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How to furnish an unfurnished rental home, fast

From bed frames to bean bags, lamps, cushions and kettles, we look at how to turn an unfurnished property into a home, fast.
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There’s something inspiring about moving into a completely unfurnished rental property. While you may not be able to make any permanent changes to its décor, you can put your stamp on the place with your very own furniture. And there’s nothing quite like a blank canvas to get your creative juices flowing. But there’s a catch. Despite all the excitement, walking into an empty property can feel daunting, and it can be hard to imagine it ever feeling like home. And then there’s the small matter of actually moving in when you don’t have a kettle to your name, let alone a sofa suite, bed or dining table.

Such is the life of a new renter. Some of us have previously lived in furnished places, others are just moving out of mum and dad’s, and some are returning from travels with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Whatever your reason for being furniture-less in a home that needs to be, well, furniture-full, you need a few quick tips to get the place up and running, fast. Read on to find out how.

To spend or not to spend

First things first – you’ll need to figure out where you want to make some long-term investments, and where you can get away with going for cheaper options to fill the place quickly. The trick is to think of the big stuff – the items that people see as soon as they walk into a room – as the trophy pieces. That means splurging a bit on your sofa, dining table and bed (both frame and mattress), to make sure you’re getting items that are of high quality and will last. Get to know your metal bed frames from your wooden bed frames, your spring mattresses from your memory foam, and choose something you’re going to love for years to come. Comfort, durability and overall look are key points to consider here for both your bed and sofa. While it may be tempting to go for something ‘cheap and cheerful’, you’ll regret it a month down the line when you’ve got a sore back and half-sunk sofa cushions.

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There is an exception to the rule though. If you’re sharing your property, it’s probably best to go for cheaper shared options for purchases like a sofa, which you might be seeing the back of when you move out. More on that later. It’s still wise to invest in a decent bed though, as you can take this with you from property to property. We love ornate bed frames like the Darcy metal bed, for a timeless, vintage feel that will stay on-trend for years to come.

Once you have the staple items in place, you can start playing with less expensive finishing touches like rugs, lighting, side tables and even artwork to fill the place quickly and at low cost. These are the items that will bring your home to life, giving it that injection of personality that makes the place feel like yours. There are so many non-expensive lamps, prints, throws and cushions on the market, you can accessorise your home right now with lots of eclectic finishing touches, with a view to investing in pricier pieces over time.

When it comes to kitchen equipment, buy the bare necessities on a budget, or borrow from friends and family to get you through the first few weeks – kettles, toasters, pots and pans – but then spend some time shopping around for a few nice items to avoid that student flat-vibe. Choose a statement kettle to add a touch of luxury to the place, and invest in a decent toaster – think polished stainless steel as opposed to flimsy-looking plastic.

Quick fixes for times in limbo

When you’re faced with an empty property but need to move in immediately, there’s bound to be a cross over in time where you’re inhabiting an almost empty home. Cue: meals on laps, cushions on floors and lots of twinkly tealights. With a bit of creativity, you can make the place liveable – nice, even – while you’re waiting to get hold of your more permanent fixtures. Here are some quick temporary fixes to keep you going until your home is fully furnished:

  • Bean bag chairs: Bean bag chairs may be associated with hip design studios and kids’ parties but they serve a third purpose too – offering a comfy seating solution for sofaless times.
  • Candles: Candles are a cheap and temporary alternative to lamps, providing that lovely ambient light on an evening, and ensuring you don’t have to sit with the stark overhead spotlights on.
  • TV dinner trays: If you’re going to need to eat dinner off your lap for a while, grab a couple of TV dinner trays to make it a much less messy affair.
  • Blankets and cushions: Even the emptiest of homes can be made to feel cosier with blankets and throw cushions. Plus, you can keep these permanently and use them to accessorise the sofas when they finally arrive.

What to do when you’re sharing

If you’re moving in with housemates it can be difficult to know how to approach the whole business of furnishing the place. Do you buy a few items each, which you’ll keep when it comes time to move out? Or do you split the cost of everything and worry about how you’ll split it up later? A good way to approach it would be to split up the cost of more expensive items such as sofas, display cabinets and dining tables, with a view to divvying up the items evenly at the end, or selling them and splitting the profits. In this case, it’s best to avoid buying ‘lifetime’ pieces, and instead go for items you don’t mind saying goodbye to in a year or two.

As for accessories; it makes sense for each person to buy their own bits and bobs and keep them when it’s time to move out – but try to decide on a general theme first. That way you won’t have clashing décor, and you’ll all be able to contribute to a single creative vision for the place. The most important thing is to make it clear that if you’ve bought a piece you particularly love, you’ll be keeping it at the end.

Furnishing an empty house can feel like an impossible task. Not only are you faced with filling it with the things essential for day to day living, you want to create a space that feels like home, too. But just think, at the end of all your hard work you’ll be left with a property that’s full of your own things, that reflect your personality. And that’s got to be a million times better than bunking up with someone else’s idea of what looks good. You don’t need to actually own a property to make it yours. Here’s to making your rental property really feel like home.

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