How to decorate rental walls - clever design tricks that are all easy to remove

Brighten up plain walls in a rental home with these tried and tested ways without losing your deposit

Large wallpaper in frame on wall
(Image credit: Future PLC / Kasia Fiszer)

Learning how to decorate rental walls is something I've mastered after renting 6 different flats over a decade. As a homes and interiors journalist I spend my days looking at beautiful images of homes, and my evenings working out how to translate those looks in my flat without losing my deposit. 

When looking into how to decorate a rented home, especially the walls of one, you first need to address how amenable your landlord will be to letting you make changes. Many landlords will happily let you paint walls and hang shelves, as long as you return the space to how you found it when your tenancy ends. 

However, if you're stuck with a strict landlord, or one who has decided to ghost you (we've all been there) here are some of the best temporary ways to decorate a wall in a rental property. Many you'll also be able to take to your next place. 

How to decorate rental walls

The big difference between decorating rental walls, versus the walls of a home you own is the ability to paint and use nails and screws. Thankfully there are a whole host of clever temporary buys, from command strips (your new best friend) to peel-and-stick wallpaper, which means you can decorate a rental wall without facing the wrath of your landlord.

1. Hang prints with command hooks

Colourful bedroom with blue sideboard for storage and a gallery wall of botanical art prints

(Image credit: Future PLC / Kasia Fiszer)

No article on how to decorate walls in a rental home would be complete without mentioning command strips. 

I have used them in all my rented flats, but I have recently switched from using the standard velcro command strips to the Command™ Sawtooth Picture Hangers, available on Amazon. These little hooks will hold the weight of a frame up to A5 size from my own experience.

Unfortunately, command hooks aren't cheap compared to a hammer and nails, so you might have to opt for a small gallery wall idea or one statement piece if you are on a budget. However, to ensure your artwork still stands out Natasha Smith, founder of Interior Design Studio, Dopamine Decor recommends paying attention to the frame.

'Choose a frame that complements your artwork,' she says. 'Pick out one of the colours in your picture for a coloured frame to make the art pop, or match the frame to the wall so it disappears into the background.'

2. Go bold with removable wallpaper

Green floral removable wallpaper in neutral room

(Image credit: Peel and Paper)

Removable peel and stick wallpaper is one of the great innovations for renters to bring wallpaper ideas to life without the commitment. You can pick up removable wallpaper from Dunelm, B&Q and Homebase, alongside smaller dedicated peel-and-stick wallpaper brands such as Peel and Paper. They offer a lovely range of sophisticated real paper wallpaper options. 

'For rental properties, peel & stick wallpaper is an absolute godsend! We specially formulated our paper and adhesive to work for rental properties and to make our wallpaper truly removable, without leaving residue or damage,' says Danielle Millett, Lead Designer at Peel and Paper. 

'The benefits of real-paper peel & stick wallpaper is that it is easier to put up, as it does not stretch and doesn't require overlapping, and that it is super-matte. Our paper is the most matte paper we have ever tested, and really blends in with painted walls seamlessly. For a feature wall it works great, but also we are seeing lots of installations above panelling which also looks fantastic,' she adds.

3. Add detail with wall stickers

Vinyl in triangle shapes on wall

(Image credit: Cricut)

Wall decals are another quick and removable option for faking paint ideas when decorating walls. You can purchase them ready-made or make your own if you have a digital cutting machine like a Cricut

Kate Smith, a Cricut Ambassador, has even opted to use removable vinyl instead of wallpaper in her own home because it is cheaper and quicker to put up than wallpaper, and can be removed quickly too. Her top tip is to work with small shapes if possible. 

'It's easier to apply smaller shapes, to avoid creasing and air bubbles,' she explains.  'So, if you've never made removable wall decals before, start with many small shapes such as polka dots/leopard print/clouds etc rather than one large shape.

'If you'd like to create a larger shape such as a large wall arch or rainbow, you may find it easier to make up each coloured arch with smaller shapes,' she explains. 'If you decide to cut a larger piece of removable vinyl, start applying it to the wall by peeling a small piece of backing off in one corner. Press the corner down, then slowly peel the backing off whilst pressing the rest of the vinyl to the wall.'

4. Upcycle a bookcase

Yellow wallpaper in white shelves

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you've fallen in love with a normal wallpaper pattern, another way to decorate a wall is to get creative with your upcycled furniture ideas and wallpaper a tall piece of furniture to hide the wall being. For example, you can position a bookcase in front of the wall and line the backs of the shelves with wallpaper. 

'When renting, sometimes you have to get creative and find clever ways to add some personality to your home. Many people aren’t able to add wallpaper to their walls when renting, but there are still ways you can incorporate wallpaper into your décor,' says Chelsea Clark, Head of Brand at Lust Home.

'Revamp furniture and try adding wallpaper to cupboard doors, the tops of dressing tables, or transform old drawer units and insides of bookshelves.'

Yes, this is a bit of a cheat as you are hiding the wall, instead of decorating it. But as a renter, you have to work with all the opportunities available to you.

5. Create a picture line

Blue bedroom with picture line

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

This is a brilliant renter-friendly way to display pictures in a washing line fashion. All you need to create the look are some command decorating clips, available on Amazon. These clear clips are the same as you might use for fairy lights at Christmas and are almost invisible when put up on a wall. 

Place a couple along the wall and then either thread a piece of string, fairy lights or fishing line between them and clip your chosen photos and postcards from it. I've even used this technique to hang pretty tea towels on my wall as a budget living room wall art idea.  

6. Get creative with washi tape

Neon washi tape on white background

(Image credit: Future PLC)

This is one to steal from the stationary cupboard, as it look brilliant as a crafty alternative to heavy picture frames. Washi tape is essentially coloured masking tape that originates from Japan. It is tearable and available in a range of pretty colours and designs, and can be removed easily from walls with zero paint damage. Amazon has a huge range of washi tape to choose from.

You can use it to create a bold geometric feature wall by zigzagging it across the wall. Alternatively, you can use it to add a rustic edge to a gallery wall by using it to tape pictures to the wall. For a playful look mix up how you tape each piece, one can have a faux frame, while another can have the corners held. 

7. Hang a gallery wall from a picture rail

Grey living room with mirror on a picture rail

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you are lucky enough to picture rail please take advantage of it. These are the OG when it comes to clever hacks for hanging a gallery wall without nails. 

Picture hooks that will hang over the rail are available on Amazon if you're looking for a basic kit. It should come with a hook and a wire that you can adjust to make the picture hang at the desired height.

8. Fake wall panelling

Bedroom with wall panelling, artwork, armchair and wall light

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're feeling ambitious you can fake a wall panelling idea in a rental with the aid of command strips. You can use any pre-cut wall panelling pieces aslong as you check the weight allowance on the command strips you've purchased. Ideally, you want the lightest option possible which is why I'd recommend going for acoustic-style panelling.

All you need to do is prep them to be the right size and paint or stain them to the colour you are after. Then simply attach a command strip to the top and bottom of the panel and attach it to the wall. 

9. Hide a wall with decorative ladders

Pink bathroom with ladder storage for towels

(Image credit: Future/James French)

In a rental leaning things against the wall is a decorating hack that should not be overlooked. Ladders are a great way to add decorative details to a wall as they can be hung with pretty blankets, draped in hanging houseplants or even completely covered in a wall hanging. 

You can hunt for one second-hand to make a one-off statement. Or why not use a smart IKEA hack and pick up a couple of the  IVAR side units for just £12 each and create a wall of ladder hanging space.

10. Frame a piece of wallpaper

Large wallpaper in frame on wall

(Image credit: Future PLC / Tim Young)

If you are working with a small budget but want to make an impact on your rental wall then one of my favourite budget living room ideas is to frame a sample piece of wallpaper.

'If you’re still looking to add some colour to your walls, frame your favourite print and create your own unique artwork or mix and match prints to create a gallery wall.' says Chelsea Clark, Head of Brand at Lust Home.

Alternatively, if you're able to source some offcuts of wallpaper you can fake mini wallpaper panels by backing them with a piece of wood and attaching strips of moulding around the edges. Then you can either lean them up against the wall, or hang them using command strips. 

FAQs

How to you hang things on walls in a rental?

The best way to hang things on a wall in a rental is using command strips or command hooks. These should work for most rentals and not leave a trace when you remove them aslong as you follow a couple of golden rules. These include cleaning the wall before applying them, not exceeding the weight limit and leaving your hooks or strips time to adhere to the wall before using them. 

When removing them, be incredibly patient and pull straight down. If you pull a tiny bit forward you can say goodbye to the paint underneath.

How can I make my rental look nicer?

Just because you live in a rented home doesn't mean it can't look nice. The first thing you should do before moving in is hash out with the landlord or managing estate agent if there are plans to paint the property or remove any of the furniture so you have a fresh canvas to work with when you move in. 

Don't be scared to invest in statement pieces, like a large headboard or floor-to-ceiling mirror. These are the ideal, non-permanent decorative touches that will make your rental look unique to your style.

Now get decorating!

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.