The easiest ways to update your apartment if you’re not allowed to paint


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Photo: Stocksy/Aleksandar Novoselski
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Ah, the joys of rental apartments. Not only do they cost a boatload to move into (… and out of), but they also come with their fair share of annoying rules and intense landlords to enforce them. One that’s commonly voiced? No painting the walls—period. So if color therapy isn’t in order for your room, how do you deal? Step one: Don’t freak out.

“Not being able to paint can sometimes be a blessing in disguise because there are so many other ways to create a unique space that reflects your personality,” says Los Angeles-based interior designer Olivia Wetterau. Instead, she says you should see it as an opportunity to get experimental in your space. “Don’t be afraid to try something different. Play with color, pattern, and textures on the walls and in your accessories.” Because, truth be told, there are plenty of ways to make your apartment feel like your sanctuary without a shellac of paint.

Keep scrolling for her favorite ways to change up your walls without ever having to deal with overalls, painter’s tape, or one of those horrible rollers.

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Wallpaper photo
Photo: Stocksy/Gillian Vann

Try removable wallpaper

Removable wallpaper has come a long way since the days when you were using it to line the inside of your locker. “I think companies are realizing that people are afraid of commitment and how often they change their minds,” she says of the growing number of offerings for temporary paper. “We now have a much wider range of options and great quality.”

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Invest in a statement art piece

Whether it’s a print or painting, art is the way to add your vibe to a space. “Consider buying one larger piece of art to create impact,” says Wetterau. “Your walls are a place to show visual interest through texture and color. I don’t think you have to stay within the style of your home when choosing art. Often times the most beautiful spaces have contemporary art in a traditional space or vice versa.”

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Gallery wall
Photo: Stocksy/Ali Lanenga

Get a gallery wall

“Although I don’t think it is everyone’s cup of tea, I don’t think it will ever fall out of style,” says Wettereu of the trend. “Creating a good gallery wall can be tricky and time consuming—it requires a wide range of frames in different shapes and sizes, as well as different mediums like photographs, paintings, and sketches to make it seem more dynamic.” If the process intimidates you (raises hand), try a service like Artfully Walls, which has pre-curated gallery walls that you can buy in a single click.

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You don’t have to hang all your artwork

When all else fails, it’s time to get extra creative with how you “hang” your art—which really doesn’t involve any hanging at all. “One of my favorite ways to display art is actually not on the walls,” says Wetterau. “In fact, most of the art in my house isn’t hung. It’s leaned against my walls, in my bookshelves, on top of my counters, and on benches.” This layered effect creates depth, brings color, and otherwise adds texture to boring-old white walls.

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How to use drapes
Photo: Stocksy/Alicia Magnuson

Add drapes

Try a fix that incorporates the windows and the walls (apologies for the Lil Jon song that’s now stuck in your head) and get yourself some draperies. “Layering textiles creates a more complete and finished design,” says Wetterau. “Creating a statement doesn’t always need color, a great neutral drape can add some curiosity to a space.” She likes the picks at Loom Decor, which has offerings in a whole range of vibrant patterns.

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Build some bookshelves

You may not be allowed to paint, but there technically aren’t any rules about nailing, right? “Simple wall mounted shelves can create that built-in look with just a few nails and screws,” says Wetterau. “The best part is it gives you more space to display your favorite books, decor pieces, and smaller art pieces all while creating a functional statement wall.” In other words: You’re adding storage space and visual interest. Two birds, one stone.

Looking to upgrade your home? Here are the best healthy investments you should be making in your Zen-den right now. Or, you can give up on the whole DIY thing altogether and let Beyoncé’s stylist do the work for you instead. (Yes, really). 

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