Why your home feels like a rental (and changes you should make)

Author: Chris Carroll   Date Posted:13 May 2019 


modern master bedroom with grey wallpaper design and white bedding from metricon


Most of my interior design clients say to me during a consult, “it doesn’t feel homely”. That tends to be the number one issue they have with their space when we meet. My job, of course, is to dissect what they mean when they say that, but in most cases I can tell right away why their house feels like a rental home.

How to make a house feel like a home is an issue for a lot of us. And it can’t always be easy to pinpoint why one room (or multiple areas) feels sterile or incomplete. But today I want to throw you a bone on the style-front. I want to share with you all of the things your home needs to take it from feeling like a rental into a certified show-home.

So strap yourself in for some easy decor hacks and style tips from me to you. By the end of this post you should know just what to do to make a house feel like a home. And if you’re still stuck, you can always drop me a comment at the end.

Oh, and if you want to have me make over your home, find out more here. Image above via OZ Design.

How to Make a House Feel Like a Home

hamptons master bedroom design with tufted bed by metricon homes

You have to Wallpaper (please!)

Wallpaper is the number one thing I ask clients about when I meet them. In almost every instance I ask if they’re open to the idea of wallpapering some walls in their home. Thankfully, many of them are down with the idea. And boy does it make a difference to how a room feels.

If you’re feeling wary of wallpaper, go to a display home. I do loads of work with Metricon Homes here in Melbourne and they apply wallpaper in their homes with gusto. One trip to a display home and I’m convinced you’ll get over your wallpaper phobia (this post can also help ease you into working with wallpaper if your arm needs further twisting).

The reason wallpaper is so good is that it adds a layer of warmth en masse. It’s something you’re never allowed to apply in a rental home either, so it gives a feeling or permanence. But it also takes up a lot of visual real estate. So you get a lot of impact for not a lot of money.

I’m a huge fan of cloth wallpaper. Not a thick-weave grasscloth, but a smoother and silkier cloth option. Choose a cloth in a black, charcoal or soft grey/beige and it can do wonders in making the room feel sophisticated. It’ll instantly elevate any zone.

black and white kids room brown nursery furniture metricon

Consider a (non-daggy) Feature Wall

If you’re hellbent on avoiding wallpaper, we can still be friends. But I do want you to consider a feature wall in your space. This is another must-do in making a house feel like a home.

Now, I don’t mean painting your living room wall plum. Or maroon. This was all the rage in the late 90s and early 2000s, but feature walls have thankfully evolved since then. And now, there are loads of ways to rock a feature wall without using paint at all.

Think crown moulding in a formal living room. Or vertical timber panels in your bedroom. You could also do a large frosted mirror in a dining room (my personal fave) to add a sense of drama. There are a lot of feature wall ideas in this post if you need them. But the moral of the story is this: it will add impact to the room and make it feel far richer!

built in study nook with shelving in metricon display home

Shelve your Walls – I Insist!

Another thing you’re never allowed to install in a rental home is shelving. But as with all the other elements I’m mentioning here, it works wonders. If you really want to know how to make a house feel like a home, you gotta be willing to drill into a wall.

Hanging some shelving in a living room either side of the TV makes the space feel more personalised. It gives character to the room. It allows you to display some personalised keepsakes and much-loved decor. And a room always feels more homely when you can openly display your memories.

This is my fave brand to get cool shelves from if you’re eager.

Installing picture rails works too. You can never put those in a rental home. I love the idea of putting a picture rail down a hallway (more style ideas for hallways here) and displaying family photos on them.

Somerset Lookbook_Dining entryway ideas the life creative metricon

Pendant Lights & Sconces FTW

I hope you’re starting to see that making a house feel like a home is all about committing to more permanent design moments. It’s not about the bedding you choose, or the armchair you purchase. These things are important, but they won’t make a room feel complete. They don’t have enough impact.

What does give your home a sense of character and permanence is lighting. Specifically, pendant lights and wall sconces. Both are amazing and I highly recommend you commit to one or both in your home.

Pendants over bedside tables instantly make your master bedroom feel like a master. They bring a sense of grandeur with them. You can also look to install pendants over your dining table, or in a reading nook. Pop some over your kitchen bench too if you’re yet to do this. It’ll make such a difference.

Wall sconces are another fabulous idea and I do love them on the wall above a bedside table. You might also like them in an entryway, hallway or living room.

dark grey living room wall with floor tiles in living room from metricon

Fork out on some Custom Cabinetry

Nothing says “I own the joint” like custom cabinetry. It lets everyone know you’ve gone to some effort to personalise your space and get it looking just how you want it.

I’m currently saving some of my hard-earned cash for custom cabinetry at my own place. I’m going to do a full wall of shelving across the living room. The TV will be mounted on the wall with drawers underneath, and there will be oodles of holes for my to fill with my fave pieces of decor.

Custom cabinetry can be a little more costly, but if you have the money it is well worth looking into. What the cabinets are made from and how many of them there are will be what impacts pricing the most. But even the smallest piece of custom cabinetry is going to make a house feel like a home. I promise you!

Metricon Lookbook Somerset Home in Glen Waverley The Life Creative

Invest in a Great Honking Piece of Art

When you live in a rental home, art is such a compromise. You can’t hang anything heavy. For the most part, it’s canvas prints. Unless you want a lot of smaller framed pieces. But hooks in walls are a no-no, so your life revolves around 3M Command hooks. It was my life for decades!

When you own your own home, this is where art becomes fun. You can actually commit to a large, heavy artwork that makes your heart skip a beat. And it really can be the one focal point and wow moment in the space.

It’s also nice to invest in one art piece that’s no so run-of-the-mill. Spend a bit of cash on a show-stopper and have it dominate a wall. Hopefully you’ve painted that wall in a dramatic colour – or wallpapered it – and hung the art on top.

If you want to browse some amazing abstract art from a batch of Aussie artists, this post has it all.

Built-in Nooks: Design Porn at its Best

Nothing makes me weak at the knees like a built-in study nook. I live for them, I want them, I dream about them. And they honestly make your home feel like you’ve invested in it. You didn’t just chuck in a cheap desk and chair – you actually got something made. That is what takes your home from ‘rental chic’ to ‘I freakin’ OWN THIS!’.

Built-in study nooks can be as simple as one piece of timber fixed to the wall, or you can go far more elaborate, like in the image above. When it comes to making a house a home, the size and scale of the nook doesn’t matter. It’ll look amazing regardless.

Just ensure you take some time to think about function. Consider what you need to use the zone for and how many people you’ll have to cater for. This is a permanent fixture after all, so don’t rush it.

master bedroom with olive polka dot wallpaper and black armchair in corner from metricon

You Gotta Explore Window Treatments

One of the things that sucks about living in a rental home is that you don’t get to choose any of the fittings and fixtures. Often, you’re left to live with a diabolical set of vertical blinds. Come to think of it, you might have purchased a home with verticals already installed (the horror!).

I personally want to imprison whoever invented verticals (as detailed here), so if you have these or something similar, it’s time for a change.

Window treatments are a bit like wallpaper; they make a huge impact because they take up a lot of visual real estate. Yes, they can be a little pricey, but the cost is worth it.

I’m an advocate of a roller blind with a sheer curtain over the top. The roller blind does the job in terms of privacy and heat reduction in summer, and the sheer curtain adds softness and warmth to the room.

If roller blinds and sheers aren’t your thing, there are loads of other options on the market you should consider. But if you truly do wanna make a house feel like a home, you gotta up your window game!

And Some Smaller Elements that make an Impact

OK, so there are some smaller decorative elements that can make a house feel like a home. Here are a few things you need to go out and buy immediately if not sooner:

  • A large rug, beyond standard sizing, to take up the bulk of a living room
  • Feature tiles somewhere, be it in a bathroom or in your kitchen splashback
  • Consider replacing your run-of-the-mill sink and taps to something unique
  • Decorative hooks are a great way to hang jackets, school bags and baskets on
  • Changing your carpet colour can have a dramatic effect on the feeling of a room
  • Also look to permanent changes to the exterior, like fencing, paving, paint and more

How do you make a house a home?

I’d love to know what permanent changes you’ve made at your place that have made it feel like a home. Drop a comment below and share some of your style ideas. It would be awesome to get some additional inspiration from you!


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