12+ Totally Temporary Ways to Update Rental Walls
Updating your rental walls is one of the best ways to completely transform a bland space into something that’s perfectly your style. Paint and wallpaper are among the most common materials for a quick transformation, but there are actually lots of other things you can put on your walls in totally temporary ways too. I’ve tried a lot of rental wall makeovers across our 9 different homes. Today, I’m sharing my very favorite ideas so you can find the wall project that’s just right for your rental!
Years ago, one of my husband’s best buddies bet us $100 that I couldn’t go a whole year without painting a wall in our rental. The bet was in jest (I think!), but I took it on proudly. Certainly I could come up with lots of other ways to decorate our rental walls without losing the bet (or risking our security deposit!)
Looking back, I’m so glad I played along; because it really was the catalyst for what is now an endless endeavor to push the decor envelope in our homes.
I love, love, love coming up with unique, creative, and stylish ways to change our walls. I am constantly trying new products, new methods, and new techniques to see what all can be accomplished in a completely removable way!
I haven’t tried everything…yet! But this post outlines my favorite ways to change the look of our rental walls, as well as a few ideas I’m still hankering to try!
Why Update Your Rental Walls?
Changing up your rental walls is certainly an “optional” endeavor and mostly just for decorative purposes. Nothing about your wall color (or texture) will affect how your rental is laid out, what amenities it has, or how it functions for you.
But because walls are such a large part of any room, they can have a significant impact on how a room looks and feels. So whether creating stylish spaces is your thing or you just happen to be really sensitive to colors, undertones, and light, changing the walls really is the best way to completely transform any space.
Below are just a few before-and-afters from our various homes, all achieved by changing the walls from their original (neutral) color!
Without a doubt, one of the surest ways to create significant change in your rental is to paint the walls. Although not always, many rentals are painted in whites, creams, or other neutrals; and switching to a color more your style will instantly transform even the blankest of slates.
That said, paint is messy, some landlords don’t allow it, and it almost always has to be painted back before you move out, so proceed with some caution. Still, almost nothing can transform a room quite like a can of paint!
If you’re ready to give paint a try in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
When paint is out of the question, either because you’re not allowed or you don’t feel like dealing with the mess, temporary wallpaper is a great alternative.
Whether you do an entire wall or an entire room, wallpaper goes up mess-free and comes back down without damage (most of the time!)…although the installation can be a tricky DIY project for beginners.
Now available in an incredibly wide variety of colors, patterns, and price points, wallpaper really is one of the best options for creating a stunning transformation in a rental home.
If you’re ready to give removable wallpaper a try in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
- How to Hang Peel and Stick Wallpaper | Full Step-by-Step Guide
- How to Hang Regular Wallpaper in a Removable Way | The Liquid Starch Method
- Where to Buy Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper At Affordable Prices
- Wallpapering a Whole Room Versus an Accent Wall | What I Learned
- Does Peel and Stick Wallpaper Damage Walls?
- Solid Wallpaper | What It Is + Ideas for Using It
3. Vinyl Decals
If you love the idea of peel and stick products (no mess!), but you just aren’t up for the cost and frustration of wallpaper, using vinyl decals is another great option!
Ranging from tiny to large, you can use sticky decals to replicate the look of wallpaper or just put up a random, whimsical display. On sites like Amazon or Etsy, you can find sophisticated and modern decals for adult spaces, as well as cutesy stickers for child and play spaces.
Usually made of either vinyl or contact paper, these decals go up in mere minutes and usually come down without any residue or damage to the underlying paint. Decals are far cheaper than paint or wallpaper, making them one of the most cost-effective and easy options for changing the look of your rental walls!
If you’re ready to give vinyl decals a try in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
4. Lines, Stripes, & Plaids
Much like creating a wallpaper design with stick-on vinyl decals, you can similarly make a striped effect! Create stripes, diagonals, plaids, checks, or other lined patterns with pre-cut wall stripes, solid wallpaper, vinyl strips, or even lengths of ribbon or washi tape!
Since you hang each stripe individually, the options really are endless for creating any pattern in any color scheme!
Although vinyl decals and stripes come “pre-sticky,” regular ol’ craft paper (i.e., cardstock) can be used to make some really interesting wall displays too! Cardstock is especially great for large-scale, 3D art installations because it comes in such a wide range of colors and is mere pennies per sheet.
I’ve had really great luck putting cardstock directly on our walls with masking tape, and every single one has come down without any peeling or damaged paint!
If you’re ready to give cardstock a try in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
Installing a wall mural will provide your space with stunning, interesting, and/or meaningful artwork while also having the transformative effect of wallpaper. Murals are available both in a peel-and-stick form (much like wallpaper) as well as printed paper.
You can hang murals directly on the wall (for a single-use installation). If you want to be able to take the mural with you when you move, consider putting the over-sized panels in large frames or mounting them to some sort of boards or flats.
One of the biggest benefits of using a mural over other types of wall installations is you get a lot of bang for your buck…meaning you rarely need any other frames, artwork, or wall treatments to finish the room.
If you’re ready to give a mural a try in your rental, here is a tutorial that can help:
Using fabric is an “old school” method for updating rental walls, but it’s still a great solution to consider!
Home decor fabrics usually measure 54″ wide and can sometimes be as cheap as $5/yard. This results in an exceptionally cost-effective way to cover a wall, especially in nooks or accent spaces. For really large walls, heavily discounted fabric, king-sized bedsheets, long tablecloths, or curtains can also work.
Attaching fabric to the wall can be done in a variety of renter-friendly ways including a staple gun, upholstery tacks, upholstery strips, Velcro, and liquid starch; or even hung or “swagged” on rods, rails, or Command Hooks.
If you’re ready to give a fabric wall installation a try in your rental, here are some tutorials that can help:
8. Wrapping Paper
HomeGoods/Marshalls/TJMaxx sell the most wonderful thick, sturdy, and stylish wrapping paper. At $3 for a 30″ x 12′ roll, you get a lot of pattern for very little money.
Wrapping paper can be hung with double-stick tape, a staple gun, or tacks. However, it’s important to note that even with the most careful of installations, the paper isn’t super durable, nor will it cling to the wall the way fabric or wallpaper does.
As such, billows, bubbles, and noticeable seams can occur, so it’s best to use it in fairly narrow spaces such as closets, laundry rooms, and other nooks.
If you’re ready to give wrapping paper a try in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
9. Panels, Boards, & Trim
When full wall transformations are off the table, you can still achieve a similar look by securing large boards, panels, and flats to your wall. These panels can be wood, foam, faux brick, faux bead board or cardboard, as well as specialty wall and ceiling tiles; and most can be cut to different widths and lengths as needed.
These large flat surfaces can be secured to the wall with nails, screws, Velcro, or even Command Strips for a completely hole-free installation. Then paint, fabric, or wallpaper can be added for more color, pattern, and texture.
Apply large boards for a single, impactful installation, or a series of smaller panels or trim/moulding to create a design such as stripes, board and batten, chair rail, wainscoting, and shiplap.
If you’re ready to try hanging boards in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
- How to Hang Renter-Friendly Board & Batten
- How to Hang Shiplap with Command Strips
- How to Hang a Large Foam Panel on Your Wall
Although we think of backsplashes as a kitchen feature, they are technically walls too! And updating them with some sort of “tile” design is one of the best ways to infuse style and personality into a rental kitchen.
These days, there are lots of peel-and-stick options for backsplash including vinyl, tiles, and wallpaper; and with a few important modifications, all of these will come down damage-free too!
If you’re ready to update the kitchen backsplash wall in your rental, here are some tutorials to help:
11. A Gallery Wall
Art is a bit of an obvious method for covering a wall; but it’s still worth mentioning because when done big, bold, and expansive, it can have major impact in a room!
Beyond just adding a wall full of large, colorful prints, also consider bringing in colors and textures through the picture frames or mats themselves. Colored mats are a great way to enhance the color scheme of a room; and they can always be swapped out when your mood or scheme changes!
If you’re ready to hang a gallery wall in your rental, here are some tutorials that can help:
12. Other Things You Can Put On Your Rental Walls Too
Everything outlined above is more focused on bringing color and pattern to your walls to enhance a room’s style or hide ugly colors, textures, and features. But there are some other, more “utilitarian” things you can indeed hang on your rental walls too!
These items go a long way in making your rental look polished; and if you are allowed to put holes in your walls, they should be embraced as much as paint or wallpaper!
The addition of specialty lighting can add texture, ambiance, class, and style to your room and serve as the perfect finishing touch.
Just because you’re a renter, don’t assume specialty lighting is out of the question. There are now lots and lots of hardwire-free options and clever ways to conceal cords when you can’t go through the walls.
Installing shelves, built-ins, floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and/or picture ledges is a great way to fill up blank walls while adding storage space. If you have/add full-height structures, consider painting or wallpapering the back panels for added interest!
When you’re short on floor space, don’t hesitate to hang electronics on the wall (or from the ceiling!) either. Sturdy wall mounts are fairly inexpensive and can be safely hung with standard dry wall anchors and some know-how.
The main issue for renters is how to deal with cords when you can’t (or don’t want to) plow through the walls. Thankfully, cord tracks and railways make hiding electronic cords damage-free too!
Window Treatments & Curtain Rods
Last but not least, I’m a huge fan of hanging your own curtains and blinds in rentals (next to walls, windows are the next best place to infuse color, style, and personality).
If you’re allowed to put holes in the wall, nothing should hold you back from hanging curtain rods, blinds, cornice boxes, or other window coverings. And even if holes are out of the question, adhesive hooks can still be used to hang curtain rods, valances, and more!
So many readers write to me saying that it never occurred to them to paint, hang wallpaper, or do something else to their rental walls until they saw me do it. I get it! When we don’t own our home(s), it often feels like we need permission to make it our own.
While you may indeed need to get your landlord’s permission based on the particulars in your lease, everything I’ve shared here today can be done (and then un-done) without any evidence at all!
So here’s your permission!
If you’ve been hankering to change the look of your rental walls, go for it. Yes, it might be some hard work and it will cost some money. But consider me the cheerleader in your corner saying: “Yes, it will be worth it, ” and “No, you won’t regret it!”