How to make the most of your small rented flat on a budget
Ciao fine people, how are you?
Today's post will be about how to make the most of a small rented flat when the budget is kind of tight. I have been in that situation since I came in London and I have learned a lot of tips and tricks to share with you.
I currently live in a decent size one bedroom flat (spacious living room, separated kitchen, bedroom and bathroom) with my boyfriend in East London. Before that we were renting an smaller flat and both of them came unfurnished so we learned the hard way what is convenient to buy and on the other hand, what doesn't work. Now, I am aware that everybody's life is different and we have got different needs but some items are just must haves for all of us but these are general rules that I fell will make a huge difference for everybody.
Multifunctional is key
The thing about renting is that you might be doing it for a while, and you often don’t know where you’ll be living next. When dealing with lack of space, everything must have more than a function. Modular sofas that can be left or right-handed, folding chairs and tables, that double as storage are all great ideas.
My advice is to buy only the very necessary things first such as a bed frame, a mattress, a table and a couple of chairs. Then when you know the space and the layout a little bit better, say after a month, plan what to add next.
Think about your lifestyle first
Your lifestyle is also super important to consider. For example, in our first flat the kitchen and the living room where together, which was a big mistake because we actually cook everyday and the smell of food is not the best thing so we couldn't really enjoy the living room as much as we wanted to.
My boyfriend is very into fitness so he owns a big home-gym machine and he also is an artist so he needs a desk and a lot of space for clay sculpture and his paintings.
All this faff to say that you need to consider what you really want to do while at home. If you only want to relax and recharge, invest in a comfy sofa and a big telly, if you are working from home you'll need a tidy and organised space in order to focus on your job properly and so on... Think about what your are going to do first and then purchase the right furniture.
Go for second hand, charity shops and vintage
This is 98% of my current furniture. It is definitely cheaper for your pocket and better for the environment. No hours and hours spent to decipher IKEA instructions to build whatever.
Ebay and Gumtree are the most known and the best websites to shop but I do love a stroll in my favourite charity shops around London. I managed to get some of the current furniture I own for free (such as my wooden bed frame) as on Gumtree people often advertise house clearance when they really want to get rid of stuff because they are moving and they don't have the time to sell it. Now, that's what I call a true bargain! Check Gumtree ever day and I am sure that you will find something like this in your area too.
Outlets are also a great option if you still want to buy new at a lower price. My personal favourite in East London (which also delivers in my area) is Lofy's Furniture.
The only problem if you don't own a car is how to get big items home. The best solution is ask the seller if they can deliver to you for a small lift in price. The other option is to rent a car or a van but usually it is quite expensive and that's why we opted for a new wardrobe. Fun fact: me and my boyfriend walked from Stratford to Bethnal Green because the bus driver didn't allow us to carry a small table once.
But other than that, it is totally worth it for smaller items and I am always been happy with it.
Throw the crap away without second thoughts and keep tidy
The best practice when living in tight space is to own only what you truly need and love by getting reed of the superfluous. At the same time, being organised and taking care of you belongings will make save time and space in the long run.
Scan and organise your paperwork
Paperwork can take a lot of space, so the best thing to do is to scan everything important that must be kept safe and save it on hard disk or online. Shred or burn the paper and never go back to massive folders full of recipes, documents and contracts.
Keep decor at minimum
It is only natural to want to make your home pretty and cosy but it is also easy to overdo and fill it with cute items that only take space. Be mindful with it.
Wall art (if you landlord is ok with it). If the no hole rule is imperative, prop them on walls placing them on an end table or nightstand, or even prop an oversized work on the floor in your living room.
A couple of photo frames
Mirrors, which are also are a smart way to enhance a space.
Random knick knack that doesn't have a function and takes too much space
Get enough storage and don't pile up things on the floor
This is the most common mistake that contributes to create a messy and unkept home especially when first moving in.
The floor is not the place where stuff is supposed stay. No shoes around, no piles of books, no scattered items. Buying furniture or at least something that can contain items is mandatory to please the eye and to maintain order in your flat.
Get also enough dividers and extra boxes to organise well what's inside wardrobes, drawers, cabinets or bookcases. Storage boxes you use can actually be part of the interior design of the room, combining practicality with style perfectly.
Workspace tip: a DIY free standing wooden pegboard on you desk or on your drawer will help to maximise space and keep your everyday items organised.
What is worth buying
-Sofa bed with storage
Great item to invest if you plan to have friends and family over from time to time. It is also a good way to keep the living room tidy from remotes, magazines, charges and so on because it has extra space on the base.
Round tables are much more versatile compared to rectangular and square ones as they don't have angles so you can squeeze more people in and they can be used are desk as well.
The padded stools are comfortable enough to sit on and they can fit inside when not used saving loads of space. The set is so compact that it would be perfect in a studio flat as well.
Another great option is the foldable set of table and chairs.
-Ottomans and trunks
Excellent ideas to store discretely toys, bedding, technology and much more while being also extra seating.
Styling tip: it would be lovely at the end of your bed if you have the space to do so.
They are a super practical alternative to a bookcase if there is no room for it as they usually fit in tiny spaces such as bathroom or single bedrooms. Bonus if you are renting: they don't need to be secured at the wall.
Another great versatile storage space on a tight budget is the one below: its neat and clean design would be perfect for any room, even for pitched roof. It is ideal for most items, such as shoes, books, gym tools and so on. You could also dare to build it yourself with old fruit boxes if you feel creative (you will find many inspo on Pinterest if you follow me)
-Boxes with lid and wheels
It is the best solution if you don't have a storage bed. Get some vacuum storage bags to put away off -season items, Christmas decorations and whatever you are not using on a daily basis.
This is a quick fix for toys and paperwork too. Make sure they have wheels: they are very important for your back health as every time you need to clean under the bed they will make your life a lot easier.
-Small items storage
Jewellery boxes and trays are cool and decorative but admittedly they usually take a lot of space so keep your valuable pieces in a classy pouch like the one below instead: no missing earrings, no tangled necklaces and you can also bring it with you when travelling.
Finding a good wardrobe can be challenging if the space is tiny, but it is crucial to keep your clothes tidy and clean at all times so I wouldn't opt for a rail. Your clothes will get dusty pretty soon, if next to a window, the direct light will fade the colours and frankly, it doesn't look nice most of the times, unless you own 5 t-shirt of the same colour.
Pivotal rule: learn how to fold bedding and clothes properly in order to maximise space. Unfolded items will take 3 times the space of neatly folded ones. I personally follow Marie Kondo's method: it was a life changing revelation for me and many other people around the world. I was used to my mom's way of folding clothes and bedding and it was so frustrating to see that despite the time and effort I put into keeping clean and tidy, it just didn't work. After 2 days, even less sometimes, the wardrobe would be a mass again.
I was told to fold everything the traditional way, flat, and to pile the items up. This is ok for her that lives in a huge house, with 3 big wardrobes and a massive drawers per person but it won't be ideal when for those who don't have space. When looking for a specific item, you can't possibly find it like that so I ended up pulling everything out from the drawer.
After reading "The life changing method of tidying" I understood with relief that I was not stupid or disorganised. Japanese people are used to deal with less space compared to Italians so they created a more practical way of folding clothes to keep everything visible and easily accessible.
Below I linked a couple of wardrobe solutions to avoid the rail.
The first one is a good compromise between the open space vibe and an actual wardrobe as it has a wooden panel on top to avoid the dust and some shelves on the side for items that can be folded and boxes to contain smaller items inside such as belts and underwear.
Great if you are not sharing your space with your partner but if you do, you can actually have one on each side of the bed to keep your stuff separated.
The second option has a wood structure but a fabric cover that give the possibility of hiding what's inside.
I bought this wardrobe second-hand 2 years ago when I moved in with my boyfriend (mine is brown) and we were sharing it. Not a good idea, let me tell you.
However, the wardrobe was a good investment per se: it is durable and practical.
We now have a bigger wardrobe in the bedroom and everyone has its own side but we kept the old one in the living room as a cool hallway storage solution for our gym equipment, the hoover, the steamer, our umbrellas and several others everyday items that we don't like on open sight. It is very versatile because the fabric cover can be removed and it is machine washable.
If you decide to change its function later on, it can be turned really easily in a bookshelf. Just take off the cover and the clothes rail and add a couple of wooden shelves (even pallets are all right) in the middle, maybe spray paint it and voila', its done!
Sometimes all we need is trying to be more creative.
-Seagrass belly baskets
They are very popular right now as they are an affordable yet chic and relaxed storage solution for basically everything. You can use them as plant pots, as a storage for pillows and throws in the living room, for the shoes, for dirty clothes, for gym equipment, you name it.
What it is not worth buying:
New blinders and curtains
Repaint with bright colours or wallpaper
Everything that is bespoke or specifically made for is risky.
As for the curtains or blinds, most of the time they come with the flat and they are usually awful but unless you ask for new ones to your landlord, I am telling you it is not a good investment to change them all as they can't come with you when you leave as every window has different measurements.
If you really think to stay in the flat for a long time, then it would be a good idea to include your landlord into your little renovation projects as unless you have made a prior written agreement with your him/her, you cannot decorate the property- this includes hanging anything off the walls, installing extra shelving, etc
I once had a visit from my previous landlord and they asked me if I wanted to update something so speak frankly about what you have in mind. He was so kind to buy brand new blinds for the living room for me. Chances are that it will be ok if you always been an exemplary tenant. The problem comes when you first do the update/change and then show him/her what you have done. I personally saw the guys the living upstairs doing that and they almost lost all their deposit for this when they left. I know you want to live in a nice environment but it is not worth risking hundreds just for it.
And that's it! I am very curious to know if any of you have some kind of personal rules for renting and decorating. I would be delighted to know, so please comment or send me an email.
Thank you very much for reading my post today, it was a rather long one!
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Have a great start of the week!