Overwhelmed at the thought of filling large, empty wall space? Here’s what to do.
It’s big, it’s intimidating, and nearly every apartment for rent in Baltimore, MD, or Houston, TX, has it. No, we’re not talking about that pile of laundry that you swear you’ll get to soon — it’s that glaring, huge white wall. Even if your landlord lets you paint, an unadorned expanse can make your otherwise lovely home feel a bit spare. But just because you happen to have a lease doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a creative solution. Here are 10 renter-friendly, temporary solutions from design experts that will bring some style to a bare wall.
1. DIY a triptych
Large, affordable artwork can be difficult to find. (And when you do discover a piece that doesn’t cost a fortune, it usually has all the character of something you’d find in a hotel room.) For something a little more wallet-friendly, create a custom piece yourself. Not the artsy type? Don’t abandon this do-it-yourself idea so fast. Skip the paint and scout out a few lengths of gorgeous fabric. (You won’t need much, so feel free to splurge on the good stuff.) Simply wrap a piece around an inexpensive, prestretched canvas and staple in place for a superfast work of “art.” Better yet, wrap three rectangular panels or canvases in fabric and then hang them together to create a triptych.
2. Turn to textiles
Tapestries, vintage quilts, or even antique blankets can be too lovely to keep folded and hidden away. Instead, hang the textile from the wall to bring unique character and texture to your space. (The simplest way to do this is to hang a curtain rod from the wall, then use clip-style rings to secure the textile.) To keep the look cohesive with the rest of your decor, focus on hue, recommends Jaclyn Isaac, interior designer and the blogger behind Dog Lady Design Files. “Make sure the colors work well with your existing decor, or consider using (the wall) as a focal piece and pulling your (other) colors from that,” she says. Still not convinced? Consider this bonus of hanging a thin rug or other textile on the wall: It can help mute the sounds coming from your next-door neighbor’s apartment.
3. Curate a gallery wall
You can never have too much of a good thing — especially when it comes to art hung in groups. “Never underestimate the power of a well-designed gallery wall!” says Laurel & Wolf designer Abagail Leepin. “The colors, textures, and patterns eliminate negative space and enhance the finished feeling that you wish to achieve.” One idea that results in a perfectly balanced look is to hang two larger pieces diagonally from each other, then fill the empty space above or below each of those larger pieces with smaller pieces (sticking to similar colors or subjects will look extra pulled-together).
4. Consider wallpaper
If you think wallpaper is only for homeowners, this DIY proves you wrong. Simply frame remnants for a no-mess, no-messy-installation-needed way to enjoy a gorgeous new motif without a commitment. “Framing strips of wallpaper can make very effective and interesting statements,” says interior designer Heather Higgins of Higgins Design Studio. “They work best when they have a unifying theme like similar content, color, or pattern.” Select a thin white frame in the largest size possible to create the look of panel molding.
5. Shelve your art
If the idea of hanging multiple pieces makes you nervous, floating shelves like the ones above by Laurel & Wolf can be a great shortcut. “Rather than struggling to create the perfect gallery wall, get a long floating shelf and arrange your art in one great gallery line,” says Jaclyn Isaac. “You can switch out the art and objects as you please, change frames out when you’re updating your decor, and you don’t have to worry about spackling 18 holes in the wall.” If you’re also short on art, Isaac recommends repurposing calendars for ready-to-frame pieces. “You can get amazing photos that are guaranteed to look great together and large enough to take up an entire wall for less than $30,” she says.
6. Go bold, go mural
“A dramatic mural adds glamour to an enormous wall, especially when there are ultrahigh ceilings involved,” says Liza Nematnejad, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York, NY. A mural, she says, “can truly showcase an apartment if it’s done right, with an appropriate piece of art that fits the look and feel of the particular apartment.” Although a painted mural is out of the question for renters, there’s a clever way to capture this dramatic look: temporary murals. Much like removable wallpaper, these adhesive-backed murals install easily (just remove the backing and smooth on the wall), then peel off without a trace when it’s time to move. Tempaper’s Chinoiserie design mimics the look of a hand-painted mural, while Wallsome allows you to custom-print your favorite photos or graphics into a mural.
7. Get stuck on washi tape
Washi tape just may be the unofficial favorite craft material on Pinterest. The removable, colorful tape is just so versatile. One of our favorite ideas is using the tape to create a bold graphic statement, like this colorful home office from Domino magazine. A design that spans the entire wall tends to look higher-end than a few random stripes. The same goes for wall decals, like these too-fun mini-elephants from Southern Nest. When applied to the wall in neat rows, they take on the look of wallpaper.
8. Tackle just one (and you’re done!)
The best news? Decorating one large wall can have a huge impact. Says Heather Higgins: “Leave at least one wall in every room art-free, particularly in smaller spaces. Two is even better. This provides a resting place for your eye and prevents the feeling of ‘overwhelm.’” Consider this a designer-approved excuse to be lazy about decorating other walls.
9. Expand shelf options
Look beyond art when looking to fill a blank wall — especially if you also happen to have high ceilings. “Wide, tall bookcases are great for renters, don’t require any kind of wall installation, and can be moved from place to place,” Isaac notes. “If wide enough, they take up a ton of room and are a fun place to go wild with your collected objects.” Just don’t fill up the shelves completely. Instead, display individual pieces in edited groups on each shelf. (If you need the shelf space for storage, opt for attractive bins on the bottom shelves.) On the top shelf, you can lean framed pieces.
10. Hang that mirror, mirror on that wall
Like hanging art together gallery-style, a mass of mirrors offer a lovely way to fill a large wall. “I like to use old mirrors, whether huge ones or an assortment of small ones,” says Kathleen Perkins of Douglas Elliman, who frequently uses this trick when staging homes. “They reflect light and they are really beautiful.” Interesting mirrors can often be found at thrift stores or discount stores for less than the price of art.