Single mum transforms rented home for just £1,500 using second-hand finds

You don’t need to own a propery to make it your home.

Take note from Emma Parkes, a single mum from Shropshire who’s mastered the art of renovating a rental – and all on a tight budget.

The 49-year-old, who works in special needs education, moved into a plain rental home on the outskirts of a small village 16 months ago, along with her daughter Poppy, 18, and her son Ralph, eight.

Like most rented properties, the three-bedroom cottage was a bit blah – all white walls and plain furniture.

So Emma set about a mission to turn the rental into the vintage-style country home she dreamed of, starting by stripping out the old carpets to reveal the floorboards.

Don’t worry, she got permission from the landlord first, who was all for her swapping the magnolia decor for cheery pops of colour.

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Emma said: ‘I knew I wanted to inject colour with a boho style enjoying plenty of plants throughout the house.’

The first room to tackle was the living room, where the mum spent £800 completely overhauling the room.

She cut costs by opting for secondhand buys with a retro feel, then adding a feature wallpapered wall rather than doing the whole room.




The walk-in fireplace’s exposed brick got a lick of white paint, while the curtains were swapped out for a natural blanch with plants hanging down.

Next, the kitchen, where Emma spent £200 transforming it with a fresh, floral theme.

Part of this was painting a bright pink mural across one of the walls.

‘The kitchen was the first room where I painted one of my murals on the wall,’ said Emma.




‘All my murals are hand-painted and original. It is very much floral-themed and uses bright but soothing colours.

‘The use of plants continues into the kitchen where I’ve hung a reclaimed ladder from the ceiling with flowers hanging from it.’

In the bedroom is another mural, plus white-painted floorboards and a reclaimed piece of wood above the bed, acting as a shelf.


Slowly but surely, and with a lot of hard graft, Emma managed to turn the house into her perfect home – and all with a budget of just £1,500, and doing all the DIY herself as a way to deal with the gried of suddenly losing her dad in 2020.

She’s documented the entire process on her Instagram, @tallulahcottage.

But she’s not finished just yet.

Emma added: ‘My children’s bedrooms still need to be decorated.



‘The landing and stairs have carpet down but I’m hoping to rip this carpet up and expose the floorboards.

‘The bathroom is not to my taste and definitely one of my next projects.

‘I’m hoping to knock the wall down which at the moment separates the toilet to create a much larger space, and I’d love a freestanding bath in the bathroom and exposed flooring.



‘It’s taken me about a year to get to where I’ve got with my home.

‘I’m a single mum and work full time so it can be hard to achieve the work I do on my home quickly, I dip into it as and when I can.

‘My budget has definitely always been on a shoestring so I often have to be creative in my thinking and I source practically everything second hand.’

Cost breakdown

  • Kitchen: £200 for second-hand furniture and paint for the mural
  • Lounge: £800 for second-hand furniture, paint. Wallpaper was gifted
  • Bedroom: £150 second-hand furniture and paint.
  • £350 on additional paint, second-hand furniture, etc throughout the house

Total spent: £1,500

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