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How I made my rented house feel like home

Sofa so good: The living room was the first Hayley tackled

YOU NEED a skilled eye to see the potential in an unfurnished rented home, but when interiors blogger Hayley Stuart moved into a three-bedroom, two bathroom, 1930s farm cottage in Hampshire four years ago, she had the vision to see what it could become. Today, the once magnolia-dominated rooms have become a cosy home full of character for Hayley and her family − husband Jordan, their boys, Rex and Mack and French bulldog Arthur.

When they moved in, the house was in good condition, but, as Hayley puts it: ‘It was just very bland. Being tenants means we can’t make any structural changes, but we are allowed to paint and make other decorative updates. As such, I have updated almost every room in the house multiple times, and it really feels unique to us now.’

4,000 beads: Hayley made the chandelier

The living room was the first decorated. ‘I based the colour scheme on a photo I found online of a wedding table dressed with deep autumnal hydrangeas and vintage brass candlesticks.’ The sofas were the first purchase and set the tone. ‘I decided to go all white on the walls and let the furniture and accessories do the talking.’

The dining room has a dramatic feel, too, due to a smoky grey feature wall and black chandelier. Hayley made the chandelier using approximately 4,000 beads. ‘It was hard work, but fully worth it. I went to car-boot sales and searched Gumtree for unique vintage pieces. I got the rug for £5 and some tea chest side tables for £10.’

The weathered dining table was made by a carpenter using antique scaffold boards. Hayley’s dad made the window shutters.

In the kitchen, Hayley used two clever hacks − replacing the cupboard handles with home-made leather pulls and covering existing tiles with tile stickers for a fresh and colourful new look. Both can be reversed, but instantly modernised the space.

Clever life hacks: Hayley introduced tile stickers in the kitchen and embraced boho in the bedroom (below)

Other changes included a door painted in a pretty pink, leading to the utility room. It used to be a cold and uninviting space. ‘It was just a bit depressing. So I covered the worktops and cupboard fronts with removable self-adhesive stickers.’ Hayley embraced the botanical trend. ‘It meant I could incorporate my love for plants into the space.’

The master bedroom has been revamped a few times — and also features a plant theme. Hayley is ‘in love with boho and the bedroom felt like the perfect space in which to create that relaxed feel. I collected lots of similar scatter cushions for our bed from Next and Ikea. Other boho touches include a macramé plant holder and woven baskets, as well as plenty of leafy plants in terracotta pots.’

Boys’ dens: Rex’s room has a cowboy theme and Max’s, above, a woodland one

The bathroom was the most recent project. ‘After using tile stickers in the kitchen, I knew they would be a great option for here, and I managed to find some Victorian-style ones on eBay. The space has been transformed from a dull and clinical room to an inviting sanctuary.’

The children’s rooms have been decorated with just as much care.

Rex’s room has a cowboys and Indians theme, thanks to cheerful wallpaper and a fun camp bed.

Mack’s bedroom has a woodland theme. A tepee with a ‘grass’ rug inside makes a fun addition, along with toadstools, a leaf garland and a scattering of garden gnomes. ‘I think it’s important to have a theme in a child’s room, as it helps set off their imagination,’ says Hayley. ‘I tried to avoid going with things that were current to their interests as they move on very quickly. Instead, we chose more timeless themes that the boys could get involved with.’

iamhayleystuart.com, Victoria Harrison is editor of Houzz. Visit Houzz.co.uk for more design inspiration and home-improvement advice