Decorating hacks: how to make your rental property feel like home

La Tribe's Emma Bidois and Dane Winter at home

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter from Auckland-based footwear label, La Tribe, invite us into their Western Springs rental, and we get major décor envy.

Unless your only source of news is E! News, you’ll be aware that a so-called housing crisis is proving quite the barrier to many young New Zealanders (and in particular, young Aucklanders) wanting to step onto the property ladder. But as Emma and Dane prove, just because you don’t own your home doesn’t mean it can’t feel like home.

Read on for Emma’s tips on how to make a rental home your own, then pick up a copy of Fashion Quarterly Life to find out more about Emma and Dane.


Start with a clean base
“You know when you go into a rental house and there’s marks and stuff on the walls? Well there’s this thing called a White Magic Sponge and it’s amazing, it takes anything off! You can use it on the walls the floors, everywhere. It’s such a good way to freshen up a house, especially an old villa so it feels like it’s just been painted, and it gives you a blank canvas to start with.”

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter lounge

Add natural accents
“The vibe of a house is really important to me. There’s nothing worse than a house that feels like a hospital because everything’s so sterile. Our house could easily have gone that way with all the white space, so we chose oak and cane furniture with a view to warming things up. If we had gone for black and white furniture it would’ve seemed much colder I think.”

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter lounge

Introduce lots of greenery
“Buy a lot of plants – big plants, established plants. Trademe is the place to look. The ficus in our lounge is probably 10 years old and we bought it from a lady in Botany for $30 when it’s probably worth about $500. My other hot tip is Roger’s, out in Mangere. It’s an experience. There are always huge lines of people because it’s so cheap. Coromandel Cactus is another good one.

Plants are a great little low-cost decorating hack. They’ll make any home feel good and they’re particularly great for a rental because you can hide things with them if the Magic Sponge isn’t up to scratch. Just fill a room up with plants and then whatever you don’t like about it blends into the background. Plants also increase in value as they get older – if you can keep them alive. I recommend ones that don’t require much watering!”

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter bedroom

Invest in things that will work in any space
“When you’re renting there’s always an element of uncertainty as to where you’re going to end up next, so we’ve learned to stick to wood and neutral coloured decor – things that will work with any space. We’ve made the mistake of falling in love with furniture that has turned out not to be practical down the line, so now we invest in things that are flexible and that we can take with us, like nice throws or a beautiful duvet.”

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter crystals

Cleanse the energy with crystals
“Typically with rentals there’ll be a lot of different people living in them over time, so it’s nice to have something there to keep the energy light. I’m massively into crystals…amethyst, and quartz. It’s not just eye-candy although they are of course nice to look at. But they bring a nice energy to the room, if you believe in that kind of thing. I’ll always have candles around, too.”

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter bathroom

Take inspiration from your travels 
“I get a few decorating ideas from Instagram accounts I follow and blogs and magazines I read, but most of my inspiration comes from traveling. Brazil has had a huge influence on Dane and I. The first time we went to Rio I thought I was just going to see a whole bunch of people in G-strings but no! We saw original Eames chairs being sold at markets and amazing retro leather arm-chairs…there’s also amazing architecture there and that’s definitely influenced our taste. I actually brought back a book on Brazilian architecture and I refer to it constantly.”

Emma Bidois and Dane Winter kitchen

Shop local for everything else
“I try to buy everything New Zealand made, that’s my gig. It’s hard because it’s not cheap but it feeds into what I was saying about buying investment pieces. A higher price-point makes you think more consciously about what you’re purchasing, so inevitably you end up with something you know you’re going to keep for ages.”

Photos: Helen Bankers