What I Rent: Zeena Shah, £1,516 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Hackney, east London

Zeena and her fiancé rent a one-bedroom flat in Hackney, east London (Picture: Zeena Shah)

It’s time for What I Rent, our weekly series exploring the ins and outs of the world of renting.

How much are people really paying in rent?

What are they getting for their money?

And how can we turn rented spaces into homes?

These are all questions we set out to answer, by each week having a nose around a different person’s rented property and having a chat about their experiences.

Last week we were in Woolwich, London, with Clara and Florian, who rent a one-bed flat for £1,425 a month.

This time around we’re taking a peek inside Zeena Shah’s Hackney home.

Zeena is an art director, stylist, author, and TV presenter who is well-known for her love of colour.

So of course, the flat she and her fiancé rent in an amazing building in east London has been transformed into a ‘pink palace’.

Here’s how Zeena rents.

When the couple walked into the building, they knew it was meant to be their home (Picture: Zeena Shah)

Hey, Zeena! How much do you pay to live here?

We pay £1,516 per month plus bills (council tax and utlities).

And what do you get for what you pay?

A one-bedroom, one-bathroom flat.

Do you feel like you have a good deal?

For the building we live in, the location and the ceiling heights, yes, we do.

We looked at much more expensive properties in the local area that were half as nice so feel we did well to find this space to call home.

How did you find this property?

We were lucky enough to find it on SpareRoom! It was like walking into a Wes Anderson dream house.

What do you think of the area?

We live in Hackney, east London and we love the area – it is creative with a community spirit.

We know our neighbours, and feel very spoilt to have a local artisan bakery over the road and posh coffee shops on various street corners.

‘It was like walking into a Wes Anderson dream house,’ says Zeena (Picture: Liam Clarke)
We can see why she loved it (Picture: Zeena Shah)

Do you feel like you have enough space in the flat?

Before lockdown, I would have said yes – it was perfect for two busy creatives living and working in London.

However, living and working at our dining table has been difficult this past year.

We would love the luxury of a second bedroom to call an office but that would be a stretch, even if we moved to a different part of London.

How have you made the place feel like home?

Being a renter doesn’t mean you can’t put your own stamp on a property.

We’ve brought colour in with bright furniture, art prints and textiles.

My partner and I love plants and it was his idea to hang them from our picture rail, which often gets forgotten in a room. It is a renter’s BBF as everything can easily be removed and no nails are necessary.

Plus bringing some plants into space has so many benefits, like detoxifying the air, if you choose wisely.

We’re lucky we have big windows that let in all the light, so the plants have thrived.

The interiors of the flat more than live up to that glorious stairwell (Picture: Zeena Shah)
Plants are key (Picture: Zeena Shah)

Have you found it difficult to decorate when renting? Is your landlord happy with you doing bits?

Our landlord is lovely, we asked permission to put some prints up and paint and she was very accommodating.

We still haven’t got around to painting yet but as long as you are adding value to the property with some care and love, I think it is always worth reaching out to a landlord.

Are there any problems with the home you have to deal with?

No, we’ve been very lucky. Some leaky taps and that’s about it.

Do you have plans to move again any time soon?

We would love to find a two-bedroom flat with a private garden in a similar location. We’re keeping an eye out in the building but the flats here are hard to come by.

As we ease out of lockdown and can separate work and home life again things might just fall back into place.

And do you want to own a place some day or are you happy to rent?

We’ve rented for years and years and would love to own one day.

We’re slowly saving our pennies and trying not to spend all our pocket money on posh coffees but until then we’re very happy in our pink palace and feel very lucky to live in such a special building.

Shall we have a look around?

Yes, even the doors are pink (Picture: Zeena Shah)
Welcome in (Picture: Zeena Shah)
There’s lots of colour and plush texture (Picture: Zeena Shah)
The layout sometimes changes to keep things fresh (Picture: Zeena Shah)
But the colour scheme stays consistent (Picture: Zeena Shah)
Hint: the colour scheme is pink (Picture: Zeena Shah)
Zeena’s home seems to suit her style perfectly (Picture: Zeena Shah)
Spy the colourful tiles in the kitchen (Picture: Zeena Shah)
The couple are grateful for the large windows that let in plenty of light (Picture: Liam Clarke)
That’s especially handy for the plants (Picture: Zeena Shah)
Finally, the bathroom (Picture: Zeena Shah)

What I Rent is a weekly series that’s out every Tuesday at 10am.

Check back next week to have another nose around a rented property.

How to get involved in What I Rent

What I Rent is’s weekly series that takes you inside the places people are renting, to give us all a better sense of what’s normal and how much we should be paying.

If you fancy taking part, please email You’ll need to take pictures of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your bedroom or living area.

Make sure you get permission from your housemates! You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’re paying for rent, as that’s pretty important.

We’re not just after the prettiest places out there, by the way. We want the reality of renting, so if you’re currently renting a place you hate, we’d love to see that too (and sympathise greatly!).

This article contains placements with affiliate links.  We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links on these placements.

MORE : What I Rent: Clara and Florian: £1,425 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Woolwich, London

MORE : What I Rent: Elizabeth, £340 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Glasgow

MORE : What I Rent: Katie, £400 a month for a one-bedroom flat in Seaham, Durham


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