In this week’s What I Rent we’re in Derby with Vikki, who’s managed to create a rented space that totally fits her aesthetic.
Vikki, 37, works for a nationwide letting agent, so has ‘the inside scoop of the ins and outs of renting properties’. She knows her stuff, to put it simply.
She’s been in Derby her entire life, having grown up in the suburbs and rented in the city centre since she was old enough to leave home.
Her current home is a two-bedroom house that she’s lived in for nearly six years and shares with a housemate, a dog, and two cats.
We chatted with her about how she’s transformed her space without pissing off her landlord.
Hi, Vikki! How much do you pay to live here?
The rent is £625. Bills are an additional £250 to £300 a month.
And what do you get for what you pay?
The house is deceptively small from the outside but we have a hall, stairs and landing, a large living room and dining room, a kitchen, two large double bedrooms, and a massive bathroom. I also have a small rear garden with a little grass area and a decking patio.
Do you feel like you have a good deal?
Although the rent is quite high for a two-bed terrace in this particular area I’m happy to pay it for the beautiful original features and the character of the property.
Who lives here?
I initially moved in just over six years ago with my ex-husband. After we split my current housemate Dani moved in and has lived here for 18 months.
Sadly she’ll be moving out in the next couple of weeks but on the plus side my boyfriend Jon will be moving in and we’ll share the house with his son and our combined pets; Evie the Chihuahua, Yuna the Bengal and our new kitten, Chester.
Do you like the area?
I live very near an area highly populated with students. I don’t particularly love the area but I live in a little cul-de-sac and have lovely neighbours that share their home-grown veg, help us with the odd repair job and we look out for each other, which is really nice.
I also love the convenience of living close to the city centre and some lovely local parks.
How did you find this property?
I found this property on Rightmove. When I saw the advert I immediately fell in love, I even did a drive by of the house that night. It had beautiful features including a roll top bath, Minton tiled flooring in the hallway and original doors.
I was really nervous when I put in the application as we have a little dog, which often isn’t allowed in rental properties but luckily as he’s a private landlord we could speak to him directly and reassure him how well behaved she was.
How have you made the house feel like home?
When I collected the keys to the house and saw it for the first time without any furniture I actually cried – it was in such a mess.
The walls were grubby and covered in marks, the carpets were ditched and it was filthy throughout. There were also some quite questionable feature walls (lime green and brown horizontal stripes in the lounge and a completely black flock wallpaper in the dining room, which is the darkest room in the house).
I asked the landlord if I could decorate, to which he agreed and initially I just got a paint match to all of the original colours and gave it a freshen-up and painted over the feature walls.
After a few years though I decided I wanted a change of scenery and that’s when I really go into decorating and DIY and started my Instagram account for inspiration. The house is quite dark as it’s north facing so I decided to go white and grey throughout but with a navy feature wall in the kitchen.
Every room has been redecorated, including skirtings and woodwork. The only exception to this is the hallway, which is my next big project.
I like classic traditional décor but with a rustic-cottagey feel. More recently though I’ve introduced a slight Scandi vibe too with lots of house plants, and I’m obsessed with dried flowers at the moment.
As well as painting I’ve given new lease of life to all of the beautiful but very tired built-in cupboards, particularly the one in the living room which previously had glass doors to the top section that I removed and I repainted the entire unit to create bright open shelves.
The doors have been saved to put back on if the landlord would prefer at the end of the tenancy.
I’ve added rustic scaffold board shelves to the bathroom and recently used tile stickers to completely change the look of the fireplace hearth in the dining room.
I love smaller creative projects too and usually have several on the go at once. These include creating wreaths for the walls, upcycling anything I can get my hands and making seasonal décor, I especially love it if I can create something for nothing (or at least very little).
The entire house has been furnished with second-hand furniture which I’ve repurposed. The only furniture that I purchased brand new was my bed, which was a bargain from Argos and my sofa, which was ex-display from an eBay shop. Everything else is either Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace or donated from friends.
It feels good to live in a beautiful house that I’ve created myself for next to nothing. It’s important to me not to spend too much money decorating and furnishing a home that’s not my ‘forever home’ but it’s equally important that my home is a place I want to be and feel proud to live in.
Has your landlord been okay with you doing all of that?
My landlord has agreed to every request I’ve put to him, including painting the front door and replacing a large flower bed in the garden with turf.
I’ll be completely honest, though… I haven’t asked for permission for every project but he does visit from time to time and is always happy with the changes I’ve made and I’d never make alterations that I couldn’t put back if needed when I move out.
I genuinely feel that I’ve added value to the property and I believe my landlord thinks I’m a good tenant because of this.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
I definitely feel like I have enough space… with the exception of the kitchen, which is just tiny in comparison to the rest of the rooms in the house, it’s smaller than the bathroom!
I also have a lovely little garden which has been my passion project during lockdown over summer. My boyfriend and I created a pallet sofa and table and painted the decking and some of the outside walls.
Are there any problems with the house you have to deal with?
The house is very dark. We only get the sun in the garden until 4pm, which means no after work drinks in the sun!
The windows are only single-glazed so it’s freezing in winter and very expensive to heat.
The main thing I hate about this house though is the carpets and flooring. The carpets upstairs are covered in stains and are actually threadbare in places so I have a lot of large strategically placed rugs.
Downstairs is all wooden floorboards which I love but they’re finished in a dark orangey varnish that’s now very chipped. The flooring annoys me daily but that’s one thing you can’t change in a rental without going to great expense.
Do you have plans to move again any time soon?
My boyfriend and I are hoping to be in a position to buy a house when the current lease runs out here in 18 months. I will have been here eight years by then.
If we’re not in a position to buy I’d happily renew the contract again. There are very few rental houses I’ve seen like this one (and I work for a letting agent!), especially with landlords as flexible as mine so I’ve been incredibly lucky.
Are you happy renting or is buying a house the goal?
In an ideal world I’d always prefer to own my own house simply so I can do exactly what I want with it. I often look around this house and think if I owned it I’d definitely do this or that and I want that sort of freedom in my future. I do love the fact that I don’t ever have to pay for any repairs at the moment though.
Shall we have a look around?
What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.
Check back next week to have another nose around a rented property.
How to get involved in What I Rent
What I Rent is Metro.co.uk’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.
If you fancy taking part, please email [email protected] You’ll need to take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.
Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.
We’re not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you’re currently renting a place you hate, we’d love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).
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