My husband’s best buddy bet us $100 that I couldn’t go the whole year without painting a wall in our new house. He clearly knows me and my love of color too well. While the bet was in jest (I think!), I couldn’t help but take it on as a personal challenge! While I love and stand by the transformative power of paint (especially when it comes to military housing when all the houses look exactly the same!), we are only here for a year, and painting back walls is a big ol’ pain. Sooooo…challenge accepted! I’m officially on a mission to transform our spaces and give our walls some personality all without painting them! I’ve got some fun ideas in the works, and I already revealed my first no-paint update earlier this week (catch up here!) As I’ve been brainstorming away and searching Pinterest for inspiration ideas, I’ve been reminded that with some ingenuity and thinking outside the err…paint can…the possibilities really are endless! Before getting into some new ideas, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the no-paint wall treatments I’ve already tried! Today, I’m showing you 9 things renters can put on walls without pulling out the paint brush!
Using paper to make 3D art is an inexpensive, simple, and super eye-catching way to dress up your walls. My sister and I crafted these oversized paper flowers out of bright cardstock to run down the all-white walls in my niece’s bedroom. We hung these with sticky putty, but staples or tacks would work as well. This idea can be used in endless ways by changing up the shapes, colors, patterns, and layout of the 3D art!
My mom, sister, and I used to make trips to the Offray ribbon outlet in Maryland. There, we could buy 100+ yard rolls of grosgrain ribbon in a huge variety of colors, patterns and sizes for as little as $5/roll. With ribbon too cheap to pass up, my ribbon stash grew a bit out of control. While living in Virginia (also for just a year), I was looking for a fun way to spruce up the walls in Henry’s nursery on the cheap. A zigzag pattern done with some of my hoarded ribbon (put up using a staple gun) turned out to be a fun and simple solution! When it was time to go, I simply pulled all the ribbon down, wound it up, and saved it for future projects!
3. Contact Paper
Contact paper: the cheaper, thinner and more widely-available cousin to vinyl, is a great way to update your walls! While you certainly can apply it like wallpaper, think about various ways to cut apart and arrange it in patterns to mimic the look of wallpaper. One of my most popular projects ever here on the blog is my gold polka-dotted wall done with gold contact paper. I can now attest, having moved out, that these dots peeled right up, in less than 30 minutes without bringing any of the paint with them!
Fabric on the walls is a wonderful alternative to wallpaper or painting, and sometimes can even be cheaper! Home decor fabric measures 54″ wide, so you can get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you only want to apply it to a nook or accent space. At $8/yard, this fabric installation below cost me less than $25! If you have a bigger wall to cover, look for heavily discounted fabric, king-sized bedsheets, long tablecloths, or curtains. Attaching fabric to the wall can be done in a variety of renter-friendly ways: staple gun, upholstery tacks, upholstery strips, and liquid starch to name a few! I used a staple gun to attach the fabric below. Again, when it was time to go, I simply pulled the fabric down and brought it with me. Thanks to all the yardage, I have plenty to use for new projects…some of which you’ll see here soon!
5. Removable Wallpaper Decals
Removable wallpaper decals are another great renter-friendly solution. You can either buy them pre-cut or cut your own from pre-pasted wallpaper (these pictured below were from PBTeen years ago). To apply them, you simply wet them with water and smooth them on the wall with a brayer. While they can look cheesy, if applied in repeating patterns across a large space, they can mimic the look of high-end wallpaper and serve as a fun backdrop to a kids room, playroom, entryway, or office space. Like all the other ideas here, when it was time for us to move, these peeled right off the wall leaving no residue behind! The only bummer with this one though, is they were not reusable! (Photo from this space!)
And did you know that you CAN hang regular wallpaper in a renter-friendly way?!?! Yes, it’s true! See my tutorial here:
6. Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Peel-and-stick wallpaper is my latest obsession, and I’ve used it all sorts of things from walls, to dressers, to lamps in recent months. I love that it is very thick, durable paper, so applying and repositioning it is quite easy. Also, these days, there are so many wonderful patterns and colors available that you can easily find something to work with your style and taste (check Spoonflower and Etsy). The only two drawbacks (that I’ve encountered so far) is that it can be expensive, and it can only be used once (realistically). If you find a paper you love, often times just one roll can be enough to give a space a jolt of style. Below I used one roll to accent our fireplace, and it completely changed the entire room!
7. Wrapping Paper
HomeGoods/Marshalls/TJMaxx sell the most wonderful thick, sturdy and stylish wrapping paper. At $3 for a 30″x12′ roll, it’s a lot of pattern for little money, and is a viable option when you have a big wall to cover. Wrapping paper can be hung with double-stick tape, staple gun, or tacks. Take note, however: even with the most careful of installations, the paper won’t cling to the wall the way fabric or wallpaper will, so prepare yourself for billows and bubbles. I also found that because the paper doesn’t lay perfectly flat against the wall, seams can be pretty noticeable. I personally love to use it in the backs of bookcases and closets when I want some pattern but don’t want to see the seams. Still, for the low expense and relative ease of installation, it’s always an option to keep in mind…and when you take it down, you can always re-use it as intended: to wrap gifts!
Art is a bit of an obvious method for adding personality to a wall, but I had to include this specific example. Beyond just adding art, also consider bringing in colors and textures through the frames themselves. Whether it’s vibrant frames or mats, large framed blocks of color are an easy (and sometimes!) inexpensive way to brighten a wall. You can easily swap out colored mats when your decor or mood changes; and of course, everything can come with you when you move! (Photo from this space!)
Vinyl has gotten a bit of a bad rep for being cheesy and gaudy. But when applied in fun and interesting ways, it can be a wonderful and completely temporary medium to spruce up your walls. Here, vinyl rectangles applied in a patchwork pattern created the look of tile along the backsplash. A word of caution: be sure you are using re-positionable vinyl, or getting your shapes off the wall can be long, tedious and might just take the paint off too!
This list certainly doesn’t include the only options for temporary wall-decor, but hopefully there are some ideas here you haven’t considered or tried. I’ve got a few new ideas in mind for this house, and I’m also thinking about trying new attempts at some of these past ideas. Now to just make up my mind and get going!
I’d love to know: what kinds of things have you done to your walls without painting? Have you tried any of these methods in your home? How did they work? Do you have any ideas or suggestions for me to try out?
Hope you’re all having a great week! On Friday, I’ll be back to share a little more new-house inspiration alongside one of my favorite art resources!
See you then,