I turned my shabby rental house into a colourful paradise on a budget – my cheap tricks could save you thousands

A MUM-OF-TWO has revealed how she transformed her shabby rental property into a colourful paradise for just £500.

Sofie Hepworth, 36, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, moved into the four-bed property in October – and after six months it looked like a completely different home.

The content creator, business owner and interior stylist, who lives with handyman husband Rob, 43, and sons Teddy, four, and Reggie, two, used simple touches to transform the pad – so nothing needs redoing when she moves out after a year.

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Sofie reveals her tips – including how to bag a bargain everywhere from Poundland to antique fairs…

"We moved from London into this rental in October. We couldn't find anywhere to buy so started renting and when we moved in, all the walls were magnolia.

It’s a lovely house, a period Victorian townhouse with great proportions, but it had been rented out for four years.

So was a blank canvas, although a slightly shabby one, with the same stripy blinds which don’t go with anything, in every room.

Straight away, we tried to add some personality using soft furnishings and adding B&Q shelves to the walls, small changes that made a really big difference to how it feels.

It looks completely different now. It looks like we've spent a long time doing it up, but we haven't.

I'm a big believer that you can transform a space in a weekend, by buying smart and being creative.

We've spent about £500 in total. We didn't want to spend too much money on a rental, knowing we're not going to be here forever.

We came to an agreement with the owners that they would pay my husband to paint some of the rooms white, which meant we didn't spend any money on that.

It looks completely different now. It looks like we've spent a long time doing it up, but we haven't – and we've only spent £500

I would always recommend people have that conversation with their landlords.

If you’re not very good at painting, see if they’ll get someone in to do the decorating for you. Most landlords want to keep their houses looking fresh.

My husband runs a handyman business so we're a good pair. I'm the creative and he's the doer.

Our bedroom is the only room where we actually put colour in. Everywhere else we painted white.

It's tricky when you're in a rental, you don't want to have to re-do everything if your landlord doesn't like the style.

We focused on adding colour and personality in other ways, so we don't have to paint it all when we leave. Luckily we already had most of the furniture from our last place.

When people look at my images, what they see is lots of colour. That is true, I always use colour but it’s not plastered all over the walls.

A big part of selling houses is selling that dream and the lifestyle, which I think we’ve definitely done

I normally use pinks, mustard yellow and green – on a predominantly white background.

We painted the kitchen cupboards green, which made a huge difference, it looks like a whole new room when it's just a lick of paint.

Our bedroom and lounge are very pink, then we used mustard in the kids' rooms. I’ve got two boys so they don’t want pink rooms.

I'm very lucky though, my husband is a modern man and he's comfortable with a pink sofa.

He's the one having to paint things pink at my request, but he's really supportive and loves how everything looks when it's finished.

We have our moments, where he’s like ‘really? You want to paint the bedroom ceiling pink? Are you sure that works?’

But in the end he loves the home we live in. If it wasn’t for me, he’d be on a black leather sofa from Ikea and wouldn’t bother doing anything.

My boys are quite young, but my eldest at four is a big fan of pink, probably down to me. So he loves it when I add more pink into the house.

When it comes to buying on a budget, I would describe myself as a happy shopper. I mix and match higher end stuff with cheaper pieces.

I have a lot of stuff in my house which is from Ikea, HomeSense, charity shops or antique fairs.

I think if you've got one really special item, it lifts the whole room and things which are budget won't look it.

I'm very lucky, my husband is a modern man and he's comfortable with a pink sofa

With a rental, spend as much as you can on your sofa or dining room table – then everything else can be budget.

And you need to be open minded – some people are afraid to go to charity shops or cheap stores, because they're scared it won't look right.

I have this really cute zebra which is in my son's bedroom and it cost £1 from Poundland. He has a big zebra on the wall, which was quite expensive, but this little zebra looks amazing with it.

I always have a theme in mind and keep an eye out for things which fit wherever I go – if that's Tesco, Sainsbury’s or a charity shop.

It doesn't matter how cheap it is, if it fits the theme it's going to look great.

My main tip for people renting or doing up their house who don't have much money is to fill the blank space on your walls.

You can do that very cheaply by adding open shelving or some beautiful art – which you can get with a frame for £10 or £20.

I went to an antique fair in October and got this really beautiful set of colourful old nature books.

I put them on a B&Q shelf which cost £12, the books cost £5, then added some house plants above this nasty looking radiator on a really blank, boring wall.

And it just transformed that whole corner of the room. There was nothing there before, and it probably cost £20 to do the whole thing.

It's all about finding ways to add colour and interest into a room. I have a massive piece of artwork in our lounge and it cost £40 including the frame.

Also, think about adding different tones of the same colour.

There's eight different shades of pink and red in our lounge, but without the furniture it's a white box.

We did that with six cushions, which came from HomeSense and cost £3 each in the sale, with a really bold sofa and a rug.

I always have a theme in mind. It doesn't matter how cheap it is, if it fits the theme it's going to look great

Rugs are my other tip – I have an oversized one in most rooms and it really lifts the colour, without having to replace the floor or carpets.

Then I added in flowers to add more tones of the same colour. If you've got a colour in a room, don't just stick to that shade.

Chuck in two or three more shades of the same colour, then you add so much depth to a room. You can do that very inexpensively, and that’s when a room starts to look so much more high end.

House plants are my other tip for transforming a space.

I have them in every room in our house and the minute you start to add plants it completely transforms a blank space.

I always say either treat yourself to plants or get them as a house warming gift, because they make a home in my opinion.

Sofie's tips for doing your place up on a budget

  1. Don't fork out for painting – ask your landlord to cover the costs.
  2. Stick to a white background and colour with furnishings.
  3. Paint your kitchen cupboard doors to give the room a budget 'renovation'.
  4. Try and get one 'high end' piece in each room, e.g. your sofa/table, then go budget for the rest.
  5. Fill your walls with framed pictures (£10-£20) and open shelving (£12 from B&Q).
  6. Build depth with lots of shades ofthe same colour, to make your room look expensive.
  7. Use oversized rugs to lift the colour without having to get new carpets/flooring.
  8. Have house plants in every room. Get them as house warming gifts to cut costs.
  9. Head to antique stores and upcycle furniture to make it look brand new. Sofie got a £15 chest of drawers she thinks rivals £1,000 ones that way.
  10. Head to eBay for a homeware bargain.

I love antique stores and eBay for a bargain.

I’ve got a three-door pine chest of drawers in our bedroom, which really wasn't anything special to look at.

But I transformed it and it’s now this beautiful pale pink chest of drawers with wrap handles and brass corners on it.

I’ve seen pieces like that in high end stores for over £1,000, but it only cost me £15. That’s one of my favourite pieces.

And in the bathroom in our London house, I sourced all of the gold taps, bath shower and gold plug holes from sellers on eBay.

They were incredibly cheap and look absolutely amazing -because everything in the room tied in together.

I paid about £200 – all of that from a traditional bathroom store would be well over £1,000.

It’s all about relative savings and being brave enough to mix and match, as well as being confident enough not to have to buy from all the traditional avenues.

eBay is definitely somewhere I look both for used and new items, from sellers you wouldn’t normally be able to find. I am a big fan.

We've bought a doer-upper house, also in Tunbridge Wells, which means we're moving out of here in October.

I will be sad about that, we had planned to stay here for a good few years so spent a long time finding a rental we loved and making home improvements.

But then we found a project place and went for it.

I will be very sad to say goodbye to our bedroom – it's my favourite room I've ever designed.

At the same time, we left an incredible house in London and I haven't looked back.

I am someone who really enjoys the process of making something beautiful. So yeah, I’ll miss it, but I think it’s really exciting to have another go.

I definitely think we've added value, if the owner wanted to sell and did viewings with how it looks now, with how everything's styled, it would sell quicker and for more money.

Even though we haven't renovated the kitchen, just painting it made a huge difference.

We’ve made the house feel more like a contemporary family home, which appeals to the market, so even if it’s a psychological thing I think it would sell quicker.

Because that’s a big part of selling houses, selling that dream and the lifestyle, which I think we’ve definitely done.

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