20 Temporary Ways to Add Color to a Rental Home

Get ready for some hues you can use. Even if your landlord says painting the walls is a no-go, there are still a spectrum of fun and vibrant ways to spice up your home with color.

By: Alyson McNutt English
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Wake Up Sleepy Bedrooms

One of the easiest ways to pull a tired-looking bedroom out of the design doldrums is to find fantastically colorful bedding. As the centerpiece of any bedroom, switching up bland pillows and comforters with something bright and eye-catching will immediately create a colorful focal point. Adding in coordinating accessories like lamps, drapes and wall art will quadruple the color quotient, making your bedroom a design hot spot in your home.

It’s Curtains for Boring Walls

If you’re set on a literal wall of color, fabric can pick up the slack when paint isn’t an option. No window is required: Just adding the draperies to a plain wall will give you the accent you want without the forbidden layers of latex. It’s worth noting that not all leases allow for adding major wall hardware that curtains require, though it’s worth asking. Some landlords might agree, especially if you agree to leave the window rods up after you move out. But even if wall-mounted curtains aren’t okayed by the lease, you can still give this a go by using large removable hooks and either choosing drapes with grommets you can hang, or sewing small loops to the back of your fabric and fastening them onto the loops that way.

Color That Will Floor You

Your prospects for pops of color in your home are looking up, but for this next idea, it’s time to look down. You can brighten up any room with a large area rug that adds interest and color. Pick up colors from the rug to use in accents (like accessories or even painted or upholstered furniture) to really bring attention to its down-to-earth use as an up-to-date disruptor of bland decor.

Looks Good Enough to Eat

While most rentals come with kitchen appliances, some do make you bring your own refrigerator. This is an opportunity for some color creativity. Manufacturers like Big Chill and Smeg both make refrigerators in a huge variety of fantastically fun hues (and sometimes even patterns!) and are generally right-sized for smaller apartment living. These fridges are a big investment, of course, that isn’t right for everyone. Even if you go budget with your fridge, you can still go big on color in your kitchen. Bright appliances like toasters and stand-mixers will be a kitchen splash you won’t need to clean up. Accessorize with colorful tableware and coordinating wall art and you’ll cook up a feast for the eyes that will satisfy even the most color-hungry renter.

Pretty as a Picture

Brush up the color in any area of your home with a gorgeous gallery wall. Not only will a well-curated gallery bring color into your home, it will also add design elements and interest that you couldn’t get just by painting the walls. Consider that most rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are a neutral white or taupe color: it’s because while those wall colors may be snooze-inducing in a home, they're actually ideal for highlighting the beauty in an art collection. You may not be hanging Manets and Van Goghs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put together an eye-popping display in your own home. Whether it’s framed prints, original oil paintings or whimsical watercolors, assemble a collection you love around a theme or with a color that ties them together. Hang them (nails or removable adhesive hooks both work) and let your own private gallery brighten your life and your home.

Pieces of Hue

Not all whimsical wall pieces fit in frames, and that is more than okay. Think outside the miter box and forego framed art to add some funky flavor to your color choices. This dream-catcher serves as a gorgeous adornment for a child’s bedroom, and it allows you to add both color and movement (through the flowing threads, beads and feathers) to the space. Even the wood-cut cactus can inspire more colorful shapes and ideas, and you don’t have to be worried you’re sticking your landlord with it even after you move — removable adhesive strips can adhere light painted plywood like this to a wall and will remove with nary a paint peel in sight.

Spice Up Your Bedroom

We’ve talked about how you can add color with bedding and pillows, but what if you want to keep your textiles tame? It doesn’t doom you to snooze-inducing decor. Wake up your furnishings with hot colors. Fun and funky accessories demand you sit up and take notice of serious style, and you’ll sleep well knowing bright acrylic night stands add to the perfect palette of painted furniture in your dreamy domicile.

A Color-Removable Feast

Has your bland dining area made you lose your appetite? Cook up a colorful solution with painted furniture and colorful seating. Because the focus of any eating area is the table, adding color with paint is an inexpensive and fairly easy way to brighten up the space. If your chairs are wooden, you can paint them a coordinating color and even add cushions with a fun pattern. Another choice is acrylic chairs in fun tints. Finish with bright place settings and you’ll have a dining room that looks good enough to eat.

Wallpaper That Leaves With You

If you’ve ever had to remove wallpaper from a home, you know it’s not exactly a walk in the park. So how on earth would you wallpaper a rental home? Simple: removable, peel-and-stick wallpaper is now available and so easy to use, you’ll be thrilled these pigmented patterns are once again cool. Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns (look past the granny florals and check out the bright botanicals and funky bright toile), these are a sure-fire way to heat up your decor. And when you’re ready to move out, just peel off without worry. They’re made to be removable and even repositionable.

Reading Rainbow

It’s smart to want to add color to your home. It’s even smarter to add color using what you already have, just in an extra-bright way. While it’s not for alphabetizing or Dewey decimal purists, using your existing library to paint a literary rainbow on your bookshelves is a paint-free stroke of brilliance.

Sweet Combinations

Both whimsical and coordinated, this combo of funky vinyl wall art and painted furniture in candy-colored hues is enough to make you forget the white walls. Don’t be afraid to take an outdated-feeling piece of furniture and give it a really bright, funky color. The bright blue desk looks super-sweet with the pop-art feel of the popsicle vinyls. Add in the bright accessories in the hutch, the perfectly pink mod chair and the creamsicle orange ottoman, and you have a color combo that is cool enough, even popsicles won’t melt.

Light Bright Ideas

Lamps aren’t just any basic accessory: Because they’re the source of light in many rooms, they take on an outsized importance in both placement and design. So if you’re looking to add color, just let there be light! If you have another bright piece of furniture like a printed chair, colorful couch or even just bright throw pillows, coordinating the colors with some large, brightly hued lamps will make all the colors pop and shine.

Beautiful Botanical Hues

You don’t have to have a green thumb to add color to your home using plants and flowers. Indoor plants are healthy for your home’s air quality and your color design. Most are green, but you can grow fruited and flowering plants indoors or in window boxes, as well. Some that do particularly well indoors and add beautiful color include several species of orchids, hibiscus, oxalis and African violets. Another option are dwarf citrus plants or growing fruits like strawberries or mulberries in a kitchen window box. And if you like the idea of a floral spark of color but don’t want to worry about living plants, you can always get fresh cut flowers at local markets or buy some high-quality silk flowers.

Shower Your Bathroom in Color

Coordinate the color in your bathroom by choosing a bright, patterned shower curtain and centering accessories like towels, bathmats and even toothbrush holders around the curtain’s best colors. It will give you a clean color palette in the small space, and you’ll actually be able to use everything you coordinate with.

Nooks and Crannies and Colors, Oh My!

Many of the ways you can add powerful pops of color focus on major pieces of furniture or large-area textiles, but don’t forget to look for opportunities to spruce up oft-neglected areas. For example, you can remove kitchen cabinet doors to create an open-shelving look. (Just remember to store them carefully and rehang them before you vacate!) Use colorful contact paper to line the back of the cabinets, then display colorful plates and glasses that complement the paper.

Draped in Color

One of the most effective uses of color in any room, particularly one with neutral walls, is through window coverings. Choose a color (and pattern, if you’re so inclined) that you love, then accessorize the room with coordinating colors through throw pillows, lighting and accents on furniture. You’ll love the look so much you’ll forget about the wall color and just focus on how your personality is reflected in the wonderful window treatments.

Magical Masonry Tour

Regular drywall or plaster walls are what most renters encounter in their homes. But it’s not all that uncommon to find indoor exposed brick or other masonry. And those can be a particular challenge when looking to add color, as removable hooks often don’t adhere well to these areas, and drilling into them is a major renter no-no. So what can you do when you hit a literal brick wall? Well, if yours is part of a fireplace area and includes a mantel, adding extra-colorful art to lean against the wall is an expedient solution. But you can take it a step further and accentuate that art with other small colorful details, as these homeowners did. It’s not exactly a wide wall of color, but sometimes, all it needs is a little bit of hue and your time.

Funky Fireplace Color

We’ve established that well-coordinated splashes of color can have an outsized effect on the feel of an otherwise white or neutral room. And we know that it can be tough to bring color into an area like a masonry fireplace. But these homeowners took their decor challenges a step further and created a rainbow of color in a cool Scandinavian design. By choosing clean, colorful prints to hang above the fireplace, they gave themselves room for perfect color whimsy. Painting the cut edges of logs in coordinating colors then arranging them in the fireplace is a brilliant way to heat up the color content without sacrificing clean lines and design.

From: Target

Stand-Out Prints for Seating Areas

If you love bright colors and fun prints but can’t paint the walls, go all-out with your furniture! Buy chairs that pop, or reupholster existing furnishings in a daring print or palette (or both) and let them do the hue work for you. Hang up mirrors or prints with bright colors that coordinate with your upholstery and watch the room transform from blah to boho in minutes.

Go Bold With Wall Murals

If wall art and wallpaper had a baby, it would probably look a lot like wall murals. Like removable wallpaper, they’re a peel-and-stick application that can be removed easily and without damaging walls. Like wall art, they come in both prints and large-scale images. And they’re great for renters who want to add color and visual interest to a large area without much muss and fuss.