A big, blank wall can be a major source of intimidation for many renters: You want to make your apartment your own, but you may be restricted from changing things significantly. The possibilities of the blank space feel limited and endless at the same time. While filling an empty wall in your apartment is rife with possibility, it can also be wrought with indecision, uncertainty and even fear.
How to start? First, speak with your landlord about what your options are, from painting to hanging shelves. Then use our Blank Wall Design Tool to write your own wall’s story, with the helpful advice from our experts, who have essential technique and style tips sure to improve your design.
Write Your Rough Draft
To start, simply select your wall color and then drag and position the carefully curated decor items onto the wall to create a design that fits your style. Then, tweak your creation using what you’ve learned after reading the experts’ tips.
Edit Your Wall with These Pro Tips
To find a creative approach in turning emptiness into art, we asked some experts who are all-too familiar with having to conquer creative blockage and stare down blank space every day: writers. With the help of our three literary coaches, as well as our own design know-how, we explore the ways in which to conquer our fear of the blank wall and create something out of nothing—a space that truly impresses.
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The key to creating a wall that feels inspired, beautiful and meaningful is to stand up to your fear of the blank wall. Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone, try something new and pivot your style.
“The trick is not making a monster of it. It’s just a mental (and sometimes emotional) challenge to be worked through. You have to figure out what it is about the story that’s holding you back from forward progress.”
Apply Weiland’s courage to your own fear of the blank wall; figure out what it is about the project that scares you most. Are you nervous to try a new style? Are you fearful of someone else’s opinion? Remember, even paint color can be changed. It’s not permanent, so try something that scares you and see how it sits!
Choose a bold color you’ve never used before, or even a patterned wallpaper you never would have considered. (Don’t forget to check with your landlord first.) Use a re-purposed item as art or an unlikely material in a picture frame. Step outside your style box to face your fears. More often than not, bold patterns, colors and styles help bring the look together.
While most of us know that exercising is good for our physical and mental health, we don’t think of it as a
way to get creatively reenergized, too. Physicality can be applied to both technique and style to reinvigorate
“I realized that physical exercise primed my brain to be creative, so I started
making sure it became a priority.”
Following Sabino’s approach, momentarily step away from your blank wall, and instead step into an exercise routine. Tweaking your day to allow an hour or two of physical movement in place of worrying over the big project in front of you can do wonders for your stress levels over deciding between paint colors.
Consider your blank wall to be a living space, with depth and the ability to stretch and grow. Include three-dimensional elements like floating shelves or sculptures, and play around with objects that actually move, including pendulum clocks or a unique planter with crawling ivy. Dimension can also be added with wall coverings featuring geometric patterns or abstract prints.
Designing one specific area has less to do with that particular section and more to do with how it falls into place in the rest of the room. With “environment” as your inspirational word, change the composition of your surroundings, and use the actual outdoor environment as your muse.
“To be creatively productive I need to make changes—to the environment or to my mindset. It’s like an internal reset.”
Consider swapping out accessories or moving furniture into a different formation. Small changes like repositioning an armchair or changing out hardware could spark a creative idea or simply lend a new feel to the space.
Get inspiration from the world around you. Whether it’s a gallery of photos of the phases of the moon, a wall featuring a vertical garden or a focal-point painting of a seascape, the world around us can add the most breathtaking design to a space. The environment can also be a major source of inspiration for paint colors. Soothing blues, cool grays, and woodsy tones are all pulled from nature and add a tranquil ambiance to any blank wall space.
Like athletes practicing daily or writers perfecting their craft, decorating a space takes time and practice. Instead of finishing a wall all in one day, think of it as an evolving process over time. With “time” as your inspirational word, build it into your technique as well as your style.
“I’ve noticed that writing gets easy once you do it regularly. Writing every day is one of the most effective ways to permanently banish writer’s block.”
“Instead of setting time aside, I make writing a part of my day and do it when I have the time, regardless if it’s 20 minutes or a couple of hours. When the inspiration strikes, there is no block of time that is too short.”
Every day leading up to the time you plan to decorate the wall, make small efforts to ease the stress. One day you could pick out the frames you plan to use for a gallery wall or the different objects you picture on the finished wall. Another day, research gallery wall arrangements. Toward the end of the design journey, template the wall. By practicing, researching, and constantly developing your decorative idea, the blank wall starts to become less intimidating and more manageable (and maybe even a little fun).
Use the inspiration of time as part of your decor. Vintage heirlooms, antique clocks and weathered wood evoke the sense of a space that has withstood the test of time. Incorporate your family’s unique history into your home’s decor to create a space that is both special and stylish.
Like writers creating outlines for their novels, so should you as a decorator create an outline for your vision of your space. From templating your space to literally using maps as inspiration, this technique applies to writing and design alike.
“I find it much easier, and rarely suffer from writer’s block, when I outline my content before I start writing. This gives me a sort of roadmap to base my content on, so it makes things much easier.”
If you’re planning on installing a gallery wall, we highly recommend finding a template for it. Templates, sketches, notes—all of these outlines help to create an easier-flowing schedule for you to create a masterpiece on your blank wall. Templates specify the size of the frames, pictures, distances between the pieces, and the arrangement in which they should be configured for maximum design efficiency. Templates erase the worry surrounding proper placement and measurements when installing a gallery wall, shelving, or a simply hung piece of art.
Maps, geography-inspired pieces and art from other lands make a great addition to a gallery wall, or even as a focal point. The neutral colors, subtle lines and intricate shapes of maps create visual interest without overwhelming a space. Using places you’ve visited as an inspiration also add personality and meaning to your decor.
Writers and designers have a lot in common, especially the “start in the middle” approach to tackling a task. We look at a space, like a blank wall, and decide what the focal point should be.
“I’ve noticed that even though introductions are usually the shortest of any writing, they often take the most time. These days, when I have this challenge, I simply start writing from the middle of the article or from the end. It then becomes easy to write an introduction once most of the article has been written.”
Taking Onibalusi’s approach, stand in front of your big blank wall and work from the middle, out. Instead of templating your wall, throw caution to the wind and simply hang something that will act as the central character. Whether you’re spotlighting a family heirloom, an expensive piece of art or an array of family pictures, eliminate the stress of over-planning by starting with the main character of your wall’s story, and add details from there.
Use a bold focal point as the inspiration for your design. Choose a favorite over-sized frame, a unique shelving unit, a colorful painting or an eye-catching mirror, and draw the eye to the middle of the wall with something that makes a statement.
From taking a break and exercising your body and mind, to designing a creative roadmap, your big blank wall doesn’t have to seem so big or blank. Using these methods that real-life writers use to break through their blocks, you can also break out of your own creative roadblocks to design the wall of your dreams.
1. Bronze deer head plaque
2. Jupiter gold framed mirror
3. Winter birches framed wall art
4. Roberson black distressed wall clock
5. Treasure map art
6. Chilton gold framed mirror
7. Marquee light-up letter
8. French receipt wall art
9. Jaxon wall plaque
10. Pluto wall clock
11. Flower bud wall sculpture
12. Driftwood natural framed mirror
13. Through French doors wall art
14. Tucker wall clock