12 Ways to Spice Up Your Walls
You’ve gotten your wall color just right — greige, white, green, lilac — and you love it…but now your blank walls are ready for some life! Take your home to a new level with these 12 ideas for unique and interesting wall decor.
Whether your walls are bold, muted, pastel, or neutral, bringing in the right items with complementary hues and textures make loving your walls while keeping things fresh easy. Sticking with family photos is a thing of the past, so get ready to go beyond smiling faces and matching outfits. Here are a dozen different ways to spice up your walls.
1. Origami & Paper
You might be crafty enough for this one, but even if you are not so inclined to pick up a pair of scissors and sheets of colorful paper, origami and paper cutouts are a simple, inexpensive way to decorate. Not only can paper be cheap, but it is also easy to find in bright colors and patterns. Find colors that complement your wall color by taking a paint swatch card to a local hobby store to pick out 3-5 colors. Check out YouTube and free online DIY sites to make your own wall origami, and then use temporary adhesive, string, or canvas to add your items. Alternatively, sites like Etsy have myriad choices when it comes to original and traditional handmade paper items for decorating blank walls.
Depending on the look you are after, metal art can add a high-end vibe or go 100% sophisticated and rustic. Hobby stores and imported goods retailers are an excellent place to start your search. A large central metal object can set off smaller, random metal pieces and bring unity to the wall decor even if the pieces don’t “match” each other — the metal color or texture can be the unifying quality. Garage / yard sales and antique shops offer another venue for procuring interesting metal pieces you can turn into art, and these will often be a well-made bargain compared to newer materials available in stores. Mix and match metal color with pieces in similar sizes, or choose one metal finish like brass and vary the size, shape, and type of metal you add to the wall. Make sure to use appropriate wall anchors for drywall or wood screws for studs when hanging items. Shelves to hold your metal art pieces make switching out the decor even easier.
3. Starched Fabric
This is an old trick that still works well and can be a fun way to upcycle pretty remnants of fabric found at thrift stores, bins at fabric stores, and grandma’s sewing room. Using laundry starch is an easy method for adhering fabric to walls without permanence; when you get ready to swap it out, it comes off without much effort BUT stays in place until then. Using premade framed canvases or picture frames without glass from a hobby store can act as an even more temporary way to display fun prints, patterns, and colors. Look for cotton and other natural fibers instead of synthetics, and stick to a few colors and mix large and small patterns for the best results.
4. DIY Wood Cuts
Bring more of the outside in with DIY wood cuts. Perhaps you have unruly bushes or trees that need to be tamed around your home, or maybe Aunt Jennifer needs some yard work done at her place in the country. Take care using a small saw or other wood tools (and maybe some help from a more experienced friend or relative) to cut slices or cross-sections of tree trunks and branches. Make sure the pieces are free from pests before using as a decoration, and then treat the planks and pieces as frames for smaller artwork, flattened glass bottles, or leave them bare and solo to create a decor forest on your wall. Paint or stain can be applied in patterns and in multiple colors to add even more interest to your wood!
5. Water Features
Although not typically an easy or inexpensive decor choice, water features installed on or in front of your walls can be an effective and beautiful addition. Commercial features can include programmable lighting to color the water as it flows through the design, while the sounds of flowing water provide a soothing amount of ambient white noise to make any space feel more open and less confined to four walls. Water features can also help with dry spaces by incorporating additional moisture into the environment, making your skin happier and relieving certain breathing issues. Keeping up with maintenance on your water feature system is important to avoid cleanliness issues. If commercial versions are out of your budget, simpler DIY plans exist for those so inclined with building a custom water feature with parts readily available online and at some hardware and pet stores. Consider flooring and nearby electrical outlets, and keep children and pet access in mind when dealing with water features.
Some say tapestries, especially the “crafty” style of knotted wall hangings, are on the way out when it comes to interior design — BUT if you find something you love or decide to make one yourself, go for it! Hanging tapestries on your walls provides not only the visual benefit of patterns and colors but also improves acoustics by absorbing unwanted reverberations. Sounds in general can be dampened with wall hangings, so even thinner tapestries provide a dual benefit. Thicker, larger, and knotted versions that hang vertically can lend a more bohemian, casual feel compared to a more expensive antique rug. Mount older pieces properly and with care, and consider items in a similar style if you go with knotted or handmade hanging pieces.
7. Vintage Prints
Antique stores are an excellent place to skim old magazines. Partial magazines may be worth little to a collector but finding fun advertisements that all fit a theme can be an adventure in and of itself. Choose a time period and central theme, such as soap for bathrooms or food for kitchens, and hunt down old magazine print ads or article that showcase the chosen motif. Take this idea to another level when using less rare prints by decoupaging pages to a canvas (or three) and making your own custom artwork from the prints. Ebay can also be helpful in the hunt for vintage prints. Look at non-traditional ways to display the prints and skip frames for these.
8. Original Artwork
Have a friend who is an artist, aspiring or established? Commission a piece, letting them have free rein (well, mostly) over the subject matter and color so you end up with a truly individual work that looks spectacular on your blank wall. While, generally, some artists who are starting out may offer budget-friendly pieces, don’t be afraid to invest in a quality piece that you love from a more experienced artist. Original art pieces can often bring inspiration and joy every day, and proper care will make it look great and last for years. Many artists now offer their work via print on demand sites, so you can access thousands of new, unique works and have professional quality prints shipped to your home — allowing you to stay within a certain monetary amount while supporting an artist AND getting a piece that brings you happiness.
9. Vinyl Records
While some still strongly prefer the quality of vinyl records, that doesn’t stop many others from donating or selling off old collections. Instead of these going in the landfill or continuing to collect dust, creating a record wall can give your wall instant texture and interest. One fun aspect can be deciding on a focal color or set of colors you want to feature and then searching for records with labels in your chosen hues. The black vinyl can add more drama to a dark or bold wall, while installing overhead spotlights can wash the circular grooves with flashy highlights. Installing painted strips of wood horizontally to your wall and then affixing each record evenly across the wood strips can make installation of each one easier; the space away from the wall can also create interesting effects with shadows.
10. Live Plants
This has to be one of the best ways to spice up a blank wall — indoor plants attached to a wall. Live plants help bring in that green factor of the outdoors that makes people feel good with very little effort. If your walls aren’t near natural light sources, choosing plants that do well with little sunlight will keep your walls looking fresh and alive even without windows. Certain plants do well in small pots with little sunlight, so a trip to your local plant shop for a consultation is a great way to get started. If you want a modern look for the pots, choose glossy white, chrome, satin brass, white marble, or brushed nickel. For a more casual visual effect, look for terra cotta, bamboo, wood, concrete, and other “vintage” style finishes. Short, compact plants can also look more modern, while long, flowing, and flowering plants provide a more romantic or informal style.
11. Light & Shadow
Using light and shadow can be one of the most fun applications of “decor” that is simple and high impact. This is another decorative application that can be a weekend do-it-yourself project. Projectors are an easy commercial way to change the look and mood of a wall — from abstract wavy lines in multiple colors to simple geometric white lines that flow from one side to another. Installing lamp shades with cutouts is another way to make light and shadow play a part of the decor. Metal shades with laser cuts or a variety of metal strips can throw shadows in the shapes of stars, lines, or even complex pictorial scenes. Light and shadow techniques are easy to change out when implementing custom shades, and turning off the lights makes this one of the most temporary ways to change up a wall.
12. Old Books
Books of any age are a great addition to a home, but old books just have a certain quality that is hard to replicate with new best sellers and hot, trending paperbacks. Adding 2-4 floating shelves with appropriate wall anchors can get this project started. Taking some time to look through antique stores, eBay, a community library sale, and thrift stores can help you discover gorgeous hardbound books that look perfect when poised side by side or stacked on shelves. Looking for all one color (per shelf or overall), finding books all in similar sizes but different colors, or collecting a completely random set are all viable options. The best part of this decoration choice is the multifunctional use of each piece: you can pull one off the shelf to peruse at any given time to relax in your favorite chair, all while the book wall behind looks fantastic.
So what’s the takeaway? Think beyond the big box stores and typical pieces when decorating your walls! Non-traditional and even handmade items can become conversation starters, add personal style to your home, and be changed out easily when you feel the need to refresh. Take one or more of these ideas and get started making your walls feel more energized, more you.