Before and After: A Renter-Friendly Fireplace Statement Wall Done in a Day

published Jun 9, 2021
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Living room with soft blue walls mostly empty except for bags around the perimeter

Creating warmth and character in a rental can be difficult, especially when the space has bland finishes when you move in. When Patty Barrett moved into her New England rental home two months ago, the whole place was a bit “shabby,” she says. The landlord had upgraded the floors and put a fresh coat of light blue paint on the walls, but still, the space lacked any personality.

“Everything was fine but not me,” Patty says. Her vision was “Barbie’s 19th-Century Holiday Dream House” — and she was able to pull it off in an afternoon using temporary rental-friendly fixes.

There are plenty of great temporary fireplace solutions available for those who don’t have one built in and don’t have the bandwidth, budget, landlord permission, or venting to add one; Patty selected a faux Duraflame model (available for $219) with a heater. To make the “fireplace” feel a little more permanent and homey, she bought a scalloped surround from Wayfair (available for $393). The best part? The surround and the fireplace required no installation or assembly at all. Once they arrived, they were good to go.

Before placing them in the corner, Patty decided to add a few more accents to give the wall a truly layered look. She applied a floral Rifle Paper Co. peel-and-stick wallpaper ($60 per roll) to the wall — in her favorite color combo, red, pink, and green — and added wall candle sconces from an antique store.

One important step to the wallpaper process? “Read the instructions first,” Patty says. She applied one set of wallpaper prior to the one that’s there now, and it all fell off. “I realized that I was supposed to clean the wall first,” Patty says. “I sucked it up and bought some more, and cleaned the wall, waited for it to dry, and re-applied, and haven’t had any issues with it sticking.”

Patty says it was also difficult to get the wallpaper edges straight; she recommends enlisting another set of hands for the project. “The lines aren’t so clean,” she says of her wallpaper work. “However, it’s mostly covered by the fireplace, and you can’t tell from afar.”

After the wallpaper and sconces were installed, Patty finished accessorizing with thrift store and Goodwill finds — including the 1995 Holiday Barbie Print featured prominently.

“I love how it brings the whole place together,” she says. “The living room goes right into my dining room, and the wallpaper complements the color of the dining room. There are pink/red/green elements all over my apartment, and the wallpaper ties it all together nicely. It could have looked super old-fashioned, but I feel the modern elements make it fresher.”