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Reside in Hong Kong long enough and complaints about ever-increasing property prices become a fact of life. For many of us, it’ll be a good few years before we’ve saved up enough to make a down payment on a home of our own, so in the meantime we resort to renting from others — and dealing with all the limitations that go along with that when it comes to redecorating. However, living in a rental apartment doesn’t mean our desire to personalise our abode diminishes. The good news is that there’s still plenty you can do to your home to grant it a new look, even if knocking down walls or a new paint job might be out. 

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Nirender “Ronny” Lehar, founder and design director at Leehar Home Limited, suggested taking an enterprising approach. “We find that if the tenant is able to persuade the owner that there’s a long-term gain, value, and return on the investment [of renovating an apartment], it could work,” he said. “You might invest in a 3D rendering to help the owner visualise that your idea is going to look great.” It helps if you can identify practical reasons for your proposed changes as well as aesthetically. For instance, if you notice that the paint is old, cracked, or sensitive to mould, you might consider suggesting re-painting with a more durable paint that’s anti-mould and VOC-free. 

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If your landlord refuses to budge, at the very least work out what design elements you’ll have to live with before signing your lease. “If you want an open kitchen, be aware that you can’t have a gas stove in an open kitchen due to fire regulations,” said Karbi Chan, founder of Hong Kong-based interior design service Archiparti, which helps match renovation projects with designers across the globe. “Ask the landlord if they will put in a partition for you, or replace the gas stove with an electric one.” 

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When it comes to switching up the design of your apartment yourself, consider elements that have nothing to do with the space’s shell. If you’re looking to create a corner with some extra privacy to use as a study, for instance, you could install a removable screen. To Chan, revitalising your home’s design is all about your furnishings. “Renovators of either rental or bought apartments actually want standalone furniture in their homes these days,” she revealed. “This type of furniture is not attached to any walls or installed by drilling any holes. And a good piece of furniture will display your personal taste or style, and will stay with you even after you move.” 

You might also be interested in:

>> Top tips for decorating a space for your little ones

>> 8 ways to update your bathroom on a budget

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Of course, after the furnishings come the accessories: soft furnishings, lighting, and artworks in particular. It’s easy enough to stock up on rugs, curtains, throws and tablecloths that you can mix and match from season to season; match a white rug with red ribbons tied onto your furniture for a winter look, while silky scarves draped over your sofa and a lace lamp cover is perfect for a romantic night in. Changing up your soft furnishings according to different colour schemes can completely revamp your home’s aesthetic. Lighting, on the other hand, is essential when it comes to creating mood and atmosphere. Hanging lights, coloured lights, and even more tech-savvy options like optic lighting can create very different effects. 

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Ultimately, though, it’s important to keep in mind just how long you plan to live in your rented home. “Do your calculations—how many years do you plan to stay in the same place? Then you can easily come up with a monetary number for how much you’ll be investing to improve your living environment,” Chan advised.  

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