How to Design an HMO on a Budget

We love a well-designed HMO, but we know that high-end design can seem out of reach within the property investment world.

This is an investment, after all, and it needs to work financially. That’s why we’re here to show you how you can achieve a well-designed HMO that works to your budget.

First off, it’s worth pointing out that even though you might be on a strict budget to ensure your deal ‘stacks’, sometimes it is worth spending that little extra.

If spending a little more means that your rooms sell fast to the best possible tenants, you’ll save plenty of money in the long run.

Trust us- it works for us time and time again.

So, why aim for high-end design? 

There’s a handful of great reasons why:

  • Increased Tenant Satisfaction – this one should be the most obvious but is often overlooked in favour of more “financially exciting reasons”. Ironic when you consider that you’re likely to get more referrals from your tenants if you provide a well-designed home for them.
  • Decrease Void Periods – if your tenants are happy, they’re less likely to leave. But, even if they do leave, your rooms will sell quickly if your HMO is designed well.
    Stand Out from the Crowd – in any saturated market, you need to make sure your rooms stand out from the rest for years to come.
  • Increase Rents – tenants will pay more for a house with great design. The proof is in the pudding – we’ve been able to increase our rents by up to 20% just by focusing on the design!
  • Attract Reputable Tenants – your design sends a clear message about the type of tenant you wish to attract. Great design begets great tenants. Bad design begets bad tenants. After all, there is nothing more expensive than dealing with a bad tenant who doesn’t want to pay their rent!

Hopefully, we’ve convinced you. But how do you achieve that high-end look on a budget?

1) Layouts

Maximising your floorplans is the quickest way to make a big impact for the least money.

There is no need to spend any money on extra materials. Instead, do some forward planning and make sure your floorplans work best for your property before any work begins.

You’ll want to make sure there is a good flow throughout the home and maximise any quirky corners for extra storage.

You can improve the feel of your home just by moving things around a little. For example, it’s a great idea to have the kitchen in the darkest space in the house and the lounge area in the brightest, even if that means swapping them around.

Who knows, an extra en-suite or more communal space can be easily created by being clever with your floorplans.

2) Cohesive Design

Another simple way to make a huge difference to how an HMO feels is by focusing on a cohesive design throughout the whole property.

By cohesive, we mean that there are matching design elements throughout. A theme. We achieve this by agreeing to a colour scheme to be used throughout the house. Sure, each room might have a different feature colour, but they should all sing from the same hymn sheet. Your neutral colours also need to compliment each other.

Once you have your colour scheme and theme, you can make sure all of your other design decisions match. That includes everything from your furniture choices to your kitchen or bathroom design. For example, don’t choose to go with a modern theme but then fit a country kitchen!

3) Kitchen Ranges

There is no need to blow any extra money on a super fancy kitchen.

Talk to your kitchen supplier about the design and make sure you’re buying good quality fixtures. Just avoid buying the units on display in the showroom. There are usually cheaper versions of the display kitchens made from very similar materials.

Look at the full cost breakdown as well. Make sure any soft closures and storage solutions that the designer has added are definitely needed and remove any that aren’t. You’ll be surprised by how much money this can save you.

4) Kitchen Finishes

Whilst you don’t want to pay more than you need to on the kitchen fixtures and fittings, it is worth having a bit of extra money set aside for the finishes. Kitchen finishes are the secret to taking a basic-looking kitchen to a beautiful high-end looking kitchen. For example:


A more expensive worktop (we love a marble laminate or wooden worktop) doesn’t need to be supplied from the company that provided the kitchen fixtures. There are some great online worktop stores where you can get the design you want within the budget you have. 

Door Handles

Another area to capitalise on. Firstly, never buy these from the kitchen supplier directly unless you want to faint when you see the cost breakdown. Instead, look online at places like Etsy, Amazon, or eBay to find a handle you like. Just make sure you check the sizes before ordering. 


Don’t be afraid to have fun with your tile choice. It’s incredible how many hardware stores now sell a vast range of different coloured metro tiles, yet we often opt for the safe option of white tiles in a brick pattern. 

Why not try a lovely muted blue in a vertical or horizontal stacked pattern instead? We like to go a step further and get some feature tiles for most of our kitchens. They make a huge impact, and we only need a few m2 worths to not break the bank.


Instead of wall cabinets, you could spend your money on some lovely oak shelves and make a feature. You’ll find the cost is about the same, but one looks far more expensive than the other.

Shop Around for your Furniture

We have a few brands that we swear by, but we always shop around when sourcing furniture for any HMO. You must get the best possible value for anything you purchase.

You can make the most of introductory offers and sales, but you should always find whoever sells the pieces of furniture you want for the lowest price. Don’t be afraid to try new places, but always check the reviews from other purchasers before committing to buy yourself. 

Features (Optional)

I love a good feature, but I think it’s easy to get carried away. Huge, show-stopping, out-of-this-world features aren’t necessary for an HMO. I know that goes against everything Pinterest has told you! But I absolutely believe a “less is more” approach to features is the way to go.

We like to stick to some feature walls with muted colours (if I see another bright yellow feature wall in a bedroom, I might quit). We then use natural materials to create features throughout the home. We’ve done exposed brick walls, wood slat features, half painted walls, and using patterned tiles cleverly. All have worked brilliantly without making the home look like a London club.

My final tip – and if you’ve been following us for a while, then you’ll have heard this already. But if you’re looking at creating a design that will last, avoid going straight for the latest trends. What is on-trend right now will look dated in 5 years (even less if it’s really out there!). 

We stick to a style or a period in our designs, hence why you’ll see plenty of Scandi designs in our properties (we love to bring our brand out in our homes). 

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