Ephemeral walls: No-damage decor to make your walls less boring

Guest post by Janell Turley

For the past four years, I have lived in boring, temporary spaces. Dorm room boxes of cinderblock, little houses with rules against nails and paint, basement apartments, and just plain old small, boxy, white-walled living spaces.

What is a person to do in such boring living spaces (and with very little money to decorate)? Well. I welcome you now to Pinterest — land of wishful thinking and endless creative ideas. Here’s a plethora of inspiration to get you thinking:

Use stuff on your walls in a lovely way.

These take a bit of planning, and an eye for what looks rad. But hey — they rock so much. Here’s to making plain-old tape and Post-it notes look fancy!

Post-it note wall

Tape wall


Make your own wallpaper with photos. Plaster your wall(s) with images of people and things that you love.

Get free stuff and put it on your walls

Always be on the lookout for interesting things, if that’s what you’re into. In a free box once, I found hundreds of movie posters. I collected three: Star Wars, Black Beauty, and The Last Unicorn. SCORE. Free stuff and nearly free stuff (the Goodwill bins or Craigslist, anyone?) are fantastic for dressing up bare walls. It’s quite the treasure hunt, but when you have to get up and move a month after you decorate, it’s not as tough to rationalize getting rid of free stuff.

Decorate with paint swatches


This can get a little more pricey than my other categories, but it doesn’t have to be. There are some lovely wall tapestries to be found online, or find cheaper fabric at your local thrift store. Thrifted bed sheets can be awesome. I’ve found rainbow bed sheets, all sorts of movie character bed sheets, and lots of cool vintage patterns.

Drape fabric across walls and ceilings for a cozy bohemian look:

Stick stuff you already have up on the walls.

Does it matter if it was made to hang on the walls? No. Put whatever you want up there. Just the other day, my roommate redecorated our living room just using the stuff I already had in there. Sometimes it just takes another set of eyes to move things around and see things a little differently.

Image via Fashion Fever Tumblr
Image via Fashion Fever Tumblr

Make art.

Use huge pieces of paper or fabric to cover in your original work inspired by Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko! Artwork you create can be as big or little as your space requires. And it’s special because it was made by YOU!

our guestroom

Project light onto the walls.

There’s really neat stuff out there that can be done even without blue sticky tack, tape, and Command poster hooks. Interesting lighting, or just plain old good lighting can do SO much for the walls of a room. My lava lamp turns half of my room pink when it is on.


DUSIEC Ocean Relax Projector
DUSIEC Ocean Relax Projector

And look at these starry walls!

Glow in the dark plastic stars are cool, but this is way cooler! Star Master Colorful Starry Night Cosmos Projector Bed Side Lamp
Glow in the dark plastic stars are cool, but this is way cooler! Star Master Colorful Starry Night Cosmos Projector Bed Side Lamp

Moral of the story: your boring white walls DO have the potential to look beautiful and interesting. And inspiration flows endlessly from the heavenly fount of Pinterest. Be bold. Make stuff. Find stuff. Just do it. Do it this weekend.

(20x28) Birds in Tree Repositional Wall Decal
(20×28) Birds in Tree Repositional Wall Decal

And you know, if all else fails with your walls, just put a bird on it.

What else is possible to do temporarily to your walls? What else have you done to your own walls? Do you have any great Pinterest links (or other links) to share?

Comments on Ephemeral walls: No-damage decor to make your walls less boring

  1. Take apart old wall calendars with interesting pictures and tape them to the top edge of your wall, each one touching the next. Every dorm room I had was given this “border treatment” of 12″x12″ artwork. My favorite was Amy Brown calendars 🙂

  2. Maps! My friends house used old National Geographic maps as “wallpaper” (hang with sticky tack)- I loved it! You learn about new places you may want to go, places not many people know and can mark the places you’ve been.

  3. When I moved into my first dorm room I bought a bunch of colorful scrapbook paper on sale at Target and just stuck it up on the walls. Then when I rearranged the room, I changed it up. And again when I rearranged the room again…

  4. One idea I know of is getting a sample of a really funky wallpaper and stretching it on a canvas frame. You get your big splash of wallpaper without adhering it to the wall.

  5. Ideas for decorating bathroom walls? My dorm room at university will be en-suite but it’s likely that the bathroom won’t have a window, so will get steamy.

    • Lightweight metal novelty signs or old license plates hung up with thumbtacks. The holes are so small that nobody ever notices when you leave. Flags meant for outdoors would also probably work. I also rocked some fake flowers thrown into some chemistry flasks on the back of the toilet and on the counter.

  6. I hate white walls and love color, so when I wasn’t allowed to paint I’d used wrapping paper as wallpaper. I preferred non-glossy solid colors, which you can get at Michael’s and the like.

  7. One thought I had while looking at this, was using either construction paper, or sticky-note paper, to recreate a tetris-like design on a wall 🙂

  8. Something I’ve done in all of my recent apartments with VERY strict no adhesives, very few nails on the the walls policies is hang a cheap flat sheet or curtain on the wall with 3-4 nails and then tape pictures and posters on that. I didn’t think I was being particularly revolutionary but I hear over and over that people had never thought of doing such a thing before. Everyone loves how it looks and its pretty much the most fun, easy project ever 🙂

  9. I love ideas like this! My husband and I bought a “tapestry” from Urban Outfitters, and those things are so lightweight, you can hang them with just a few thumb tacks. Another idea, similar to hanging the flat sheet, is to create a message or inspiration board. I love taking old, ornate frames (which you can paint a vivid color if that’s what you’re looking for,) and covering some foam board with fabric or paper to tape or glue to the back of the frame. The foam board works well as a pincushion, and you can change up the look often. I also like the look of hanging different brightly colored frames with nothing in them on the wall (one nail or sticky hook each.)

  10. You can also use clothing as wall decoration. Anything from graphic tees you love, plus a little duct tape, to one awesome vintage or antique piece (think large, like a kimono,) tacked to the wall.

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