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May 21, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2012 issue

Rent me

Words: Kenneth Tanti – Interior designer

In today’s property market you cannot help but notice the increase in demand for rental properties, be it a family wishing to have a semi-permanent home or for tourists wanting a short break. As interior designers we have been asked to design quite a few apartments for clients wanting to rent out a property in the quickest time frame possible. This is where the challenge begins – producing a property that stands out from all those others that are available for rent; making a property special and unique without breaking the bank.

Designing for rental properties involves making the apartment or house stand out, having the design be both practical and luxurious looking, and ensuring the project comes within its budget. (While this also applies when designing an interior of a private home or commercial outlet, when it comes to rental properties the budgets may not be as flexible.)

The process begins by doodling on the plan, figuring out how best to maximise the space available and coming up with the ideal layouts for furniture, kitchen, bathrooms and so on. We mark out all electrical and plumbing points so that works on site can start and no one is kept waiting. We also try to keep these points to a minimum so as not to add any unnecessary costs.

Choosing the furniture and fittings are key when designing a property for rent. It all has to be as hardwearing as possible and must also, as you can imagine, look good and have a superior design feel to it. This includes the choice of sanitary ware, the light fittings and even the paint on the walls. Part of the design involves calculating which items are going to need minimal maintenance. Sometimes property owners need to dissociate themselves from their own personal tastes and keep in mind that they are not planning to live in the property. Like this they can go ahead with choices that will make the end result both more appealing and hard wearing.

One of the most important areas to focus on is the kitchen. This is where I usually like to pump in some more money. It is a very obvious factor that less is less here and that kitchens that are not well equipped with good hardware, indestructible work tops and good quality appliances are going to go downhill after the first few rentals, with the result that a property owner’s phone will be ringing incessantly with complaints about an oven that doesn’t work or a cupboard door that’s come away from its hinges – not a good start for someone hoping to build a good reputation in the rental market.

Bathrooms also need to be up to standard. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve rented properties where the bathrooms had grouting that was flaking off or toilet seats that were coming loose. With a slightly bigger budget you can avoid a leaking toilet and tarnished faucets and ensure having a property that seems more luxurious.

Now most probably you are thinking that it might be simpler to just pump more money into everything to guarantee a top quality rental property, however, costs can be saved on many other items that would usually break the bank if you were designing your own home. Take gypsum soffits, for example. Having flat ceilings throughout and then creating the design schemes in the ceiling with lighting instead of stepping up and down with plenty of bulkheads, will keep costs lower. Sometimes it’s possible to avoid having gypsum ceilings all together and just have a couple of small protruding bulkheads against walls that throw light down against the walls, and flushing artwork with light. This gives a gallery effect and helps to spread the light evenly throughout the room. And you save money by not having elaborate light fittings.

You can also pinch pennies when it comes to the choice of tiles. Most of the time a tile cracks or grout flakes off not because the tile is of inferior quality but because the laying of the tiles was not done well.

You can come up with a very stylish bathroom without having to go over the top. Stick to using two tones from the same tile and avoid the extra expense of using borders that go out of fashion after a while anyway. I also have a tendency to choose large size tiles for any size of bathroom. Be it tiny or huge. It always feels cleaner and the fewer joints the less risk of it looking shabby after some time.

Soft furnishings and wallpaper come in at the end and usually the client has limited funds to spend on the finale. However, you can carefully play around with a mixture of sheers and fabrics that look great, are practical to keep clean and that work with most people’s tastes. Trying to be too original in what type of curtain to have may backfire and put some potential tenants off. Purchase a good mix of both contemporary pieces and slightly more classical pieces and have them thrown into the same room. Do not stick to one style as this will end up being monotonous and you will not have the amount of requests that you hope for.

With the increase in online bookings, guests have an infinite choice to choose from and all sites are backed up with numerous images. A property has to really stand out from the rest to keep those bookings coming in. And one last thing, do get a professional photographer to take some good photos of the property during the day and also at night. This will make a huge difference in promoting it.

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