Having moved from Atlanta to London with her husband during the pandemic, interior designer Sally Wilkinson has created a rented one-bed flat that is a love letter to the couple’s time in Europe.

Chris Horwood

When it comes to the rental market, furnished flats and houses occupy two spaces within it, operating as the best – and worst – parts of moving house. On the brighter side, furnished rentals can make a move much easier, as they eliminate the need to shop around for a bed frame or make a major investment in a sofa. However, conversely, upon arrival to your new flat, these said furnishings may very well be at odds with your own tastes and thus make it difficult to let your rental feel like your own.

Indeed, it is rare that a furnished rental is beautifully decorated to your standards (unless, of course, you’re willing to pay a premium for a designed, ready-made interior), as landlords are more likely to furbish their rental flats with a hodgepodge of pieces rather than complementary fittings inspired by the pages of an interiors magazine. However, this needn’t mean you must surrender your design tastes and standards – there are many ways to make a furnished flat a cohesive space you’re happy to call “home” (at least until your lease is up).

Get a handle (and some colour) on your cabinets

In his Shoreditch house, James Shaw installed handles he designed himself in his kitchen.

Chris Horwood

Cabinetry is perhaps one of the most unsung decorative elements in a room, as it is usually seen first for its function rather than its beauty. However, cabinets are pieces used and touched daily, and, as they take up a majority of a room’s wall space, their design often dominates the space.

Furnished rentals normally come with pre-existing cabinetry whose overall look is certainly more form over function; however, there are a few easy ways to elevate your cabinets (and not risk losing your rental deposit). If you’ve been endowed with plastic cabinets or stained wooden ones, we’d recommend (with your landlord’s permission, naturally) repainting them to add colour or gloss to the space. To add further lift to your cabinetry, we feel that knobs and handles will do the trick. We particularly like those from Superfront, as the maker’s wide variety of pieces are timeless and suitable for a wide range of cabinetry – including that from Ikea – and are easy to install.

Personalise mass-produced pieces

IKEA sofas pop up with some regularity in the apartments we feature, unsurprisingly especially those with a Scandinavian inflection. In the living room of Alfred Bransen’s Hackney flat, a sofa from IKEA (the Söderhamn model, if we’re not mistaken) mixes with a vintage coffee table and lots of colourful soft furnishings.

Mark Fox

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