craft & DIY, Oxford, Retro and vintage furniture

Top five vintage home ideas for people who rent

When renting a house it’s hard to stamp your own mark on the place without p-ing off your landlord. I’d love to paint walls, drills things in etc but you have to be realistic with yourself.

Natesh Ramasamy under a Creative Commons Licence

I currently live in a new-ish two-bed property in Oxford  – and with rising house prices within my location it’s going to be a quite a while before I can even think of buying a house. *goes to put on the lottery*

However, I don’t think this should mean your house is dull and boring. It just takes a little more imagination to bring some of your own style to the house you rent.

As a twenty something you might love pieces from and the rest but spending that amount of money right now just isn’t an option so you have to look elsewhere. Here’s my top five tips for creating a vintage home  – in a rented place and not spending £1000s..

1) Furniture hunting – you need essentials like a bed of course but for other pieces within your house you’ve got free rein. Most rented places I see around Oxford are now unfurnished so it might be a pain at first but a chance to be expressive of your taste. As always, I’ll advocate charity shops (try Emmaus *cough cough I’m the Oxford Manager*, Helen & Douglas, BHF and Mind for furniture pieces).

Online places such as Gumtree, Freecycle and Ebay always have low-cost/free individual pieces. And, particularly in Oxford, keep your eyes peeled as your walking round for free stuff left outside people’s house. My small dining table, vintage side board (now TV stand) and living room storage unit were all found on the street. I either got a friend to help me bring it back in their car or in one instance paid £15 for a minibus taxi driver to help me out (but the item was worth over £100 so totes worth it). I wont talk too much about how I carried the table home by myself one day, my boyfriend thinks I’m a bit mad like that… Even for essential furniture pieces watch out around student leaving time for great items to just be left outside.

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2) Home furnishings – So you’ve got your sofa, you’ve got a window and you’ve got your bed. Awesome. But there are many ways to pump your vintage style into your home.

If you’ve got a bland/boring sofa get out and hunt down some cool/retro style throws. You’ll be amazed how much this can lift a room from drab to fab. I’ve got a not very nice grey sofa bed (from Freecycle) which is great for when people stay over but the rest of the time is boring. As a Christmas present, I got a floral throw which covers it lovely. My other sofa is a white Ikea spech my old housemate left me. I bought a really cool retro throw at Emmaus Oxford with a varying green and peach pattern on which really brightens it up.

vintage home tips for renters


vintage home tips for renters

Lightshades are another great variable you can add your own stamp too (and leave the landlords shades in the attic for when you move out). I found that George at Adsa had commissioned local artists to design patterns and one of the designers was from Liverpool and had created a floral vintage-esque print. I waited for the sale time – and got four light shades for the living room, hall and stairs along with two matching cushions for under £20. I also found a lamp shade on the street in Oxford but again that’s just me, can’t walk past anything free!

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You can also get really cheap sewing machines from charity shops / Ebay and make things like curtains, cushions and the rest. You can get really cheap, funky prints to make your own items and sewing in straight lines is not hard to do. I feel my next project coming on and thankfully we’ve just had a sewing machine donated to my charity shop so I’m going to test it out , buy and give this a shot.

3) Art work – Now nailing into walls can be an issue but the odd one here and there for a picture frame isn’t going to make anybody lose their sleep. As much as I’d love a feature wall of miss-matched vintage pics I just can’t. So I select my fave pieces to go up in different areas in my house. It makes walking from room to room and upstairs to downstairs feel more homely than looking at beige estate agent painted walls…pics in house

I’ve either been given, found in charity shops of got for free some cool pieces. But you could easily buy a frame from say Poundland and create your own artwork with vintage pics from old torn books, or magazines. Below is a vintage Coca-Cola ad I got from Oxfam Hove (in the wood frame and was about £4), the lady vintage Coca Cola ad a present from my boss when I left Oxfam and the New York pic was wrapping paper from a present turned into a picture.

4) Bit of green – If you haven’t got a huge garden and want some green around your home you can do this with a vintage twist. Find some pots, tins or cool cups in charity shops or Ebay and create your own little indoor garden. You can buy seeds for super cheap, and sometimes get these free with magazines. To save even more money you can plant things like chilli seeds after making a decent curry with them to grow more for yourself. I sound so East Oxford but wouldn’t we all love a herb Garden!

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5) Paint – I was reluctant to add this but in finding miss-matched items & getting stuff for free the easiest was to make something fit your style is with a lick of paint. Retro/vintage furniture is great – but you know, it’s old and may need a bit of TLC. I found a very old side board on Barns Road in Oxford. I loved it – massive drawers for all my stuff and a wide top for all my daily bits and pieces but it was unloved and chipped. I bought some sandpaper for a few quid – and a pot of paint (a few quid more but then it lasts for lots of other pieces) and set about bringing it back to life. Now, I have been swayed to the world of Annie Sloan lately but at £20 a pot you’ve gotta love that colour because it’ll be painted on everything in your house unless you’ve got the money to buy loads of colours.

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Renting doesn’t equal boring house it just means imagination. Seeing the beauty in a worn table, knowing how to fix a light shade back into place and not being scared about getting the paint out. Use Pinterest, Google, YouTube vids and share your comments below on turning a rented space into a vintage inspired home.


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