5 inexpensive buys to take your shared kitchen from drab to fab

1. Windowsill Herb Box

How many times in the last month have you found yourself mid-marinade, wishing you’d remembered to pick up some basil from Tesco earlier? Cry no more, my friend. A windowsill herb planter will soothe all herbal culinary woes, with no need for a garden, trowel or previous plant-growing expertise – and it’ll make every grimy kitchen look (and smell) better straight away. Snap one up for as little as £9.99 on Amazon (complete with compost, basil, chive and parsley seed packets) and get growing. Flatmates shall be bowled over, bolognese shall taste better, and visitors shall mistake you for a proper adult.

2. Cloud-shaped Chalkboard

There’s SO many things to love about the good old fashioned chalkboard. Not only does it conjure endless classroom nostalgia, it also serves as a great canvas for scribbling important notes to your flatmates. You know, things like the all-important cleaning rota, whose turn it is to buy milk, or passive aggressive (read: threatening) messages to the suspected biscuit thief. This one is cloud-shaped and comes in at under £20, leaving you plenty of pennies to stock up on an array of coloured chalks.

3. Pineapple Bottle Stop

Bid a smug farewell to the days of leaving random spoons in the top of your prosecco to keep it fizzy in the fridge (thanks for the tip though, Mum). This chic £12 pineapple bottle stop is here to keep those rare unfinished beverages fresh, flavoursome and at their strongest ABV. It’s simultaneously also pretty cute and stylish enough to incite envious conversation amongst dinner guests. Which is a great distraction from a less than brilliant choice of wine.

4. Panini maker

Everybody knows there’s nothing quite like the heartwarming smell of gently toasting bread, and nothing quite like the taste of gooey melted mozzarella. Enter the (£20) panini maker. Flatmates will be wooed by your freshly toasted sandwiches (they make great bribes/peace offerings) and just think of all the cash you’ll save without the need for those lunchtime Pret visits and dodgy meal deals. Better still, you can garnish your creations using those freshly grown windowsill box herbs. Winner, winner.

5. A kitchen garden

Because let’s face it, reasonably priced rented accommodation with a garden = SERIOUSLY rare, particularly if you’re living in the city. But not to worry, because there’s always Patch – purveyors of the uber-cheap urban plant. There’s kitchen plants galore for both well-lit and dimly-lit spaces, plus a selection of minimalist cool pots to keep them in. We’re hankering after Franky the aloe vera plant and his air-purifying, skin-soothing powers. Is there anything Franky can’t do?

Buying these is great and all, but how about if you didn’t pay rent for a month? Then you could buy all of these and more…SO much more. Well, it could happen sooner than you think – enter our Live Rent Free competition, where we pay someone’s rent EVERY month.

We’ve found this year’s LiveRentFree top dog…

A 25-piece samba band, four SpareRoomers in dog fancy dress and a giant cheque for £6,708. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, right?

Or at least it was for 29-year-old Nicola Bodfish, a Brighton-based canine-grooming enthusiast and the latest winner of our annual LiveRentFree competition.

But let’s paws (sorry) and go back to the start. In May, we invited renters to share their dreams of how they’d spend a year’s free rent. Over 80,000 entries (and a LOT of hilarious responses) later, we found our winner Nicola, whose dream was quitting her job to start a dog grooming business.

Such an insane prize deserved an equally insane reveal, so we decided to surprise Nicola on Saturday 1st July, while she was (aptly) studying at The Dog Hut Canine Studies college in Polegate. Our squad included a samba band, four SpareRoomers dressed as giant dogs, a banner with Nicola’s name plastered across it, and a HUGE cheque for £6,708 (a year of her rent) hand-delivered by Rupert, our CEO and Founder.

Her reaction? Worryingly cool, calm and collected on camera, but overall as chuffed as you’d expect: “Saturday was absolutely crazy. I really can’t thank you guys enough for such an awesome surprise – you don’t know how much this will help me progress the business plans. I don’t think it’s even sunk in yet!”

Keep your eyes peeled for Sussex-based canine updates, and in the meantime why not have a think about what you’d do with a month’s free rent? Our monthly LiveRentFree competition could make it happen sooner than you think…

What’s going on in the rental market right now?

It’s that time of year again – the busiest time for flatshare hunting. There are currently 44,902 rooms available and 53,939 people looking for rooms on SpareRoom right now. When demand is up rents tend to follow suit so we’ve put together a list of average rents in the UK’s 30 biggest towns and cities.


Before you check the list to see what’s happening near you, here are the headlines:

In August, the average room rent across the UK was £591 a month, up from £544 last year, an 8.6% annual increase.

What does this mean at a local level?

At the top of the rental scale was hipster-central East London, with room rents averaging £902 a month. After London, Reading rents were second highest at £528 per month and Brighton third at £491 per month.

At the more affordable end of the scale, you’ll see Sheffield (£343), Cardiff (£342) and Newcastle (£339) per month.

We know demand is up at the moment but just how high is it?

Edinburgh led the way in July with 22 people competing for every room advertised. Glasgow and Salford weren’t far behind at 14 people per room.

Surprisingly, competition for rooms in London, where average room rents were £710 isn’t as fierce at the moment; with seven people competing for each room in the most popular areas.

Here’s the full list:

Town/City Average monthly room rent Number of people competing for every room
London £710 7
Aberdeen £484 3
Brighton £491 7
Edinburgh £466 22
Reading £528 3
Milton Keynes £449 8
Bristol £444 15
Southampton £412 7
Manchester £380 16
Cardiff £342 8
Birmingham £417 10
Portsmouth £395 6
Northampton £387 6
Luton £423 4
Plymouth £368 2
Coventry £371 6
Leeds £351 15
Liverpool £346 5
Newcastle £339 5
Nottingham £356 5
Leicester £341 6
Derby £356 3
Preston £347 1
Sheffield £343 5
Stoke-on-Trent £340 1
Wolverhampton £357 2
Dudley £375 2
Hull £340 1
Bradford £292 4
Belfast £259 9

How does your area compare? Let us know in the comments below.

Sharing is the new normal

Today’s release of National Census figures from 2011 reveals that sharing has become a more common way of life in England and Wales.

Households that fall into the “other” category – not single people living alone, or a single family together – make up 8% of households, up from 6% ten years ago. This doesn’t include “other households” with people over 65 living together, which would refer to those in a care home or hospice.

The statistics reveal where flatsharers are likely to be living. In London, house-sharing is at double the national average (15%). Inner London has the highest concentration of house-sharers, at 18% and the borough of Tower Hamlets is revealed to be the top borough for house-sharing – 21% of households are sharers. This accolade is joint with the Borough of Brent in outer London where the same percentage of households (21%) are made up of people sharing.

That London comes top for sharing is not surprising, given the pressures on London housing stock, the cost of living, and the relentless rise of rents.

The region with the lowest proportion of sharers is the North East, where only 5% of households are living with non family members.

The Census figures do not cover Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Introducing SpareRoom’s flatshare agony aunt

Have you got a problem with your flatmate(s) that needs sorting out? Let us help with advice from SpareRoom’s new resident flatshare agony aunt Oonagh O’Hagan.

Oonagh is the author of the brilliant ‘I Lick My Cheese and Other Notes: from the Frontline of Flatsharing’, a book described by Esquire as:

“…a collection of nasty notes and petty Post-its that will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever shared a flat with a borderline OCD sufferer, or found an unidentified pube in their toothbrush and been moved to action”

If you’ve got a flatmate dilemma, chances are Oonagh’s heard worse (there’s a challenge if we ever heard one!). Email us with your horror stories, your nightmare flatmates or just those embarrassing niggles you don’t know how to handle. Every week we’ll pick the best (or at least most entertaining) and give you Oonagh’s top tips on what to do.

Just email agonyaunt@spareroom.co.uk

TV documentary looking for Flatsharers in London with stories to share

Are you currently living in a nightmare houseshare?

Are you super fussy about who you live with?

Perhaps you’re a serial house hunter moving for the 10th time this year?

Or are you in your 40’s or 50s and finding the flatsharing market challenging?

Sundog pictures are exploring the phenomenon of housesharing – what it’s like to live with strangers and the trials and tribulations of trying to find a room in a saturated rental market.

We’d love to hear from anyone with an extraordinary story – the information you share with us will be strictly confidential and at this stage won’t be used for broadcast. Please note we’re looking for current stories only at this point.

Please contact us for more information – tom@sundogpictures.co.uk or call 020 7602 8163.

It’s a yurt!


We’ve had plenty of beautiful rooms on SpareRoom over the past 8 years but nothing quite like this yurt. The weather may be starting to get chilly and wet (hardly perfect camping weather) but never fear, the yurt is

“fully insulated from the rafters to the floor and has been through one harsh winter already, staying warm and dry on the inside. There’s broadband, electricity and a fantastic view of the fields all around.”

Click here to see the full ad (and more photos).

Why it pays to write an interesting ad

Built by the bare hands of Zeus, decorated by DaVinci, and perfumed by the flora of the Garden of Eden, this room availability is a once in a lifetime event.

So begins the best flatshare ad we’ve seen on the site this week. It’s always great to see people being creative with their ads – it gives you a real sense of the personality of the person in question.

For example:

A little bit about me: Having spent a number of years defending Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor with my fearless friend, Battlecat (I left due to some workplace bullying relating to my bleached blonde bob style haircut and questionable speedo related dress sense), I came to London in 2005 to work in a stupid American bank.

OK, so not everyone will share this guy’s sense of humour but then that’s the way it works with flatshares. You’re not going to get on with everyone you meet but, at least in this case, if you find the ad funny there’s a fair chance you’ll like the flatmate.

The ad ends:

If you’re interested, aren’t going to kill me while I sleep, or look through my underpants drawer, drop me a line to arrange a viewing.

We’ve reproduced the entire ad below – it would be a shame if anyone reading this after the room had gone (which I’m guessing will happen pretty quickly) missed out.



Built by the bare hands of Zeus, decorated by DaVinci, and perfumed by the flora of the Garden of Eden, this room availability is a once in a lifetime event.

Having housed the likes of Winston Churchill, Einstein, George Best and Kinga from Big Brother, you are looking at a property steeped in history and culture.

If you’re looking for a place to stay with a bed that will make you feel like your back is being kissed by a thousand pocket sprung fairies, you’re looking at the right place.

Located a stone’s throw from Brockwell Park (if you’re Fatima Whitbread), less than a 10min walk or 3 minute sprint (if you’re late for work) from Brixton Station, you have all the amenities and entertainment that South London has to offer on your doorstep:
From the White Horse (30 seconds walk), Brixton Electric (5 min walk), Plan B/o2 Academy/Brixton Village (10 min walk), to Cla’ham High Street (15-20 min walk)…..you will wake up with more hangovers, half eaten kebabs and regrets than a Newcastle Hen Party.

The room for rent is a bright, cosy, very quiet double room, with plenty of storage, French doors and an ornate* fireplace. (*Non-functioning; I’ve tried).

The flat is a two bedroomed conversion in a Victorian property, with a patio garden, which is brilliant for BBQs, and summer drinks. (due to the weather, the BBQ success rate = 13% and summer drinking success = 100%).
The main room is a split kitchen/living area, which, as you can see from the photos, is where Banksy placed some of his definitely original famous stencilled art – don’t believe what the skinny jeaned, pointy shoe’d East London types tell you.
There is a big basement for all your non-Fritzl storage needs (bikes etc).

Bills are shared and come to about £150 a month each.

A little bit about me: Having spent a number of years defending Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor with my fearless friend, Battlecat (I left due to some workplace bullying relating to my bleached blonde bob style haircut and questionable speedo related dress sense), I came to London in 2005 to work in a stupid American bank and would like a flatmate, who, like me, likes to keep it quiet and civilised from a Sunday night to a Thursday night, either working on my glutes in the gym, or wearing my jim jams in front of the TV (which has Sky Sports).
I keep the flat quite tidy (for a bloke) and have a cleaner who comes round once a week to sort out the hard-to-reach places.
I don’t do the “let’s buy our food and cook together” malarky, partly because I’ll eat all your food, but also because I work in a stupid American bank and have to eat cereal before bed at 10pm, BUT mainly because I’ll eat all your food.

I spend my weekends with friends, eating (half) kebabs, playing golf, watching/playing sport, enjoying the day and nightlife of London, and, save me please…… gardening.

If you’re interested, aren’t going to kill me while I sleep, or look through my underpants drawer, drop me a line to arrange a viewing.

Another month, another Live Rent Free winner

This month’s recipient of a whole month’s rent, courtesy of SpareRoom, is Alex Fisher.

Alex lives in lives in Peckham (SE15), where the average rent for a double room plus bills (and therefore her prize) is £546.


Alex says:

“That’s amazing news!! I can’t beleive it! I’ve literally never won anything ever!! And after entering every month for over 2 years I’d almost given up hope! I’m a Quality Assurance Analyst working in Aldgate and living in the mighty Peckham, SE London. I moved to London in 2008 after a year teaching in Japan and moved straight into a shared house. Living in London is so expensive and, with rent going through the roof, sharing is a really excellent way to make it affordable and meet some great friends along the way. I’ve met a boatload of fun and interesting people and sharing definitely helped me settle into London life! The money will come in really handy as, being 28, apparently I’m at ‘that age’ and all my friends have started to get married! So I think I’ll be using the cash to make sure I’ve got some fantastic outfits for the 4 weddings I have lined up this year! Maybe it will stretch to a few glasses of champers too.”

To be in with a chance of getting your rent paid next month head to our competition page. Alex, like 90%, of our winners, won with one of her loyalty entries (extra entries we give away free) so don’t forget to check out the ways you can earn more chances to win while you’re at it.

Good luck!

The SpareRoom team.

Who’s living rent free in March?

Natashka is.

Congratulations to Natashka Brown, who lives in East London (E1). She wins £654.33, according to SpareRoom’s Room Rental Index.


Natashka says:
“I’m a West End theatre lighting technician and had been living alone for seven years before I found my present flatshare on SpareRoom last year. It was a good way for me to move into a new area and find out what to do and where to go. Having just ended a six month contract, I’m using the site again to find my dream share apartment, hopefully with a great social element and in a great location. I’ve entered the competition on numerous occasions and never thought I’d win, it has come just at the right time. I’d like to use the money to go to Barcelona and celebrate a friend’s 50th but I’m sure it will come in handy with my room deposit too!! Thank you SpareRoom”

Don’t forget, for your chance to win a month’s rent enter now