “It really brings personality into the space, and it’s really uplifting and not too cold and anonymous.” 


Rugs also work wonders, she says.


“With rentals, you don’t have a choice about flooring,” she says. “Rugs can go a long way in really warming up a space and making it your own,” she says, specifically in the main living areas and bedrooms.


Modular and multi-purpose furniture, she says, is also a great investment if you’re renting, with pieces like the Jens End Table from mid-century modern company Rove Concepts transitioning easily from one room to another. 


“So many of the condo spaces are designed with open floor plan concepts,” Melling says. “So we’re starting to go with more modular furniture. Things that can be very easily moved around to fit your lifestyle needs. A sofa that can be pulled apart and reimagined in two love seat configurations, for example, or ottomans scattered around for kids to jump on.”


This same movement is seen in interior design for larger spaces, she says, in that designers are going for more “relaxed,” less-formal furniture arrangements.


“Furniture doesn’t have to be so proper and permanent,” she says. “It can change and evolve based on how you need the space to function. The modular perspective also works because if you’re moving from one rental to another, your floor plan is probably not going to be the same, so you can take things and install things differently depending on your space.”


You don’t need to spend a lot of money to style your place in a way that really makes it feel like home, says Melling, just a bit of time.


A big part of her work is styling homes for photo shoots, she says, and her husband often notices that their apartment (which they rent) in Olympic Village empties out during these photo shoots, and when she brings everything back, their home is “reimagined”.


Art is put up differently in different configurations, and the bookcase is also redesigned into a new configuration.


“I changed out the artwork only in the last month,” she says. “And it really transformed the space – it injected this whole new energy. I have a lot of prints and things hanging around, and the composition that I ended up doing on one of our main walls has some pieces that are framed, but then I had two prints by a friend of mine, and I was like ‘I can’t frame these right now, it’s not in the budget’, so I just put them up with nicer clips on the wall, and they’re just hanging on their own.”


This article was originally published as "The Home Front: Interior design cheats for rental homes" by The Vancouver Sun Rebecca Keillor on February 10, 2018. 



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