How do I decorate without painting?
June 30, 2005 1:16 AM   Subscribe

Help me decorate without painting!

I am really sick of my house looking very un-put-together, and I want to decorate. My landlord is painting soon, but I couldn't convince him to do anything other than white. All the decorating books and magazines I've seen feature rooms with brightly painted walls, which is really discouraging. I need suggestions for resources for "how to decorate when you walls are the color of your toilet." Oh, and I'm a student, so I can't afford a decorator or Pottery Barn.
posted by radioamy to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been thinking for a while a Poggendorff would be cool.

You could implement this easily, with paint, or with colored tape, or even colored cardboard or ribbons affixed to the wall.

You could also do a Herring, again with paint, string, tape, ribbon, or cardboard.
posted by orthogonality at 2:41 AM on June 30, 2005

I've often thought about covering my walls with some sort of rasterized images.

Another alternative I've prepared for but not yet implemented, is to buy a shed-load of simple, cheap, glass frames for single photographs. Then go out and take bags of photos, print them, frame them, and cover a wall in the 6"x4" (or whatever) prints. If you can't afford the frames or new photos, existing gloss-finish photos pinned to the walls might be quite nice. I plan to cover one entire wall, with maybe a couple of inches between the photos.
posted by ajp at 4:13 AM on June 30, 2005

I'm in the same boat (#%@*ing landlords) and have considered using starch to cover the walls with fabric. I haven't yet though, so if anyone has done it and can report back, that would be great. Does it really go on that easily and come off that cleanly?
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:38 AM on June 30, 2005

Try Blik
posted by banished at 4:45 AM on June 30, 2005

I once used a parachute (from a military surplus store), hung from the ceiling and draped on 3 walls of a room to transform a flat I couldn't paint/paper.... mine was white (ish) but I have seen orange ones available in surplus stores in the UK that would look uber cool as a ceiling decoration to really change a room.
posted by mattr at 4:48 AM on June 30, 2005

You could find a pretty blanket or quilt and hang it as a tapestry.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:07 AM on June 30, 2005

I did this when I was a student. Buy large sheets of coloured cardboard or foam board (any art supply store would have some). Hang, and either mount posters or blown up pictures, or make a collage of photos you already have.
posted by darsh at 5:22 AM on June 30, 2005

Also, I have some batiks/framed pictures which I can send you pictures of-they're yours if you like them. my email's in my profile
posted by darsh at 5:32 AM on June 30, 2005

I second the idea of paper/cloth on the wall. I have wallpapered parts of our apt (despite the landlord's complaining -- I just promised to take it down when I leave). You do not have to do all the walls in each room. Study each room's dimensions and do maybe one or two out of the four walls, for instance. Mix and match different colours (well, I am big with bright colors). Now I managed to find (luck, I say) a lovely paper with japanese bamboo plants that looks fantastic. Online decorating and wallpaper sites offer great deals. Have fun!
posted by carmina at 6:05 AM on June 30, 2005

I have a ton of framed thingys on my walls: posters, tchotchkes, grandma's needlepoint, you name it.

The only problem I've run into- if the frame/matting is the same color as your walls, the piece tends to blend in to the wall and the monotony is still there. Unfortunately, a lot of pre-framed cheapy works of art are matted on white!

Definitely look into tapestries and other fabric-hanging things. You can make a piece of fabric look spiffy by running a wooden dowel through the top of it, rather than just tacking it to the wall.

Check out apartment therapy and search their archives- you'll find some helpful hints about what to do when the landlord mandates white walls.

(Finally, my sympathies- even though I promised to repaint when I moved out, my new landlord won't let me paint. At least he's slapping a fresh coat of white on the walls before I move in, though... gotta focus on the bright side, right?)
posted by elisabeth r at 6:14 AM on June 30, 2005

Although my decor style may be different from you:
- Get a lot of photographs: family, friends, places, memories, things like that. Create an entire wall of photographs (with or without frames; mine are just taped to the wall and overlapping each other).
- Like it was mentioned previously, rasturbate. I have long strips (2 pages by 9 pages) of images of famous places along one wall (Big Ben, Leaning Tower, so on and so on), looks classy.
- At WalMart or another postal supply store, they have huge rolls of brown paper. In our living room, my room-mates and I put a strip of it on a wall. Everyone who comes through that door (RAs, maintenance, parents, friends, strangers, whomever) signs it.
- Craft stores (like JoANN ETC or Michaels) have a lot of mirrors that are pretty cheap (5 for $1). In my bathroom, I've bought a few 3" square mirrors and created a checkered pattern; above my bed, I have a bevy of circles (all different sizes).

Living in a colorless room sucks, but you can actually make it work for you. Good luck!
posted by itchie at 6:24 AM on June 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

You could do a simple version of upholstered walls:

Buy buttloads of an inexpensive muslin or cotton, or even off-price sheets (if they're the right length) - whatever you like. Solids are going to work better because there are no patterns to match up.

Buy thin strips of moulding and tack them at the top where the wall meets the ceiling. They're pretty thin - you can cut them with a cheapie hacksaw - they only cost a few bucks.

Stretch the fabric taut, or pleat or shirr it (uses up a hella lot more fabric tho) and tack it to the moulding. You can do various things to the bottom - leave as it, fringe it, hem it, sew an accent on it, use another moulding tacked at the bottom and affix the fabric at the bottom same as the top...whatever you like.

You could try this on one wall, pref one without a window, and take it from there if you like the effect.

Then if you want to hang a picture on the wall over the fabric (hopefully it won't be heavy), you could tap a nail into where the moulding is at the top, and attach rope, wire, light chain, ribbon, etc to the top of the picture frame, and hang it from the nail. Hanging pics that way has a nice art gallery feel to it.

Something I did in one apt I had, that was fun and really thinking outside the box - I bought spotlights in different colors and trained them on my walls. I had these really cool washes of color on the walls, which I could change at whim. The colors are subtle and muted by day (but still bright and noticable), and more vivid at night. I think I used all one color in the living areas (blue) and in my bedroom I had a different color on each wall. The spotlights were indoor (there are lots of similar style accent lights at places like ikea, if you can get colored bulbs to fit), so they didn't give off any heat. They're sometimes called uplights, if you want to google for them.

On preview: I love the brown postal paper idea!
posted by iconomy at 6:44 AM on June 30, 2005

Fabric, fabric, fabric. You can make huge flats and bring them with you when you go.

Buy a cheap book at any bookstore (look at the clearance stuff), cut out some cool pics/maps/whatever, buy cheap mats and frames at a craft store (NOT a frame store!) and make a wall of similar-looking items.
posted by suchatreat at 8:27 AM on June 30, 2005

Things I've done to my walls in the past:

1. Cover them with grasscloth wallpaper (has a lovely bumpy texture to it) by using a staplegun. The staples are relatively easy to take out when it's time to move. Just use a flat head screwdriver to pry them up.

2. Buy art canvases or canvas frames and either paint them in big blocks of color or stretch fabric or paper over them.

3. Pictures made with the aforementioned Rasterbator.

I haven't tried the wall decals like Blik, but I did notice some cute ones in Bed Bath & Beyond the other day if Blik is a little out of your price range.
posted by MsMolly at 9:05 AM on June 30, 2005

Yes, it maybe targeted at the 12-16 set, but they're poor too, so check out Pottery Barn Teen's ideas for making over your walls. The best idea they have is to string a cable at the top of your wall (where it meets the ceiling) from corner to corner, and then hang fabric from the cable like a curtain. They are, of course, selling all of the components, but you could just as easily buy the stuff at a hardware store. As others have said, raw muslin is cheap, and you could dye it, cut it or paint it to suit your style.
posted by slimslowslider at 11:01 AM on June 30, 2005

Deja vu. I was reading a thread just the other day on craftster where someone posted the same question and got many of the same responses; I'm having trouble finding it again. You really should check out rasterbating. On Craftser you can see photos of what others have done with it.
posted by theperfectcrime at 7:34 PM on June 30, 2005

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