We’ve all lived in those dreadfully poky, rented city apartments that have the personality of a monastic cell.

But rather than seeing renting a flat as a state of limbo between home-leaver and homeowner, we should embrace the space and make it our own (but do see tenancy agreement for dos and don’ts).

Thankfully, Kishani Perera is an LA-based interior designer whiz to the stars (including funny man Ben Stiller and cult favourite Gary Oldman).

Here are her tips to help perk up your pad.

Give it some personality

“You’ve got to commit to making it your own — it’s not just a transient space. Paint it. Give it some warmth with a soft colour wash of blue, grey or even taupe just to get rid of that hotel feel,” instructs Perera. “Remember, the floor is a canvas too. Dress it with a patterned or textured rug,” she adds.


Bed down

“Buy a good bed and headboard — it gives your bedroom a sense of permanence. A futon or a floating mattress won’t do,” our expert says. You don’t live in a crack den so, “It’s worth it, if only for a short time and you can always reupholster or add throw cushions to give it a new look.”

All good things come in small packages

“People tend to buy tiny pieces of furniture for tiny spaces, which actually makes it look smaller,” Perera explains.

Create an optical illusion in any space by, “playing with the scale by utilizing the height. Tall bookcases and large mirrors draw the eye up and away from the cramped floor space. Contrary to popular belief, painting dark colours creates the illusion of a larger space.”

Go wild with whimsy

Your home is not a hospital ward, so do try to avoid stark sterility with something similar to Perera’s curveball solution. “It’s nice to have one crazy element of whimsy. Maybe an antique disco ball. Just something that gives it a kooky, personal touch.”

Save the pennies

“Window drapes are not worth the splurge. They rarely work in the next property. Cheap solutions such as white sheer drapes from IKEA are inexpensive and give a room some added texture and feeling.”

You can be a Scrooge elsewhere too. “Coffee tables can be bought cheaply and change the whole ambience of a room. One year you could have a lacquered red one — the next a Moroccan style,” the expert muses.

Keep walls sacred

“Use a decal wallpaper, which are easy to take down and nowadays they don’t look too juvenile.”

Yes, papering a rented pad does read a little drastic, so here’s one for the less nasty types among you: “I’m big on placing knick-knacks or candles in groupings around the room — they’re interesting, fuss-free and you’ll save on major revamping,” shares our interior supremo.

Focus Walls


  • Adds drama to a small recess or niche.

  • Wallpapers can be pricey but not if you go all frugal and stick to just one wall.

  • It’s an easy way to express your flair without going off-the-wall!


  • You may be in danger of scaring people with your split personality.

  • It’s popular with provincial hair salons — enough said.

  • You’re only creating a dilemma for yourself in the decorating department

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