Whether you can’t paint because you’re renting, or don’t want to because it’s a hassle, fear not! Here are ten ways to change your walls without painting them.

Starched fabric

kimono template
You can pick out a lively roll of fabric (hi, Mexican oilcloth!), soak it in starch, and adhere it to the wall. It’s purported to be easy to remove, though I don’t even have secondhand experiences with that. Here’s a simple tute using spray starch.

Vinyl decals

They’re all the craze. Available on Etsy, Amazon, and any number of other places.


By: Tim CroweCC BY 2.0

Use appropriately-proportioned shelves to add color, movement and interest to icky walls. Shelves are also awesome because you can always change up what’s ON them… rainbow-sorted books, anyone?

Bamboo blinds

Bamboo Roller Shades
Check your neighborhood Asian groceries — mine has an aisle of traditional hats, rice cookers, utensils, tatami mats and bamboo window shades. They sometimes have landscapes painted on them — and they get pretty large, pretty inexpensively!


Finished Convex Mirror for Kelly's Birthday
Find a big mirror with an interesting shape or group smaller, less expensive mirrors together. Mirrors also add light and space to the room.

Start a collection

My friend Suzana has a plate wall. She’s tightly grouped plates to make a dynamic and colorful swoosh in her kitchen. Each plate is worth looking at, and she now often receives additional plates as gifts.


Our kitchen table
Okay, so this one’s simple, right? Whether you frame a poster, make something, or buy an original, art adds a LOT of life to a wall.

No art? How about photos?

Photo Arrangement
Print a few choice photos and spend an afternoon thrifting for frames. Mix or match or spraypaint — whatever works for you.

Ribbons or tape

Lenore shared her tape-and-tacks project on the Flickr Group:
all finished!

3M Strips

If you need to limit the holes you leave, peruse 3M’s line of removable strips. I’ve done SO MANY THINGS with them (weirdest? Built a removable window screen) and have had good luck with their tack. You could hang framed work or use them to hang a whole panel of fabric.

That’s all I’ve got. What’d I miss? How have you solved the I-don’t-wanna-paint/my-landlord-is-a-bummer blues?

Comments on 10 ways to dress up your walls without paint

  1. Unfortunately, as a renter, I cannot implement anything but free-standing shelves. Painting is not allowed, wall hangings, pictures pretty much anything that requires a hole to be made is forbidden, its disappointing when you cant “live” in a place because of all these restrictions.
    I own property which I rent out, I made sure that it had plenty of hooks on the walls for pictures, shelves installed and extra hooks in the bathroom for guest towels, robes etc. And made sure that if a tenant wanted anything extra added or put up then all they had to do was seek permission and have it properly installed. All the tenants have been happy, I get slightly higher than average rent than the others in my area with the same townhouse, as I am a more relaxed property owner.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation