In the Pine Cone Hill Giveaway, #327: Jessica B. who wrote:
“Lenox, Links, Scramble…oh my, they are all lovely. Thanks !”
The winner of the Wine Country Pantry Giveaway is #79: Rachel F.
In addition to winning all the goodies, Rachel also posed this question with her entry:
“As we continue through grad school we are still renting housing and it is becoming a bore, and quite frankly getting me down on my decorating abilities. White stark walls, cement walls, old dingy cabinets, etc. What in the world can I do to make this temporary home my own ?”
Great question Rachel! You have the same dilemma many renters face: turning white walls into a stylish and comfortable home that you want to return to at day’s end. There’s not much you can do to dingy cabinets in a rental without permission to paint, beyond giving them a good scrub. As for white walls ? There’s a lot that can be done to bring warmth, color, pattern, and style to your abode.
My Best Tips for Decorating with White Walls:
Splurge on a Colorful Patterned Rug. Pick a bold color or interesting design you love, then go for it ! These two examples by Pottery Barn and West Elm are staged on wood floors, but you’ll have a harder time noticing your less than desirable rental flooring with area rugs like these. Plus, you’ll anchor your seating area and brighten your space.
Use Wallpaper Strategically. There’s no need to apply wallpaper directly to your walls to make an impact. Be more creative by applying wallpaper to plywood or a large canvas. Tacking trim or molding around the perimeter with brad nails finishes the edges and does no more damage than ordinary picture frames or art ~ tiny holes are easily repaired with spackling when moving out.
Or you could starch fabric onto your walls to get a wallpapered look, and remove it when you leave ~ instructions here.
Decorate with Patterned Panels. White walls are the perfect backdrop to showcase beautiful fabrics. Introduce pattern and add interest to your windows with your treatments of choice, whether it’s bold color or a subtle graphic design.
Accessorize with Fabric and Color. This is the most obvious, but most effective way to design around your white walled space. Choose non-neutral furnishings upholstered with colored fabrics, then add pillows, throws, lamps, glass bottles or vases, and fresh flowers ~ these are the simplest ways to bring color into your nest.
Texture counts too ~ bring in natural fibers like sisal rugs or baskets, soft yarns, and silks. Don’t forget how easy it is to use spray paint to change the color of just about anything, whether it’s picture frames, lamps, or thrift store finds.
Paint a Piece of Furniture. I’m always inspired by furniture makers that offer finishes beyond stained wood, basic black or white finishes. Take a cue from Somerset Bay, The New Traditionalists, and Oomph ~ paint an ordinary piece with a fresh modern color and marvel how it makes the room.
Swap or Add a Light Fixture. If it’s the brassy nightmare in the foyer that gets your goat, or the majorly outdated chandelier that you stare at over your breakfast table, consider replacing it. I highly recommend a professional electrician do the swap for you when your working with someone else’s wires. You can always make the switch back when you leave, and keep your fancy fixture for your next place.
Inject Your Personality. The very best way to turn someone else’s white walls into your home is to fill it with things that are dear to you. Your favorite art, pictures of loved ones, your coziest pillows, throws, and collected treasures, fun fabric covered canvases, even whimsical streamers or bunting. Anything that makes you smile should be your guide.
For Now, Embrace the White. So you are dying to add color to your walls, but you’re unable. Paint on the walls adds color and certainly adds drama, but remember that white walls are serene, so don’t see them as plain, see them as a blank canvas to showcase your creativity. Then accessorize !
Get Inspired. Take a cue from bloggers like Nester, Erin, and Jenny who are presently renting, but have never let that stop them from transforming their spaces into homes with personality and plenty of great style.
One final note. If you find you really really really neeeeeed to have color on your walls, then ask your property manager if you can paint. When I was renting an apartment during law school, I asked the manager if I could paint one wall a pale green. I showed him the paint sample and even agreed to paint it back to white when I left. He agreed!
My sister has done the same thing with her rental home of two years. She approached the landlord with a paint sample and he agreed to let them paint the bedrooms a pale blue, without an agreement to repaint when they leave. They’re great tenants, and he saw that the new paint could add value.
If you’ve signed a long term rental, your manager or landlord may agree to allow for painting walls, but he or she may ask for additional security deposit. If you approach the topic, you may get lucky. It simply doesn’t hurt to ask !
Calling all renters, past and present, let’s hear from you. What’s your best tip for decorating with white walls? Do share !