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 fabric and wallpaper to add color and soft texture to your space.

Temporary Wallpaper or Decals

Don't forget the wonderful world of temporary wallpaper and wall decals. Create scenes and patterns without the mess and remove in a pinch when you move or want to redecorate.

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.

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.

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.

Hang With Care

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.

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.

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.