Decorate my wide spaces and white walls
October 18, 2007 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I just moved into a large, white, blocky apartment. I would rather not paint it. Really, it is overwhelmingly white and square. How do you decorate that?

I don't own a lot of furniture. I just don't own a lot of stuff. Right now the apartment is mostly wide spaces and white walls. My roommates and I have a good collection of garbage art going, but the apartment is so large there remains a lot of white space between pieces.

I am not an artist but I for sure appreciate good decoration. I am not going to stay here more than a year, so I would rather not paint. I have a budget, but with so much space it will have to be spread thin.

I am interested in the tricks and techniques that make good decoration, especially those pertaining to this challenging canvas. I learned a lot about photography by reading books and websites. I hope to do this same thing with decorating.
posted by gmarceau to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend textiles: wall hangings, cushions, room partitions. You can get just the colors/patterns/sizes you want; they are inexpensive and can come with you when you go; you can hang them tidily against the wall or drape them in such a way as to soften the stark lines of the space.

Also, lovely fabric or artisanal paper can be inexpensively framed and hung as art.

(I'm a bit jealous of you; my walls are jampacked.)
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:33 AM on October 18, 2007

Sorry, meant to include a few links for you:
Art paper at Kate's Paperie

Good luck! Post pics when you're done, maybe, please?
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2007

Go outside and get some leaves that you like. Affix them to the wall -- I'd suggest small tack nails, or even tape. You might consider attaching them at regular intervals (4" - 6") a short distance from the ceiling, or making patterns.

The leaves will dry and get crinkly and brown, so incorporate this into your design plans.

You might also consider attaching natural objects that will not change so much as time passes: cattails, grasses, relatively flat branches. From this last, you could consider hanging tasteful ornaments. Attaching any of these will require a degree of cleverness, but the branch could be the easiest and most easily beautiful.

Have a nice walk!
posted by amtho at 8:42 AM on October 18, 2007

Group items on the wall together into clusters. Just because there's a lot of white wall space doesn't mean that space has to be filled up. Divide the space up that way, with groupings and then white space, groupings and then white space.

The cluster or grouping of items will contrast the sections of wall space that are bare and white. Go for exagerating the zen look of your space.

You could also pick one section of wall, or small wall area, and just paint THAT section a bright, electric color -- again to put things into contrast.
posted by zenpop at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2007

One year isn't such a short time that you shouldn't paint! If I were you I would reconsider that.
posted by loiseau at 8:52 AM on October 18, 2007

I have no technique to give really, but for white walls I think these blik wall decals are pretty cool, especially the threadless ones.
posted by tracert at 8:53 AM on October 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

Just my two cents. Leave the damned wall alone. Dried leaves? are you kidding?! You don't want tack holes or ugly nail holes in such a nice finished white wall -especially if your going to be moving. It's a design idea unto itself. Stick to basics; a guitar holder here and minimalist painting there (no screws!) or a wine holder or foliage sparsely if you must.
posted by Student of Man at 9:18 AM on October 18, 2007

Cool decals, tracert. [making mental note]
posted by GrammarMoses at 9:19 AM on October 18, 2007

We've got some of those decals - some gulls in the bathroom, and some made-for-auto ones on the car. They're cool and easy to put up. Don't know about removing, since we haven't done that.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on October 18, 2007

In my old apartment we had a big white wall in the living room . We bought some "floating" wall shelves and strategically placed them on the wall. Then we put framed pictures, candles and few other things on visually filled up the space very well.
posted by radioamy at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2007

Rastorbate on your walls!

It is a site where you can make giant blowups of any photo to print out.
posted by Melsky at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Since you don't have a lot of "stuff," you are likely a good candidate for moving your furniture away from the walls. If the room is as big and dominating as you say, you could really get some zones going.

Then go to some galleries and see how they deal with art in confined spaces as well as what they do when they spread them out. Maybe you can mix in some framed prints or LPs or something in between you and your friends' art pieces.
posted by rhizome at 10:23 AM on October 18, 2007

urban outfitters has these great, huge cloth bedspreads. i bought one and hung it on my wall. instant wallpaper! they're basically just hemmed fabric, not quilted or anything.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:48 AM on October 18, 2007

Taking Melsky's idea one step further, you could blow up: symbols, natural images, hieroglyphics, Asian cranes, just about anything using a cheap projector. Then paint just those things on the wall in black, like shadows.

If you are braver, you can paint with color and try something Seussian .
posted by misha at 11:46 AM on October 18, 2007

Blank white walls is not a challenging canvas. It's about the most basic canvas you can have.

Any time you move into a new space, it seems really empty and big. Comparison photos of my first apartment upon moving in look stark compared to the prior-to-packing moving out photos I took 5 years later.

Put up a few things slowly and when you can - a few favorite pictures, a swatch of bright fabric, etc. In a year you'll have a liveable space.
posted by agregoli at 11:59 AM on October 18, 2007

There are a lot of great ideas already, but if you don't find any decals or posters to your taste or want something less busy, and if you're feeling a little do-it-yourselfy and live near an art supply store, what you can do is stretch your own canvas, grab some cheapish acrylic paint in a color or two you like, and go to town! Paint it solid, textured, or if you're feeling really adventurous, try to be an abstract artist. You can always paint over it if it sucks.

If you'd rather not paint, you can stretch interesting fabrics over the stretcher bars instead, and hang them as paintings. You may need to be a little gentler with most fabrics since they aren't as sturdy as canvas.

It takes some work and might get messy, but they don't have to be perfect. Plus you have a ton of options for size, color, and placement - you could have a huge rectangle or a bunch of different small ones. It's like a paint job that you can take with you when you move.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:33 PM on October 18, 2007

you might want to check out Blik for easy wall decorations. Some of them are actually quite cool.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:52 PM on October 18, 2007

Green living things - plants plants plants. If you can, put at top of shelf and let lustrous vines with fat lovely leaves trail down the wall.

For big wall coverings: good-looking old maps (often findable at big library sales or used book places); textile wall hangings or rugs or quilts. For a more do it yourself look, rasterbate an image you like, or make a simple but large-scale pattern using pieces of cardstock mounted to the wall (I have done this with just clear thumbtacks, and it worked well to very cheaply lighten a dark wall).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:03 PM on October 18, 2007

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