A Renter's Guide to Adding Pattern ...Temporarily

A Renter's Guide to Adding Pattern ...Temporarily

Dabney Frake
Mar 27, 2013

This question comes up all the time on Apartment Therapy, with good reason. You're in a rental and dread the thought of staring at white walls for the duration of your lease. You can't do anything permanent, because it's a) prohibitively expensive; b) too labor intensive to undo when you move out; or c) your landlord won't let you. Yada yada yada.

Wallpaper and fabric are the obvious go-to for pattern. They cover a wide area, and you can buy as much or as little as you like. But, unless it's removable wallpaper or decals, you'll need other ways to apply it. So, we scoured our archives, reader suggestions, and the internet for possible solutions and techniques. You'll have to decide which method works for your own budget and level of commitment.


  1. Adhere: Paste wallpaper sheets to luan plywood, a room divider, or another large lightweight material. You can either hang it, or lean it up against the wall as they did in the photo above.  
  2. Sandwich: Jenny over at Little Green Notebook placed sheets of hand-painted wallpaper behind large panes of plexiglass. Store-bought adhesive strips hold the wallpaper in place, to prevent slipping beneath the acrylic.  
  3. Wrap: If you find some great fabric, buy canvas stretcher bars at your local art supply store. You can buy the exact size you need, them staple the fabric to the wood. Above a sofa or a bed, it makes a great statement.
  4. Frame: As a cheaper alternative to professional framing, you can frame out a section of paper with basic molding from your local hardware store. Some stores even provide basic miter saws to create the corner angles.
  5. Hang: House and Home shows us curtain rod used to hang individual panels. You can do one panel, or an entire wall.  Or, poster rails have a weighted bottom bar that keeps the wallpaper from rolling up on you. This video from Better Homes and Gardens also illustrates a simple DIY system using dowels.


  1. Drape: Similarly, suspending fabric from the ceiling is a great DIY project. You can rig a dowel system from the ceiling to create a bed canopy, as seen here.
  2. Upholster: Stapling fabric to a wall is a great option, like this nursery from HGTV. Both DesignSponge and Betsy give really great photo tutorials on the technique. You can also use tacks.
  3. Starch: Amber of Numbered Street Designs shows the result of using starch paste to fasten lightweight fabric to a bedroom wall. Instructions included.
  4. Tape: This is about as easy as it gets: Using double-stick and painters tape, Christiana hung a single sheet of paper in her bedroom.
  5. Velcro: While in Madrid last year, I stayed at a basic and inexpensive hotel that used strips of velcro to affix heavy canvas to the wall in lieu of a headboard. As my (not so great) photo shows, it looked simple, clean and modern. (Yes, this fabric is plain black, but you could use any fabric you want.)
Lastly, I'm intrigued by this comment from Vermontah, who suggests another solution for hanging non-removable wallpaper: First, paint the wall with an eggshell or satin finish. Next, paper it with inexpensive, plain removable paper. Then, paper over that with the wallpaper you really love. When it comes time to move, just peel off both layers.

Has anyone tried this and can vouch for the results? Any other fresh ideas?

(Last Image: Dabney Frake; others as linked above)

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