Renter's Solutions: Working With Whatever Wall Color You've Got

Renter's Solutions: Working With Whatever Wall Color You've Got

Emil Evans
Jan 28, 2014
Note: Color above is not exactly "dorm yellow" - this is a prettier related example!
(Image credit: Lizzie Ford)

I don't know about you, but all the places I've lived as a renter have been painted an awkward, almost-yellow taupe. I first encountered it on all the walls of my rooms in college, so I call it "dorm yellow". Despite over five years of living with it (and knowing it could be worse!), I haven't figured out how to decorate with sandy yellow walls. Happily for me, and all of us in this situation, there are a bunch of renter-friendly solutions to yucky walls!

When Daniel Kanter moved into his apartment, the walls were cherry red.  He split the cost of paint with his landlord and invested in a good primer.
(Image credit: Daniel Kanter)

Option 1: Paint it!

With luck, it might just take a few pleasant exchanges with your landlord to get the okay to paint. If your dream walls fit into the category of "light, neutral" colors, sending your landlord a paint chip could be enough to convince them that it's for the better. Be sure to check if they have any concerns about your painting skills, things that can't be painted (ex: don't paint the heating vents, hot water pipes), etc. Maintaining good communication means there won't be surprise fines when you move out.

Option 2: Cover it up!

Starch fabric wallpaper:

If luck is not on your side, you can resort to a few different types of removable wallpaper, the cheapest of which is starched fabric. For more information, read our post on How To Make Removable Fabric Wallpaper. It's super straightforward and requires only a few materials.

Temporary Wallpaper:

There are loads of temporary wallpapers on the market, and these are not your typical stuffy Victorian florals, either.

Kate Zaremba's Pinstripe Floral Print Removable Wallpaper
(Image credit: Kate Zaremba)
Julia Rothman's Daydream Wallpaper Tile in Blue
(Image credit: Julia Rothman)
Lina Rennell's Raindrops Wallpaper Tile in Blue/Gray
(Image credit: Lina Rennell)

For a list of more companies, check out our post on Peel And Stick Wallpaper.

Silkscreened wood wall tiles by Moonish in "The Modernist"
(Image credit: Moonish)

There's also a company making silkscreened plywood tiles that attach to the wall with magnets. Think FLOR carpet tiles, but for the wall.

Collage it:

Ariele Alasko covered a wall in her studio with swirling eucalyptus leaves.
(Image credit: Grace Bonney)

If you're feeling ambitious, perhaps you want to collage the wall. Try covering your walls with organized photomurals, ombré sticky notes, or even a swirl of eucalyptus leaves.

Try a Wall Hanging:

DIY Geometric Wall Hanging by Design*Sponge
(Image credit: Maxwell Tielman)

If only one wall is bothersome, perhaps a full-wall curtain — or curtains — is the answer to your woes.

Option 3: Disguise it!

A gallery wall draws the eye away from blank stretches of wall.
(Image credit: William Waldron)

For a low-energy fix, try creating a gallery wall to distract from the less-than-pleasing paint. Groupings of bold art will make the wall color less dominant. Here are 9 Gallery Walls Done Right.

Option 4: Embrace it!

Perhaps your wall is not a color you'd choose, but not an altogether horrible shade. If so, it's possible that with a few tweaks and carefully selected accent pieces, you can develop a positive relationship between your stuff and your wall color. Consult a color wheel, and don't be afraid to experiment.

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