Paint Is Hard to Come by—Here Are 9 Paint-Free Home Upgrades to Try Instead

Empty paint cans and paintbrush
Martin Barraud / Getty Images

According to recent news headlines, homeowners, decorators, and DIYers are heading for a potential design nightmare: Paint supplies are dwindling, and what paints can be found are potentially pricier than before. 

If you’re dreaming of a high-impact home upgrade before the end of the year but are struggling to get that just-right paint color, we turned to the experts to discuss alternatives to painting. Here’s what they told us to consider when repainting your space just isn’t an option.

Meet the Expert

  • Beth Travers is the founder of the wallpaper brand Bobo1325.
  • Kendra Ovesen is an in-house design expert and head of merchandising at furniture rental company Feather.
  • Tanya Willock and Temidra Willock-Morsch are the creators and owners of the Hamptons, New York–based design and gift shop Hidden Gem.
  • Stephanie Purzycki is a co-founder of The Finish, a design services company.
  • Leia T. Ward is the principal designer and founder of LTW Design.
  • Ted Bradley is a lighting craftsman.

Consider Wallpaper

If you’re only interested in fixing your walls, then wallpaper is a fabulous option. Beth Travers, founder of the wallpaper brand Bobo1325, says wallpaper doesn't even have to be your Plan B—it’s actually a great choice regardless of the current paint supply problem.

“For me, the wallpaper you choose is an extension of you and forms a part of your identity in a way paint can’t,” she says. “Are you edgy with a little bit of spice drawn to gothic glamour? Are you drawn to the outside and yearn for woodland elements to pull the biophilia into the space to engage in some shinrin-yoku [forest bathing]? Or are you a wild one who feels at home in a jungle vibe, or a romantic and drawn to the florals? Wallpaper brings life into your space. It brings art. It brings the wow factor.”

While freshly painted walls have plenty of appeal, Travers tells us there’s something about wallpaper we might not be considering: a bare, painted wall is still a bare wall. “[With wallpaper], a cleverly placed mirror can both open up the space and reflect the pattern, giving the impression of more. Painted walls are beautiful but require art—wallpaper is your art.”

Rent Your Upgrades

Renting your furniture is a rising trend, and Kendra Ovesen, in-house design expert and head of merchandising at furniture rental company Feather, tells us this can be an extremely impactful and budget-friendly way to upgrade your space.

"If you’re dreaming of upgrading your space but don’t want to commit to paint (or anything long-term, for that matter), furniture and home decor rental is a great option to explore,” says Ovesen. “[This enables] you to access coveted brands, as well as unexpected and bold pieces you may not normally opt for—at a fraction of the cost.”

Best of all, if you rent your pieces, you’re not tied to your bold or seasonal statement pieces for too long. “Something that rental furniture uniquely enables you to do is [to switch] out your statement furniture pieces seasonally," she says. "In the fall and winter, for example, [cozy] up on a plush velvet sofa, [or create] airiness and flow with lightweight fabrics in the spring and summer.” When the season ends, you can return the items.

Invest in Artwork

Tanya Willock and Temidra Willock-Morsch, creators and owners of the Hamptons, New York–based design and gift shop Hidden Gem, tell us that they prefer to “focus on feature pieces that can easily be a statement in a room.” And if you’re looking to bring colors to your walls without painting them, then artwork is the perfect way to accomplish both feats.

“Artwork can be a nice way to upgrade a room,” says the duo. “Adding a playful gallery wall can add personality to any space and really gives a room a facelift. Don’t stick to just typical framed pieces: Use other wall hangings to create dimension and texture. We like to incorporate mirrors, hats, and colorful woven bowls.”

Ovesen agrees. “A strategically placed pop of color or a casually curated art collection can give your space an instant lift,” she says.

Switch Your Focus From Walls to Floors

Willock and Willock-Morsch tell us that anything that's easily changeable can be altered for a huge impact—and this include large-scale pieces, like rugs. “We think of a rug as a piece of art," they say. "It can be the centerpiece of a room and can set the tone for a space. Choose a textured rug to create warmth and a cozy feel.”

Stephanie Purzycki, co-founder of The Finish, agrees: “[Rugs] can add all kinds of dimension to your home: color, texture, pattern. It’s a great way to change out your decor or add a little something new.”

Check Your Textiles

Along with area rugs, both the team from Hidden Gem and The Finish co-founder agree that any textiles that can be easily swapped out can add up to a big impact. “Think things like throw pillows, blankets, area rugs, and window treatments,” says Purzycki. “Choosing a style or a color theme and incorporating it throughout these elements in a room is a great way to tie the space together or give it a whole new look.”

“Curtains, although they seem like a small detail, can have a huge impact on a space,” says Willock and Willock-Morsch. “Go for light-textured linen to create a clean and airy feel, or use long velvet to add a dramatic, luxury atmosphere.”

Declutter and Rearrange

Purzycki is also a huge advocate of decluttering and editing your home. “Go through all of your decor, art, and stuff that you have, and just get rid of everything that is no longer your style, taking up space, or that you just don’t really love anymore,” she says. Dated accents and clutter can take away from the aesthetic that you're trying to create and even lower your enjoyment of your space, as it can make you feel like there's always work to do in your home.

Leia T. Ward, principal designer and founder of LTW Design, agrees that it could just be a matter of reconfiguring your space. “Change [your] floor plan,” she says. “Sometimes all we need is to move a sofa off the wall one or two feet and add some ottomans for extra seating to change the whole feel of a room.”

Add Molding

If painting an entire wall isn’t possible now but your walls are still screaming for a refresh, Purzycki has another hack.

“Add molding to your room,” she says. “This is a great way to give it a more bespoke or custom look. Everything from picture frame molding and shiplap to wainscoting and board and batten are all really big right now, and they give your room a lot of architectural detail and a sense of sophistication. Not only does it really elevate the space, but it’s also really easy to install yourself as a DIY. There are tons of tutorials online.”

Light It Up

As lighting craftsman Ted Bradley tells us, a light fixture can change everything.

"It’s like a necklace: a focal point that everyone will see,” he says. “A great light fixture should compliment and accentuate the design of your space without needing to shout.”

When it comes to sourcing a high-impact light fixture, Bradley says there are three things to consider: “The first is light quality. [Think] color and brightness; the light it casts will touch everything in your room so you want to make sure it’s the right kind of light. The second is aesthetic; a great light fixture is a work of art both in its physical form and the light it paints. And the third is story and meaning; a house might be filled with beautiful things, but a home is filled with things you cherish.”

Think VFF: Vibe, Function, Feel

If this lack of paint has knocked you off track and now you don't know how to begin, Willock and Willock-Morsch gave us these words of wisdom: “Think about the direction you want to take the space in. We like to use our acronym VFF: vibe, function, feel."

"Questions we like to ask are, 'what is the overall vibe you are looking for', 'how do you want the space to function', and 'how do you want to feel when you’re in the space?'" they say. "This helps get a clear picture of how to upgrade the space to best fit your needs and style.”