Landlord Not Allowing You to Paint? 10 Savvy Renter Tips for Decorating Without Painting

Decorating a rental house is sometimes way harder than you think it should be. You can visualize one lovely accent wall, maybe something in color for the kid's rooms, nice curtains instead of those old blinds, and a few mounted paintings to make the place look both lively and welcoming. But your landlord is having none of it.

  • Saturday, August 31, 2019


Decorating a rental house is sometimes way harder than you think it should be. You can visualize one lovely accent wall, maybe something in color for the kid's rooms, nice curtains instead of those old blinds, and a few mounted paintings to make the place look both lively and welcoming. But your landlord is having none of it. Some landlords are totally cool about a little painting and a few curtain rods, but the surprising fact is that most aren't. They would rather you live with completely blank white (or beige, or gray) walls and dingy aging miniblinds rather than put the precious blandness of the blank rental walls at "risk". Even if the changes would make the house nicer, more appealing, and can be easily reversed for the next tenant.

So what is a renter to do when your landlord won't let you add a little color and life to the place? Never fear, we have the answers. Fortunately for us, there are millions of renters who have been dealing with this exact type of decor restrictions for decades. And somehow, they still manage to have beautiful and well-decorated homes. The secret is working around your limitations and making sure the house is pristinely bland again when you leave.

Today, we're here to share our top ten tips for decorating your rental home without painting or punching holes.

1) Become a Master of Command Strip Mounting

The number one decorating trick for modern renters is a little something called a Command Strip. Produced by the well-known 3M adhesive company, Command strips are basically little strips of mounting tape that can hold a surprising number of pounds while leaving zero holes, paint damage, or sticky residue on the walls.

The trick is a little tab at the end of the command strips. To remove a strip, grasp the tab and pull. The strip will stretch out like silly putty until the adhesive lets go and the strip comes away in your hand without any sign it was once on the wall. These little strips can be used to mount hooks, shelves, framed artwork or even frameless paintings. Just be sure to leave that little tab ever-so-slightly visible so you can pull-to-remove later.

Why are we mentioning Command strips first? Because you'll need them for the rest of these genius no-mess renter decorating tips!

2) Paintings, Posters, and Prints

So you can't paint. That's alright, there are other ways to decorate your walls. And with the help of no-mess mounting tape, you don't have to worry about getting in trouble for nail holes or new drywall anchors. By using your Command strips with frame mounting hooks, you can cover your walls with art instead.

Whether you're a fanatic for beautiful paintings, have a great collection of band posters, or just pick up nice prints at street fairs from time to time; framed art is a wonderful way to decorate any home. Try using frames of different sizes and add a splash of color with the frames, prints, and backing that you choose for each piece. Frames that are not all at the same level can add a dynamically decorative look while level frames make your home look more formal and organized.

3) Hang Curtains Over the Blinds

No one likes those grungy once-white miniblinds that come with nearly every rental house in the known world. They are dirty, usually partially broken, and don't exactly enhance the decor of the house. But your landlord will pitch a fit if you do something so drastic as remove the blinds and put up nice curtains in their place.

The trick here? Pull up those blinds to their tightest open setting and install curtains over them. This way, the blinds practically disappear while you get to enjoy the look and feel of your favorite curtains both inside and outside the house. You can even drop the mini blinds for a little extra sun protection or privacy when you feel it.

If there aren't curtain rods and your landlord is anti-installation, don't sweat it. With lightweight curtains and the right hardware, mounting tape can do the job quite effectively until you're ready to take your no-mess curtains and rods with you to the next home.

4) Hang Tapestries or Wall Curtains

But what about those big blank white/beige walls that boggle the mind with their boringness? If you could wield a paint can, you've have a warm accent wall color chosen in no time. But without license to paint, there are actually other ways to non-permanently change the color of an entire wall from end to end. Or in fun sections, the choice is yours.

The answer is tapestry, curtains, or other types of wall hanging. Using the same mounting tape and curtain rod technology (or push-pins) you can install a large colorful piece of cloth (or more than one) to create a new color and texture for entire stretches of wall. With a tapestry or curtain large enough, you can change the entire wall from floor to ceiling; completely changing the look and feel of your rental home from the all-bland design when you moved in.

5) Removable Wallpaper

There's a new trend in rental decor called 'removable wallpaper'. This type of decorative paper uses low-tac adhesive (not very sticky) to make wallpaper designs that you can stick to the wall and safely remove later on. If you have the right type of walls and paint to receive the paper, it can be a great way to add a splash of color and design to your otherwise bland home while being able to safely remove the decor when you're done.

However, removable wallpaper doesn't work on all wall types, paint types, and isn't always as safe as advertised. For example, you don't want to put it up on paint that is a month fresh or newer. It doesn't work on textured walls, and it may not work on some types of paint. Be sure to do a spot-test in a discreet location before tacking up miles of fun designs and murals and read the instructions carefully.

Also, don't surprise your landlord with an excitingly papered wall. If they don't know it's removable, this is also a great way to give an uptight landlord heart palpitations.

6) Pin Up Craft Paper for Renter-Murals

A more personalized alternative is to simply pin up craft paper in big rolls along the walls you want to decorate. If you (or your kids) are mural painters, craft paper rolls can be one of the most fun and creative ways to decorate a once-bland rental home. From school, you already know that big rolls of paper are a fantastic way to make big artwork look good, and that it can be tacked up on the wall as a type of artwork display.

But as a grownup renter, you can go above and beyond. With just one roll of sturdy craft paper, you can cover an entire wall or even an entire room in your home with a surface safe to paint, doodle, and play with while never touching a drop of color to your landlord's preciously bland walls. Go wild with personal creativity and, if you don't like the final effect, tear it down and put up new paper to paint something new!

7) Install Smart Lights or Colored Light Bulbs

Of course, you don't actually have to change the color of the wall to change the appearance of color on the wall. If you just did a double-take, we don't blame you. Our secret sauce for changing the color and feel of a whole room is smart lights or colored lightbulbs.

Modern smart lights can change to any color in the light spectrum, they can dim and brighten, and you can control them with a few words to a smart home speaker. But even cooler for your walls is the effect that colored lights have. Whether you replaced your living room light with a smart light or installed your own spotlight to color-change a specific wall; casting colored light onto a white or gray wall is a great way to change the wall's color without a single drop of paint or scrap of fabric or paper.

8) Place Mirrors Using Stands

Hanging mirrors is an essential part of decorating a home. Mirrors can make a small home or room look larger. They serve a vital function in your bedroom, bathroom, and by the front door to ensure you always look your best for company or before leaving the house. But if you can't punch holes, it becomes pretty challenging to hang a mirror.

Some Command strips are sturdy enough for small lightweight mirrors, but you want to be careful mounting heavier mirrors on sticky mounting tape. Instead, prioritize mirror stands for your hall, bedroom, and decorative living room mirrors. Tall mirror stands are great for checking your outfit while you can even have small portrait-level mirrors as long as they are mounted on top of tables and dressers instead of hanging from the wall.

9) Throw Pillows, Blankets, and Table Runners

Don't forget that your splashes of color on the walls increase in power tenfold when combined with coordinated splashes of color throughout the room. Throw pillows are the usual go-to suggestion in this situation because it's easy and fun to find a few overstuffed decorative pillows in the designs you're looking for.

But if you're not a throw-pillow type of decorator (or you need more than just a few pillows to tie the room together) then get creative. Throws (AKA: knit living room blankets) are a great way to further accent your decor and make couch-time extra snuggly on a chilly night. Throw blankets can be folded into pillows, draped artfully across the end of the couch, or wrapped around your kids with equal decorative quality.

Table runners are another great detail that most people overlook but can make a real difference. A simple strip of brightly colored accent fabric can pull an entire room together, especially if you've already done a little bold matching wall decor.

10) Vivid Area Rugs

Finally, don't forget the floor. The blandness of a no-paint rental house often extends to totally normal practical flooring. From laminate wood planks to no-nonsense beige carpets, your floor is likely to be as boring as your walls. And you can add a lot of spice to your design with a few well-placed area rugs. Yes, even on the carpets. In fact, area rugs can actually make sure that your carpet gets back to the landlord free of wear and stains.

Don't just look for 'magazine pretty' rugs. Look for rugs that make you smile. Get a kid's train tracks rug for for your child's room or even the living room if that pulls your design together. Or a vividly patterned rug that adds detail and texture to your entire interior design plan. Just a few area rugs can make a huge difference to a home you're not allowed to paint or pin.

Being a smart tenant is all about knowing how to work with (and around) a landlord. From handling the lease to decorating within the bounds of 'the rules', you can learn everything you need to be a renting pro without all the trial-and-error. Contact us today for more great renter tips, guides, or personal help finding your next great place to live. And for more savvy renter tips, just keep reading the blog!

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