Just because you can’t make permanent changes to rental properties doesn’t mean you can’t turn your bedroom into a calm, relaxing space set up to get you the best night’s sleep.
We’ve spoken to experts across Which? – from home improvements and bedroom product experts to our green-fingered gardening team – to find the best tips for improving your bedroom’s atmosphere in a rental or student let. We’ve picked nine easy (and cheap) ways to feel at home.
You’re unlikely to be able to paint walls, put up shelves or hang heavy frames, and you’ll probably want to avoid buying big furniture, too, if you plan on moving out again relatively soon.
Head to our guide to rental property maintenance and repairs for more on what you should and shouldn’t do to a rented home. If you’re in doubt, it’s always best to ask your landlord first.
1) Frame your photos and posters
Pictures and posters always look better in frames than tacked straight onto walls. Plus, blu-tack can stain walls or even create holes when you remove it, leaving you with a deduction from your deposit at the end of the year.
Instead, buy an assortment of picture frames that you can stand on surfaces or lean against the walls.
To hang picture frames properly, consider using wall hanging sticky strips from brands such as Command, which run less risk of damage. Just make sure you use light plastic frames rather than heavy wood or metal ones.
If you do want to put one or two nails in the walls, contact your landlord beforehand to get permission in writing.
2) Get a low-maintenance indoor plant
Indoor plants are a surefire way to boost your well-being and brighten the mood, as well as help purify the air.
If you’re short on floor space, go for something tall. A heart-leaf or sweetheart plant, will spiral around a base pole – and can even start growing up the wall.
For ultra-low maintenance, opt for a terrarium. These enclosed ecosystems have everything they need inside a sealed jar, so require little to no care. Just stick them in a good spot, away from direct sunlight and forget.
Ceri Thomas, editor of Which? gardening magazine, says ‘choose succulents and cacti if you have a sunny windowsill, as they don’t mind erratic watering. Aloe vera and mother-in-law’s tongue are also both easy to care for’.
‘Look out for bargains in Lidl, as they often sell bargain houseplants in beautiful pots.’
And if it all goes wrong? ‘Don’t worry if houseplants die after a few months,’ says Ceri. ‘Better to replace them with a beautiful new one than struggle on with something that looks awful. Many come from the tropics and it’s hard to recreate those conditions in a bedroom! They’re about the same price as a bunch of flowers and last much longer.’
3) Upgrade your bed with a mattress topper
Renting a furnished home often means you’ll be stuck with a cheap, less-than-comfortable mattress. Investing in a mattress topper will give a bit of distance from the mattress beneath – good for hygiene as well as making for a more comfortable night’s sleep.
We rate mattress toppers for how comfortable they are and whether they offer good value for money. Find out which are best and worst in our guide to the best mattress topper brands.
4) Reduce clutter with under-bed storage
If you’re furnishing your own room, choosing a divan bed with drawers beneath it can create lots of handy extra storage.
If your bed frame has free storage space beneath it, it’s worth buying some plastic drawers (or using old cardboard boxes) to keep everything boxed away so that it doesn’t get covered in dust.
5) Set the mood with the right lighting
Don’t rely on stark, white over-head lighting, which will take all the cosiness out of a room.
Strategically placed low lighting will highlight – pardon the pun – the best parts of your room and make it feel bigger and more inviting. Go for a well-placed lamp, with a warm, low light level.
To make sure you pick the right bulb, head to our guide to choosing the right lightbulb, which explains everything you need to know about wattage, lumens and Kelvins.
You might be tempted by fairylights, but use them sparingly and make sure you tuck the wiring out of sight.
If you want to splash out you could go for a smart lightbulb. We test these for how easy they are to use and set up. An expert panel perform tasks like setting a regular schedule, turning the bulbs on and off via a smartphone and assessing how easy the bulbs are to set up straight out of the box. Find out which are the top smart light bulbs for 2019.
6) Make the most of natural light with mirrors
Adding mirrors to a small room will immediately make it look and feel bigger.
Try to angle at least one opposite a window so that it scatters natural light around your room, to make it feel brighter.
You can pick up large mirrors for less than £40 and lean them against the wall or on shelving. If you find a light one, you could even use wall-hanging sticky strips to mount it on the wall, just like you would with posters and frames.
7) Cover hard flooring with a rug
Most student and rental homes come equipped with cheap, easy-to-clean laminate flooring, or generic, often-beige carpet. You can make these feel warmer and more homely with a well-placed rug. It’s also a good way of adding a colour and personality to your room without needed to paint anything.
Throws and cushions can also add personality to your bed or be used to cover tired furniture.
8) Buy a dehumidifier, electric heater or purifier
Heat and humidity sometimes feel like a throw of the dice when in rental property. But you can take it into your own hands by buying an appliance to condition the air.
If mould is a persistent problem, or your room just feel musty, a dehumidifier will remove water from the air.
An electric heater can also be a savour in the cold of winter. While an air purifier is handy for removing pollen or smoke.
9) Use small furniture to add personality
Add pops of colour by painting small pieces of furniture that you can take from property to property. These could be end tables, chairs, vanities, jewellery boxes, or more.
You can often pick up cheap pieces from vintage and second-hand stores. Charity shops can also be gold mines for unloved furniture ready for a DIY project.