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feminine bedroom with deep pink quilt cover and polished concrete flooring

Rental Apartment Interior Design Ideas from Our Client’s Home

Rental apartment interior design doesn’t have to be boring, or low end, or an afterthought. It can be stunning and designer – and I’m going to prove it to you!

My most recent design project is for a lovely client in Docklands, Melbourne. It’s the second rental apartment in the last year or so that I’m going to work my TLC magic on. The last one I did is here, if you’re into a moody coastal aesthetic. But this Docklands pad is going to be very different indeed.

I’m a bit pumped about this one actually. I do love designing schemes for apartments. It’s a chance to be clever in a small space. And the vibe the client is into is a very chic, feminine, inner-city one. It’s unlike any other design I’ve done before, which is very exciting. I guess if you look at my portfolio of work, every home I do is different, and I love that. It certainly keeps things interesting.

My divine client actually lives in Western Australia. I’m going to implement this gorgeous theme for her, and she’s then going to rent the apartment out, furnished, to a long-term tenant. Can I just say: that is one lucky tenant!

So have a scroll through and I’ll show you what I’m doing with the spaces. And you’ll soon come to discover that rental apartment interior design can actually look amazing.

grey and maroon interior design mood board globewest and urban road

Chic, Moody, Feminine, Melbourne: The Brief

The potential tenant was front-of-mind when I created the concept for this rental apartment. Who is she? What does she like? What will she appreciate?

My client (the owner) has plans to eventually move to Melbourne and live in the apartment, so the design had to do doubt duty. It had to appeal to a tenant who would look after all of the items I bring in. But it also had to appeal to the owner and stand the test of time for her. So I started thinking about the type of person who would rent a fully furnished designer home in Docklands, Melbourne. And the scheme was born from that.

She’s creative. She’s a professional. She isn’t ready to buy a home just yet, but she appreciates good design. She wants an apartment she can bring friends over to after working in the CBD. And she wants to be proud of the space. This is the personality of the imaginary tenant. It might seem bonkers but there is method to the madness.

The images above, from Globewest and Urban Road, really captured the colour palette I wanted to use in this rental apartment. I am so excited to play with warm tones. Gorgeous accent shades of burgundy and maroon, paired with subtle pops of pink and nude. Then, below, this image from Nathan and Jac really solidified the vibe even further. An effortlessly luxe feel, definitely feminine, modern and clean.

Further down you’ll see the mood boards I made, which were presented to the client recently. She loved them, naturally 😉

grey and maroon rental apartment interior design by nathan and jac

The Must-Do Design Moments

The last tenant in the apartment actually looked after it pretty well. She’d been in there for 10 years though, so it was definitely time to update a few things. I really wanted to give the apartment a new lease on life. Furnish it now for the tenant, and then do some more major moments later for the owner when she moves over from WA. Things like kitchen and bathroom makeovers we’ll hold out on.

But some more major things still needed to happen before I furnish and style:

  • A complete repaint of the home in Dulux Lexicon
  • New lighting throughout and a revamp of all light switches and sockets
  • New carpet for both bedrooms (the current carpet has definitely seen better days)
  • New roller blinds and sheer curtains to add softness to the space

Once those major changes are done to the shell of the apartment, then I can order all of the furniture and decor. The major works above is going to chew up about half of the budget, but it’s so necessary. And seriously: I love a budget challenge (you know I’m king at hunting down a bargain!).

grey and maroon rental apartment interior design mood board

Mood Boards: Living and Dining Room

Above and below you can see the decorative plans for the living and dining spaces respectively. The base colour palette is a chic black, white and grey. And then over the top I’ll punctuate the spaces with pops of rich reds and moody blues. We’ll add greenery where we can (fake plants of course, because I know where to get the good ones), and throw some marble in the mix too.

When it comes to rental apartment interior design, there’s such a tendency to make it cheap and nasty. Don’t get nice things, people think, the tenant will just trash them. But I’ve been a tenant before. And I treated the home like it was my own. If you build it… she will come. And I reckon if we make it amazing from a design perspective, we’ll attract the right sophisticated lady (or gent!).

And so I’m going to get some gorgeousness from Globewest. I’m going to get some divine moments from Calibre. Art from Urban Road, of course. And then I’m going to throw in some affordable style moments from places like Kmart, Target, BIGW and TK Maxx. I did that with the pockets of my Bentleigh project and it turned out a treat.

Seriously, mixing the skimp and the splurge – as I always do – really is the secret to creating an amazing interior design scheme without going bankrupt.

rental apartment interior design docklands round marble dining table from globewest

“Don’t get nice things, people think, the tenant will just trash them. But I’ve been a tenant before. And I treated the home like it was my own. If you build it… she will come”.

rental apartment interior design mood board grey headboard and floral art from urban road

Mood Boards: Master & Guest Bedroom

The chic and feminine vibe continues in the master and guest bedrooms. Both are moody, both are sophisticated, but neither are too stuffy. I always like to keep rooms feeling approachable. I never want someone to feel like they can’t dive right into the mountains of pillows and cushions and get snuggly. You know how I feel about mountains of cushions.

The master is the roomier of the two, so it’ll get a soft grey upholstered headboard. The guest room is quite tight on space so I’m opting to pop in a double ensemble bed. It might even be pushed against the wall. The reality is, the guest room will probably only be used by visitors from time to time, so I don’t need to create a sense of grandeur here.

Plus, we’re on a budget, so let’s make the most of the master and let the guest room play second fiddle. It’ll still be a stunner, of course, but you gotta prioritise where the cash is going or else you’ll go way over budget. And trust me, there is no conversation less fun than telling your client you need to go over budget.

urban road floral art in rental apartment interior design docklands

Are you Making the Most of Your Rental Apartment?

Like I said at the start of this post, rental apartment interior design can be amazing. And I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this that are already rocking some really clever design ideas in your own rental home. If that’s the case, don’t be shy: drop me a comment below. I want to know all of your tips and tricks so other TLC readers can benefit from them too.

So tell me, what’s the big rental design or decorating hack going on at your place? Spill the beans!

The hero image in this post comes via Eve Wilson for Nathan and Jac


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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8 Responses

  1. Hello Chris,

    I was searching inspirational ideas for my new apartment in Melbourne and found this article. Thank you so much for sharing these ideas I really loved your idea of adding “New roller blinds and sheer curtains to give softness to the space”,

  2. Hi Chris, I am a big fan of yours from the Netherlands. I love the colourschemes you make and I have A question about that. What is the effect from the surroundings to the colourscheme? We now live in the woods (when you look through the windows it is green) but Will move to the sea (How great is that!, but in our country the sea/sky colour is grey 8 months of the year). Huge Windows facing nw. Our style is modern black/white/beige. Love to hear from you! Good luck with your move

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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