Around 20% of the UK population now lives in privately rented accommodation. And according to the most recent English Housing Survey (2016/17), attitudes to long-term renting are shifting. More than 80% of tenants say they’re broadly satisfied with their accommodation, while the quality of rental properties on offer has improved.

But whether you live in a rented flat or house, there are restrictions on what you can do with the place to make it feel more like home. And with rents now taking up around a third of earnings on average (and as much as 41% in London), household budgets are feeling the squeeze. So, what can you do?

Speak to your landlord

First off, don’t do anything at all until you’ve spoken to your landlord or letting agency and check what exactly you can and cannot do and get their permission. Attitudes vary widely on the subject of decorating.

Some property owners are quite happy to give you free rein as long as you look after the place, some will even offer to pay for the materials. Other landlords take the opposite view and won’t permit even as much as a nail in the wall, threatening to keep your deposit if you don’t comply. It’s always best to have the landlord on side.

Set a realistic budget

Once you know what the rules of engagement are, work out how much you can afford to spend on your rented home. Big ticket items like kitchen units and bathroom suites are unlikely to change but there’s plenty of scope for redecorating with painting and decorating the walls, and adding furniture and furnishings that make more of a personal style statement.

A word of caution, though. However much you may wish to improve the surroundings, it’s worth bearing in mind that this may only be your temporary home, so don’t waste your money to pay for home improvements that you may not get the full benefit of.

New colour schemes

Most landlords choose to redecorate their rental property every 5 years or so, or at the end of a long tenancy. Why not make the suggestion that you could do the work if he agrees to pay for the paint or wallpaper? That way, the property will get a refresh, the landlord will save money on a decorator and you get a greater say on the colour scheme in your home.

You may need to negotiate a bit to reach agreement on acceptable colours to be used – many property owners will only allow white or neutral room schemes while you may want to ditch the beige and inject a bit of colour and creativity into the building. That said, it’s probably wise to steer clear of extreme colours or paint effects unless you’re prepared to paint over them before you move out. The same goes for vibrant wallpaper – one man’s feature wall is another person’s eyesore…

Ways with freestanding furniture

There was a time when rented accommodations came fully furnished, leaving precious little scope for personalisation. Luckily, unfurnished rentals are the norm nowadays, meaning you can furnish your home as you like. From beds to bookcases, sofas and sideboards, chairs and chests of drawers and more, there are endless ways to add your personal style to your home and give a sense of ownership.

Whether you prefer minimalist living or modern eco chic, classic interiors or a vintage retro vibe, items can be sourced at various price points from high street retailers and online stores, second hand shops and car boot sales – you can even upcycle individual pieces for added interest and character.

Soft furnishings and accessories

Looking beyond furniture, there are walls and floors to be adorned to create a layered interiors theme that reflects your personality. Using the base colour as a blank canvas to play with, add pictures and wall art to provide interest and drama as you wish. Be careful about making holes in the wall – get permission first! – or use reusable sticky adhesive pads or picture hooks, or picture rails where they exist.

If you are limited in your choice of wall colour, use soft furnishings to overcome the problem. Vibrant woven throws and bright cushions, colourful curtains and rugs can work wonders to transform any room. Finally, don’t forget to add lush greenery – biophilia is a huge interiors trend this year – adding indoor plants to give your home a fresh, calming ambience.

Funky functional storage ideas

There’s no such thing as too much storage, as every interior designer will tell you. Good home organisation not only helps you keep track of your possessions and saves time finding things, it also makes the room look bigger.

Freestanding cupboards and bookcases will take you so far, but what about fitted wall shelving and built-in furniture to store all your stuff while making the most of the property’s layout and any awkward spaces? Again, you will most likely have to gain the landlord’s permission first. In the meantime, there are countless ways that you can improvise with quirky and creative storage ideas that are as useful as they are attractive. Here are some great ideas to get you thinking along the right lines.