How to make your rented space or first house beautiful

Generation Rent — used to a home for now, not for life — is booming in London. A timely new book by Joanna Thornhill is packed with tips on how to turn a rented property into a stylish home.

Left: Cheaper than cupboards, buy and paint an old wardrobe, then fit it with shelves for instant storage. Thornhill’s tip: “Look out for a basic shelving unit which you could simply stand inside.”

Right: Let your ladder do double duty as storage, and just clear it when needed. “An old wooden ladder works best,” says Thornhill. “Make sure it’s sturdy with well-fixed steps.”

Londoner Joanna Thornhill has lived in a dozen rental properties so far — and she is only 33. Drawing on her experience as a stylist for magazines and advertising, she wrote a book which comes out in April called Home for Now (Cico Books, £16.99), featuring 15 real-life homes and packed with quirky ideas for making rented property beautiful
This bright and breezy manual goes way beyond cushions and throws, with everything pressed into low-cost, quick and easy makeovers, from discarded packaging and leftover paint to hand-me-downs and finds from charity stores, junk shops and skips. It will appeal also to first-home owners whose funds have been swallowed by huge deposits. Projects at the end of each chapter guide cash-strapped novices through DIY projects.

Thornhill herself has just scrambled on to the first property rung, sharing a two-up two-down terrace house in Walthamstow with her TV producer boyfriend.
“Everyone needs a proper home, however short term,” she says. “If you don’t have somewhere you love to come home to, life gets very bleak.”


Left: Create extra kitchen storage with an old crate that you can perch on a worktop or on top of your fridge. The author’s tip: “Organise the space with extra cup hooks inside.” 

Right: In this room a well-travelled leather suitcase creates a novel basis for a temporary DJ station, with space to store lesser-played records inside. Joanna Thornhill says: “You don’t always have to use bona fide furniture in every room — in fact, making do with what you can get your hands on is often part and parcel of the homes-for-now approach.”

Her ideas, full of colour, joy, wit and love, are not expensive and are often portable, in the best more-dash-than- cash tradition. Her top tip is to ask the landlord first. “There may be a plethora of printed restrictions but landlords can be very flexible, and may even share some of the cost.” Ask if you can paint a wall, put up a blind or curtain tracks, lay down a few paving slabs, and so on.

An essential for the author is her own box of personal treasures, always first to be unpacked: “Photos, pictures, cushions, ornaments, mugs, cooking stuff — these mean home to me.”


Left: Home for Now by Joanna Thornhill comes out in April (Cico Books, £16.99)

Right: Thornhill has rented a dozen different homes, and compiled her tips along the way


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