Design Dilemma: What to Do When You Can’t Paint
What do you do when you can’t paint your walls? It’s a surprisingly common problem among renters who are often unfortunate enough to have landlords that demand that walls stay white or — maximum — beige.
Being unable to use colors on walls can instantly “blandify” a space, keeping things impersonal and a little staid. But there are ways to get around this problem!
1) Accessorize. You may be stuck with beige walls, but you can still play with color and pattern by investing in bold rugs, colorful pillows and throws, striking lampshades and colorful lamps, bold wall hangings and art. For instance, below a bland room with beige walls and a white couch instantly takes on a playful feel through the clever use of colorful pillows, colorful plates on the wall, and lamps and lampshades with personality. In the photo above, a bold magenta rug plus a few colorful pillows adds exotic warmth to what would otherwise be the usual cold modernity.
2) Buy art. Nothing has the power to transform a space like art. Suddenly, what could be seen as a defect (beige walls) can become a beautiful backdrop to bold, colorful art. When investing in art, the first principle is to buy what you like, but don’t shy away from buying large canvases and photographs, that, at first glance, might seem too large for your space. Often, oversized paintings can pull together a space in one deft move. Below, a pale traditional living room that might otherwise feel a little boring is instantly catapulted into the 21st century with a colorful abstract painting. Below that, an oversized black and white photo in a white bedroom brings instant drama while maintaining a sense of serenity. And below that, a large colorful painting combined with a colorful tribal rug makes white walls simply a canvas for a brash and vivid collection of art and textiles.
3) Use wall hangings. Let your imagination run wild! Your wall hanging could be any textile that suits your fancy. You might choose a colorful Marimekko textile, as seen immediately below, or opt for a Turkish rug or kilim, as seen in the second photo below. Or, you might even choose a flag from your favorite country!
4) Use white or beige as your “color.” Have you noticed anything about the photos we’ve included in this post? That’s right, in most of these photos, the entire room is composed of light neutrals — usually white, beige or light gray — with one big pop of color coming through accessories. And there’s an important design lesson in that. You can make a white-walled rental feel “deliberate” by allowing that same white color to dominate your surroundings. By choosing white or beige furniture and curtains, you will instantly tie your space together, allowing you to make one dramatic gesture. Or, as in the photo below, your one big design statement might actually be one vividly patterned chair or couch. The key: pick and choose carefully where you bring in your color and suddenly your beige or white walls will become an asset, not a defect!
Images: ApartmentTherapy.com, Country Living, Kara Mann, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, Rugs of the World, LivingEtc.com