“Grey walls, grey floors and a grey sofa in my rental! How to inject some colour and life?’ We both have a LOT of opinions on this, so @anneliyancek, you couldn’t have come up with a better question! And actually, yours wasn’t the only request for rental suggestions, so get ready for two lots of wildly conflicting advice from one pseudo-minimalist and one outrageous maximalist.
Emma on crap rentals
Crap rentals are my LIFE. Not on purpose – I just can’t afford to buy a house in London and am unwilling to leave. I have lived in many, I have loathed many, and am currently ensconced in one that I am trying to make less crap every damn day. There is nothing quite so soul-destroying as knowing you could make the space of your DREAMS, if only you were allowed free rein over your rental. I feel you.
Robyn on crap rentals
So I’ve not been in a crap rental for a little while, due mainly to the fact we were able to live with my grandad/Jamie’s parents for five years to save a deposit on a flat. It was broadly sexless but productive. That said, I struggled with renting and just went for the ‘fill it with stuff’ approach to counteract the magnolia mediocrity of every rental I did rent. I feel your pain.
Emma on colour
So, I won’t lie, an all-grey flat is kind of my dream scenario. But I feel you on the flatness and lifelessness. I’m never going to be the person who tells you to introduce print and yellow to a room, but I am all for creating layers with tone, and for me, sometimes that’s softening hard grey edges with warmer neutrals (big fan of greige) and introducing soft touches of colour that enhance the grey rather than work against it. Pick one neutral and one other tone, and introduce both in varying intensities. Maybe a pop of terracotta mirrored by a softer peach. The warm neutrals help to melt all tones into each other, creating a beautifully cohesive look.
Robyn on Colour
Introduce yellow and print… no I’m joshing but also not at all joshing. I’m actually having a grey moment myself having chosen a completely uncharacteristic dove sofa but I’m counteracting the lovely, calming colours with what I call ‘Acid-House Pastels’. I’ve got big jumbo goat paintings, I’ve got black walls, I’ve got some really stonking, aggressively deployed My Little Pony ice-cream shades to diffuse things. So yes, I say go hard with contrast but not too bright cos you’ll look mega 90s. Mix up blacks, some grubby pinks or some dusty mints like Dulux’s colour of the year Tranquil Dawn in all your textiles and artwork to draw the eye from the grey.
Emma on texture
I’m all about softening bare spaces with natural textures. For me, it’s about creating a cosy place you feel you want to relax in, so I’m feeling lots of rattan and wood, with touches of sculptural linen and thick woven cotton. Raw textures like this should help to knock some of the corners off those grey edges and create a little cocoon you can bundle yourself up in.
Emma on pattern
Bear with me here – I know I’m Mrs Plain. But if you’re looking for ways to easily spruce up a bare space you can’t actually modify, a little pattern can be just the thing. There are a gazillion beautiful, removable self-adhesive wallpapers you can wang up and tear down, that won’t damage the paint job underneath, and if you feel so inclined, this is a great way to create a feature. Check out Etsy, Anthropologie and Wayfair for great options. Pattern is a great way to create depth, so think about layering with blankets and cushions, or even using texture and pattern together in a jaunty little rug arrangement. Enchanté!
Robyn on art
So go bananas. Go oversized. DIY it if you’re low on budget but whatever you do split up that monotonous scheme with really intense shots of colour, be it smashing someone over the head with monochromes or enormous abstract watercolour loveliness. Depending on what your budget is you can get things printed up huge or get those paintbrushes out and create that Rothko you always dreamed of. Etsy is packed with sellers who do print on demand designs and I know for a fact getting something knocked up at the printers is an affordable option if you’re brassic. Ikea have some great large scale art and I have it on good authority that all you need is a carpet gripper to get a Slowdown Studio throw on the wall. The possibilities are endless but the rule is singular – keep it large to put colour in charge.
Robyn on accessories
Ok you’ve gone fairly restrained on the palette so far, bit of this, bit of that but no bright brights cos of the 90s Ikea rule. Well now you get to put the magic back in with accessories. Mix things up with a little contrasting coffee table action like this Calligaris Tweet Coffee Table Duo or a more affordable mint number from Argos. Get heavy-handed with pattern a la Kirkby Designs and their delicious Northern Line underground cushion. Add a smidge of lunacy with a funny little Habitat vase or push the boat out with the Tom Dixon sex toy vase of dreams. The bits and bobs are what make the eyes bounce around and not settle on the otherwise boring backdrop so fill your place to the brim and you’ll fine.