I Tried This Stylish, Budget-Friendly Hack to Wallpaper My Rental

published Mar 29, 2023
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Credit: Erin Derby

I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know, but decorating with wallpaper isn’t just limited to homeowners. Peel-and-stick options have made it easier than ever for renters and commitment-phobes to add pattern and texture to their walls as well. Although there are a lot of options out there, wallpaper — even peel-and-stick — can still get pretty costly. If you love the look of a wallpapered room yet want something a bit more budget-friendly, this easy hack can help you get the look for less.

Before we moved into our current apartment, I fell in love with a peel-and-stick wallpaper for our daughter’s bedroom. However, after calculating how many panels I’d need and the subsequent price, it just didn’t feel like a wise investment to go all-in with full room coverage. I settled for one accent wall, as shown above, and while it looked beautiful, I kept brainstorming ways to fill the three surrounding white sides. 

Credit: Chelsea Angelos

Even after re-signing our lease with no future plans to move for at least another year, I still hadn’t been willing to splurge on the room. Then, a solution finally struck me: What if I created my own framed wallpaper panels instead? Reminiscent of large-scale chinoiserie wall art, the idea was to DIY picture frame molding throughout the space and effectively create built-in panels to fill with wallpaper. This would still achieve the look of a wallpapered room, but without having to cover each wall from the floor to the ceiling.

Credit: Chelsea Angelos

I followed Apartment Therapy’s tips for the (fairly inexpensive!) picture frame molding project and used painter’s tape to map out each panel size and shape before installing them on my walls. I then determined how much wallpaper all the panels would require — which, after doing the math, actually equated to a third of the total amount needed to fully cover the room. 

Credit: Chelsea Angelos

Once I installed the wallpaper within the confines of the wall molding, my daughter’s room finally felt complete. In my opinion, having the paneling act like a border makes using less wallpaper look intentional. And for a third of the price, I was able to still achieve 100 percent of the visual impact I wanted!