4 Ways to Decorate Walls Without Losing Your Security Deposit

Written on June 29, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Wall DecorationsYour landlord might not allow you to paint or put hundreds of nail holes in the walls, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your days at home staring at plain walls.

Instead, use these simple, temporary wall-decor ideas to decorate, jazzing up your space without losing your security deposit.

1. Play with Washi Tape


Washi tape — the more playful, colorful sibling of painter’s tape — provides temporary bursts of color for your walls. You can peel it off the wall without leaving gummy residue behind. If you need inspiration, try these ideas:

  • Use wide strips of washi tape to make bands of color inside an arched entryway.
  • Use washi tape to create stripes or geometric patterns on a wall to add a focal point to one area of the room.
  • Create diagonal stripes using various colors of tape in a corner of the room.
  • Create an outline of a city skyline along an otherwise empty wall to give it an artistic touch.

Washi tape also makes an excellent substitute for picture frames — no hooks and nails required. Frame lightweight artwork, copies of photos, or your favorite phrases in strips of washi tape. Try extending the tape beyond the edges of the artwork and creating playful shapes to enhance the look of the tape frame.

Use a quality tape when making your stick-on creations to help ensure the tape can be removed easily when you move out or when you change your decor plans.

Tip: If the tape won’t peel away easily, apply heat from a hair dryer on a low or medium heat setting to soften the adhesive. Remove any sticky residue that remains with a dab of a citrus-based sticker remover. (Test such cleaning liquids in an inconspicuous area first to ensure they do not stain the wall.)

2. Use DIY Decals


Make your own dynamic wall decor using contact paper or removable wall vinyl to create mural-style designs, sans paint. Create giraffes, dolphins, or dinosaurs for a child’s room or a series of large trees for a living room, dining room, or bedroom.

Here’s how:

  1. Plot your design on a sheet of kraft paper or on the backing paper on the flip side of the contact paper/wall vinyl. (Note that the design will be reversed when viewed from the front of the vinyl.)
  2. Cut out the contact paper with scissors or a craft knife.
  3. Peel the vinyl away.
  4. Stick it on a clean, dust-free wall.
  5. Use a plastic gift card as a squeegee to remove air bubbles as you work.

You can also use removable wall vinyl to print out a favorite saying or phrase for the kitchen, entry area, or anywhere else you like. If you have access to a vinyl cutting machine, you can create complex designs without spending hours cutting them out by hand.

Tip: Small wall decals add a custom touch to select wall tiles. Make your own, or purchase pre-made tile decals to customize bland or outdated kitchen and bathroom tiles.

*Important note: Test a small bit of the contact paper/sticky material in an inconspicuous area such as a closet or corner before applying it to a large area. Leave it up for at least six hours, and then peel it away. If it peels off cleanly, it should be safe atop a washable paint finish in your apartment.

3. Use an Adhesive Alternative to Nails

command-stripsYour landlord might not allow nail holes in the walls, but that’s no reason to keep your favorite framed photos stashed away in a box. Swap out the hammer and nails for removable adhesive hanging strips, such as Command strips.

These specialty strips are a vast improvement over old-fashioned poster putty and can hold even somewhat weighty frames. Purchase the strip variety appropriate for the size and weight of the frame.

4. Build a Backsplash You Can Keep

A removable, temporary backsplash can be every bit as exciting as the permanent variety — without damaging the walls. The secret? Build it on fiberboard or plywood.

Fiberboard (MDF) is thinner and less conspicuous, but either material can be painted and is strong enough to hold decorative tiles. This gives your kitchen a nice upgrade that won’t annoy your landlord. You could also use sheet metal from a home improvement store for your own DIY magnetic backsplash.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Measure the space between the countertop and the cabinets.
  2. Make a paper template to fit the space perfectly.
  3. Trace the template onto the MDF or metal.
  4. Cut it out with a saw or tin snips, respectively.
  5. Wear heavy work gloves when working with sheet metal, as the edges can be extremely sharp.
  6. Jazz up the backsplash material however you like.
  7. Install it with removable adhesive strips.

Remove the strips when you move out, and the backsplash comes down, too, leaving the wall in the same condition it was in before you added your handiwork.

As you can see, you can be creative and make your rental your own without creating any extra work for your landlord, which should help ensure you get your security deposit back … as far as the wall condition, anyway.

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