This post is part of a paid partnership with Colourtrend Paints

I, Emma Rachel Crap Flat, am 34 and until last weekend I had never painted a wall. Sprayed a vase, yes. Cured a cupboard, of course. But painting just hadn’t happened for me. I’ve lived my adult life in London rentals and never had the desire nor gumption to actually paint one of them. But after four years in The Crap Flat, it was time for a change, and boy what a change it has made. Anybody who tells you that it’s not worth spending time and money on a rental property has never spent time and money on a rental property they’re living in. Because this has been game-changing. It might be just a few shades to the left of white, but having my living space in an actual tone has made it feel softer, cleaner and more of a home than ever before. It was a pretty daunting task for somebody like me who was a paint novice, so, for all you renters and first-timers, I’m putting together this blog post on how to paint your rental, from pleading with your landlord to re-hanging your pictures.

White bust on a grey wall
See how my white things actually look white now?

The Landlord Shuffle

Much like a twee and complicated dance from the 1950s, the Landlord Shuffle is a two-to-three player game which could take anything from one hour to the rest of your life to play. It involves gaining your landlord’s trust so that they feel comfortable letting you make changes to their property. We’ve lived in our flat for four years, are great tenants and have fostered a great relationship with our landlord through open communication, flexibility and on-time rent payments. Because of that, we’ve discovered that we actually have some power in a relationship that many of feel powerless in. And this is true for any good tenant – in the least machiavellian way possible, you have power. Your landlord does not want to lose you and risk getting somebody terrible in. It’s taken work and patience on our side, and a little leap of faith for him, but our guy is now happy for us to make considered changes, so long as those changes are not an all-night discoteque in the kitchen.

The Paint

Ok, this one’s important. choose a paint that works for the use it’ll have to sustain in your home. I’ve been talking to Colourtrend for months and months in a conversation that started out as possibly me painting a chair, and has morphed into a full Crap Flat Paint-a-thon. There are a couple of reasons that I ended up working with Colourtrend and I think they’re worth mentioning, because – to my knowledge – all paint brands have a slightly different schtick. First off, genuinely, the thing that caught my eye was the paint names. Mucky Swan, Nettle Soup, Jodhpur – I’m heavily here for these. Second, they’re all about durable, wipeable finishes, which is great in a flat where you’re moving through one main space all the time, and I think contributed to our landlord being on board. And third, every colour is available in every finish, so there’s minimum chance of disappointment. They’re an Irish brand, and you can shop online in Ireland, but you can now buy them in stores in the UK too – just have a look at their where to buy page.

Tip: never be afraid to ask your landlord if you want to make changes – the absolute worst they’ll say is no.

A circle of tester pots with their lids off
Oh, circle of greige, you are all of my favourite colours

The Colour

My flat is a hoshposh of all the non-colours, so my paint was going to have to tie together true-grey, warm white, green and beige. No sweat, right? Plus, this girl is not good at making decisions. So I ordered five greige testers and felt sure one would work. But what I realised is that even using Colourtrend’s sample cards, which use actual paint chips for colour accuracy, it was tricky to understand what a colour would look like larger scale. So my first batch of beiges were all too beige. A touch too much yellow for what I needed. Thankfully, the good folks at Colourtrend sent me a couple more colours and within that batch was my absolute dream. Wild Garlic, which is appropriate both because it’s a lovely colour and because I love garlic. It’s a warm sort of cloud grey with a touch of beige in there, and it morphs from grey-white to hay smoke depending on the time of day and the shadows cast.

Tip: try ALL the testers. Paint one coat and two coats on the wall so you can see how the colour will build and look in different spots

The Finish

Everybody but everybody said don’t have a matt finish. Friends, family, a rogue taxi driver – every one of them said it would show every bump in the wall and scuff more easily than a satin finish. But I – stubborn as ever – knew I wanted matt. The flat is long and thin and strewn throughout with harsh spotlights, so any kind of subtle sheen on the walls would become gross and shiny here. So, like some kind of hero, I went for the Interior Matt finish, which is formulated to help conceal surface imperfections. Perfect for our wonky walls.

Tip: try your paint under different lights, at night, under ceiling lights, wall lights, shine a big torch on it if that’s what you normally do at home

Example of wet, dry and on-the-wall paint
Paint can look really different wet (right), dry (left) and on the wall (background)

The Actual Painting

I’m gonna split this bit out into steps, because that’s how I worked through it myself, and found having a little check list made me feel safer about getting started. I split the whole shebang over three days, doing prep one day, then a coat on each of the other two. You could for sure prep on the first day of painting, but it would be pretty exhausting and you might hate the world by the end of it.

Tip: don’t feel like you have to rush – take your time and make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to do a good job

White desk and white shelves on a grey wall
Lots of beige on a background of grey? Hello, palette I’ve been looking for

The Stuff

In true Emma style, I was prepared for this for weeks. Bought all the gear, put it safely in a corner and then didn’t touch it for about a month. I don’t know about you, but new things and big changes scare me, and this was both of those happening to my little sanctuary of a home, so I needed a bit of time to adjust to the idea of getting started. While you’re waiting for your heart to catch up with your head, the things you’ll need to paint your walls are:

One tray per person

One roller per person

A sheet of sandpaper

Dust sheets (buy more than you think you’ll need)

Green Frog Tape (two rolls)

One wide brush per person,

Brush cleaner

Decorators wipes

coats hanging on a grey wall
Finally, a grey wall to hang my things on

The Prep

Take your frog tape, stand on something solid and get to work taping off any edges you don’t want to paint, like the ceiling, skirting and windowsills, pressing down the tape as you go. I used the green Multi Surface one, which was excellent and there was no real bleeding of colour anywhere, though some people have had issues with it pulling paint off doorframes, so use the Yellow delicate one if you’re unsure. Then start moving all your stuff off shelves, taking shelves and pictures down and moving all your furniture into the middle of the room. Cover everything with dust sheets and tape the sheets to the floor if you can, so they don’t blow around when you walk past. I would also cover the floor with taped-down dust sheets as well if possible, which is a pain, but will save you an hour afterwards cleaning paint splashes off the floor. Your home should now look like somewhere a murder is about to be committed. This is your prime sanding time. Take a sheet of sandpaper and go around the room, gently swiping across every surface to remove any imperfections and give the paint something to stick to. Hoover up any dust and have a cup of tea.

Tip: give yourself a good half day to prep

The Painting

Ok, you ready? Open up your paint and give it a reeeeeal good stir. Like, for longer than you’d think it would need. I chose to use a really nice wooden spoon that’s now ruined, because I’m a glutton for punishment. Lots of people use a big stick, but depending on the paint, I think a spoon gives better stir-action. Then pour a small amount into the well of your tray and dip the wide brush into it, removing any excess before you start on the walls. The thing to do is go around all the edges first with the brush, to make sure you can get right up to the tape line. Don’t worry if it looks a bit patchy at this stage. Once you’ve done all the edges with the brush, it’s Roller Time. Press your roller into the paint and roll it back and forth along the raised ridged bit of the tray to even out coverage. Then roll to your heart’s content, taking it right up to the painted edges. The technique is to roll hard on the upward stroke to distribute paint, and light on the way down to even out the finish. You’re looking for full coverage, but if there’s some base colour showing through, don’t worry. Now you play the waiting game. Resist the urge to touch in with your hands. Go out. Do not watch paint dry.

Tip: make sure every single thing is covered with a dust sheet because rollers splash paint everywhere. I still have some in my hair. Regret not wearing a shower cap.

Green sofa and grey table on a grey wall
Grey for days, bruv

The Second Coat

Wait until about eight hours have passed (I waited until the next day) and then repeat the brushing of the edges and the rolling of the middle bits, taking care to go over any areas where the previous wall colour is showing through. There really wasn’t much showing on our second coat – the paint’s such good quality that I think a really diligent first coat might even have done it. But we did a second because Mr Crap Flat said we had to, and you don’t mess with Mr Crap Flat’s process when it comes to DIY.

Tip: if you’re worried about the tape pulling paint away with it, blast it with a hairdryer beforehand, to soften the adhesive.

The Clean-Up

Frog Tape instructions say you’re supposed to remove tape while the paint is still wet, but I was buggered if I was going to go around and re-tape the whole room after coat number one, so I left it on overnight and then removed when the second coat was still wet, pulling the tape back on itself. In all but two tiny spots it came away perfectly, and we simply touched those up with a little brush. And then once you’re all done it’s fine to clean those brushes over the sink (or bath in my case) with warm soapy water. I used a foaming brush cleaner as well, because I’m impatient and knew I wouldn’t do a thorough job without it.

Tip: get ready for some serious satisfaction when that tape comes away. Maybe throw a little party to celebrate how deeply satisfying it actually is

Bonus tip: leave three days before sticking anything like Command Strips onto your fresh new walls, as the paint’s still settling in

Beige vase on a grey background
Look how happy the little vase is with his new backdrop

The Good Bit

Once all your furniture’s back in place and all your lovely objets are back on their shelves, you get to sit back and enjoy. For such a subtle tone shift, it has made a whole world of difference in The Crap Flat. Our space was always fine, but now it feels like a cohesive open plan living situation rather than an – admittedly pretty plush – women’s prison. Our furniture feels like it belongs here, rather than just stuff in a room, and crucially, the space feels like ours. Something we created that’s just for us, and there’s no real price I can put on that. It was well worth the three days of painting and month or so of pre-worry. I’m now happy to say that I love our walls, and that’s all thanks to this new paint job. Who knew? Drop me any questions in the comments, let me know if you decide to paint your rental, and stop by Instagram where I’ll be sharing pictures like nobody’s business.

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