Expert Tips on Making Your Expat House Feel Like Home

A big part of any relocation is getting settled in your new expat house. But often this means a furnished flat, full of things you haven’t chosen. Or a house where none of the things you have shipped seem to quite work.

So what can you do to make your expat house feel like home? And how can you do it quickly, and without spending a fortune?

Well, here are some tips from an expert. Briony Reyne Randall is an interior designer from the UK and is the owner of the award winning Reyne Design.

I caught up with Briony to get her spin on how to make your new place feel like ‘home’ – with the focus on easy and cost effective solutions.

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Ideally, do this before you move. There is no point paying for storage on things you don’t really want or need. Anything that doesn’t make your heart sing or your life a little easier is not worth dragging across the world.

The same applies when making purchases for your new home. With each move there are undoubtedly things you will need to buy.

Live by the following rules:

  1. Do you really, really love it?
  2. Does it fulfil a very specific need?

Unpack quickly

Because nothing makes a house feel less like home than a ton of moving boxes. Get them unpacked and get rid of all that cardboard.


Lighting can do so much more than lighting the way. Layer up light sources to create rich cosy corners, highlight your treasures and artwork you have carried from country to country and add energy.

Expat House
Make lighting a feature

Your choice of lamp is also a great way to express your character and make your new house feel like home. Don’t stop at table and floor lamps. You can also change the main fitting for something more to your taste without the need of repair works when you move on again. You won’t be be able to move the actual position but you can change the fitting for something more personal. Choose a fitting that expresses your personality and the best part is you can usually take it on to your next home – ensure you get an electrician to fit it as the local specification could be different to the original place of purchase.

Expat House
Get creative with lighting


Having photos of your friends and family displayed will always make your new house feel more like home.

Consider arranging them in a less conventional way, propping them up on a shelf or sideboard to avoid having to fill holes in walls when you leave. Having said that a bit of hole filling is a small inconvenience at the end of your tenancy for the joy these precious memories can bring.


Expat House Home
Arrange pictures and photographs on shelves

Hang artwork on the walls too. Art should always be very personal and usually has a story to tell. If you travel from one country to another every few years chances are you will have picked up some special pieces along the way. Displaying these will help remind you of where and when you discovered each of these treasures, helping your new property to feel more familiar.

Every picture has a story to tell


To change up the floor in a rental property would normally be considered as lunacy as it is most likely to be at your expense and even then the landlord may insist on returning it to its original state upon leaving. That means that you are likely to have to make do with what is already there and that is usually either a well-used carpet or something hardwearing but not necessarily beautiful.

Create texture an interest by layering rugs

Use rugs to cover up, add colour, texture and to zone spaces. If you have an exceptionally large space consider layering up smaller rugs. This means that when you move onto the next place you will more easily find a space for your smaller rugs without having to roll the sides up the walls which is a big no.

Taking your possessions from one country to another helps to take the familiar with you and create that sense of belonging that can often be missing when you first arrive. The same goes for soft furnishings- cushions and curtains will bring the familiar, soften your new home and provide comfort after an exhausting day of unpacking.

 Smells so good!

Nothing takes you back in time and place more than smells. Don’t underestimate the importance. One of the easiest things you can do make your house feel like your home is to make up your bed with bedding you have laundered as you always have.

Make up the kids rooms first and use the bedding they are familiar with

Seal the smell in by packing bedding in vacuum packs-  when you break that seal you and your family will instantly be taken back to the last place you called home. Vacuum packing will also reduce the volume of your bedding as you want this to be one of the first things you do so ensure you prioritise it in your airfreight. Then when you fall into bed, on your first night, after an exhausting and emotional move you will be reassured by that familiar smell. Children find this particularly comforting.


Don’t be afraid to add some colour to your new home! Ok, you may not be able to paint the walls pink, but there are other ways of introducing colour into your home.

Picture frames and soft furnishing are easy and cost effective ways of adding a pop of colour. For more about experimenting with colour and grouping colours together, click here.


So it’s not the best idea to make your place look like an Ikea showroom. But Ikea is available in most countries and there are some great, stylish buys that can quickly and easily transform any space.

Ikea’s Billy bookcase scores highly on versatility and price

Keep it simple. Choose neutral pieces so your own treasures are the star of the space helping to make that connection to home. Modular storage is a good idea for any rented properties, not only will it fit any size or shape room, it’s also easy to remove at the end of a tenancy. Avoid spending lots of money on very specific sized furniture – the likelihood is that it won’t fit your next place!

You can make Ikea pieces your own simply by repainting or changing the handles. This instantly makes the look more personal – and more expensive.

About Briony

Briony Reyne Randall is an Interior Designer and owner of Reyne Design, based in the South East of England. Briony has a 1st Class degree in Interior Design and over 14 years of architectural and interior design experience. She has worked across a diversity of project types in the UK, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany.

Briony Randall Reyne Design Expat House feel like home

Briony’s design portfolio is comprised of high profile projects for clients. These include:  Champneys Health Resort, Wagamama Ltd, Prudential, Multiplex, Marks and Spencer, MetroCentre and Carlsberg.

To contact Briony, click here. To see more of Reyne Design’s  projects, check out their portfolio.


3 Replies to “Expert Tips on Making Your Expat House Feel Like Home”

  1. Lisa Gloe Palacios says: Reply

    After a couple expat moves, I second your recommendation on air shipment of bedding!! I also air ship some of the dogs favorite toys/bed. This move I didn’t airship any of my kitchen things, but next move I will do so!! IKEA is a great go to for fillers like lamps, bookshelves, etc.

    1. makingherehome says: Reply

      Thanks Lisa! Our next move won’t involve any air fright…but it will include a dog for the first time, so her bed and toys will be in the ‘priority’ pile! We always do an Ikea run too, although I’m now at the point where I want to buy things that I really love and want to keep – but it’s hard when you don’t know if they’ll fit in your next home…

  2. Looks like a very nice home. Great tips, too!

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