Dress up your flat for better rental returns

Ask the experts We'd like your advice on how to get the best rental return. Through the use of decoration and styling, how do you suggest that we get the extra edge?

We plan to let our new apartment in the upcoming Ocean Terrace project on Reem Island and we would like your advice about how to get the best rental return in such a competitive market. Through the use of decoration, styling and furnishing, how do you advise that we get the extra edge? Depending on the number of bedrooms your apartment has, its decor and furnishing could increase the rental revenue that you receive by up to 15 per cent. No matter where your property is, in order to command a higher price in a competitive market you have to target a clientele that can afford a premium rental. To attract such a group, you will need to set a neutral but stylish and elegant theme without making the kind of upgrades that will incur too much counterproductive expense. The ideal is to make it neutral enough to keep everyone happy - but not so neutral that it feels impersonal or bland. You should concentrate on colour schemes, furniture and accessories.

1. Use soft and earthy colours, such as a combination of light beige and light grey. Both of these will then work well with any third colour of your choice (and with the third colour you can afford to be slightly more adventurous - try a pale green or blue). Painting one wall in a different colour will provide a nice, stylish touch and means that - as long as you are happy to allow it - your tenant could change that feature according to the seasons. It's a great idea that's cost-effective for you and means that the overall feel of the room can be changed by repainting just that wall while keeping the original colour of the other, main walls. Choosing your interior colour scheme is the most fundamental part of home decorating. Because there's such a huge choice now, it can easily become a worry, but keep it simple and just think carefully because colours make a huge difference to the perception of any home.

2. Remember that warm colours advance, and thus decrease the apparent size of a room, while cool colours recede and seem to increase the size. For inspiration, collect as many illustrations as you can of interior design - books and magazines are very useful in providing ideas. 3. Learn from nature. Think about the colours of the countryside, especially in the autumn. Look at the clouds on a blustery day; they seem monochromatic but are in fact full of subtle colour variations. In fact, you can do this with any scene which at first glance seems mundane and uninteresting: you'll start to see colour everywhere and how the varying tones all work well together. Translate that principle to the decor of the apartment. Avoid bright colours or unconventional furniture; by using neutral colours and simple yet elegant furniture you will appeal to the widest and most discerning audience.

4. For furnishings head straight to companies that provide furnishing packages, whereby you can easily match everything while still having different styles and colour schemes. This will also allow you to easily replace pieces that get broken or damaged without replacing the whole set. Go for durable styles and good quality - neither expensive nor too cheap. If space is limited use basic, minimalist styles and always try to keep the colours neutral: off-white, beige, dark brown. These will please any tenant and work well with your wall colours.

5. Use lots of big mirrors around the whole apartment - everywhere from the hallway to the living area, from bathrooms to bedrooms. It will dramatically improve the look and feel of the place. Large-scale, oversized mirrors instantly make every size and style of home seem more luxurious, more glamorous and much more spacious. 6. Give the apartment an elegant, intimate feel by dotting small and stylish accessories - such as vases and lamps - throughout it. Two items per room is a good rule.

7. But always avoid items that have any personal meaning at all. They may seem innocuous to you, but you never know what can be misconstrued or disliked by your potential tenants. 8. Consider adding a home office: it'll be viewed by all prospective tenants who visit the flat as a great bonus, even if they don't plan to use it as an office. It doesn't to have be an entirely separate room by any means; it could be a corner of the hallway, part of a guest room or arranged within a living space. This could be as simple as having an organised area with internet connections, a fax line and a nice desk and chair.

Emily Davies was talking to Olimpia Siwik, managing director, Fine and Country, Abu Dhabi; www.fineandcountry.ae