How to Decorate and Add Color to Your Walls Without Painting

A wall with furniture and a wall hanging

Simone Anne/Stocksy United/Public Domain

One of the most frustrating parts of renting a home is when you can’t paint the walls. And even if you own a home, you may not want the hassles of painting your walls. But, plain white and builder’s beige are rarely flattering to your decor. However, you don’t have to be resigned to living in a bland vanilla space. In addition to experimenting with picture galleries and items other than frames to jazz up your walls, use these paint-free tricks inspired by items such as fabric, wallpaper, shelving, curtains, and more to add color and soft texture to your space.

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    Fabric Remnants

    Get a vibrant, patterned wallpapered look with fabric. Hang fabric on your walls with liquid starch. It's completely reversible and the fabric comes off your wall clean. You can even recycle the fabric as window or bed treatments.

    There's no need to pay full price for fabrics; save money by shopping for discounted yardage such as remnants. With remnants, you can buy designer fabrics for pennies on the dollar just because it comes from the end of the bolt. Be sure to buy extra yardage for pattern matching if you select a medium- to large-scale design.

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    Sumptuous Curtains

    If you prefer the soft look of draped fabric, use curtains. Span them from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall. In addition to adding color, they'll muffle a bit of outside noise.

    If you’re covering a fairly narrow wall, you'll be able to find panels that fit the wall's width, but remember the width needs to allow for fullness when they are hung. Hang your panels from a ceiling-mounted curtain rod or track. Make your own ceiling curtain rod from wire rope or metal cable with clips.

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    Vintage Textiles

    Add color and pattern by hanging bound or hemmed textiles. Opt for large-scale textiles such as rugs, quilts, tapestries, or artisan weavings. Lightweight and captivating options include colorful saris, suzanis, and pieces of hand-dyed batik. Hang vintage textiles with a mounting board and hook-and-loop tape suitable for the textile’s weight.


    Take extra care when hanging textiles (vintage or new) of any weight. Tacking or stapling them directly to the wall can damage both the fabric and the wall.

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    Painted MDF Panels

    For DIY enthusiasts, add large-scale pops of color to your walls by cutting panels out of medium density fiberboard (better known as MDF) and decorating them with paint, fabric, wallpaper, or decoupage. After cutting, sand the cut edges smooth, and then prime and paint.

    Bolt panels to the walls in strategic locations around the room—and plan to patch the holes when they are removed. You can leave your colorful panels bare or layer smaller pieces of framed artwork over them.

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    Framed Fabric or Wallpaper

    To add color and pattern to walls with an eclectic feel, frame different pieces of fabrics or wallpapers, and then hang them on your wall in an art grouping. Use leftover scraps of fabric or wallpaper, discontinued samples, or hunt for vintage pieces at the flea market.

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    Temporary Wallpaper

    The wonderful world of temporary wallpaper allows you to add an accent wall to a room or a backsplash to the kitchen or bathroom. Use your imagination! You can even add it to the backing of bookshelves to add another dimension to them. Simply peel and stick and add a splash of color or pattern to the room or item.

    Make sure the wall is smooth and flat that you want to put the temporary wallpaper on for best results and easy removal.

  • 07 of 10

    Wall Decals

    If you want to create some scenes and patterns in a room, add some wall decals. They're the perfect touch to a kid's bedroom or to transform a bathroom into an underwater ocean scene. Personalize your living area or laundry room by putting decals that are words or sayings on a wall.

    Wall decals can be removed in a pinch when you move or want to redecorate and add a pop of color to the room.

  • 08 of 10

    Gallery Wall

    Get your creative side going and hang up a grouping of photos, prints, or original art on a wall, designing a DIY art gallery wall. Whether it be a wall consisting of family photos through the years, art that you or someone else in the family has painted, or pre-made art, it will become a focal point in the room and a conversation piece.

    When ready to move or change up the wall, it's a simple matter of taking out the nails and wall hangers and filling in the holes. Or, instead of putting your pictures up with nails, you could use Command strips.

    Filling in Holes

    Grab some spackling paste or joint compound and a putty knife to cover the nail holes. Don't spread it around, simply fill in the small hole that the nail made. Sometimes it's easier to use your finger to dab the spackling rather than the putty knife.

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    A grouping of open shelving to display your books, collections, or photos adds storage and fills in a blank space on the wall. Shelves are a practical feature and can be used in many rooms, including bathrooms to hold bathing supplies or kid's bath toys, in kitchens to hold cookbooks, or in the home office to hold work supplies.

  • 10 of 10

    Folding Privacy Screens

    Add another level to the room with a folding privacy screen. These room dividers can create a cozy reading nook or separate a home office or kid's play area from the rest of the room. Privacy screens come in many textures, patterns, and colors that will show off your personality and vibe.

    A nice benefit to using room dividers is you can move them from room to room, too.