Perking up Plain Walls

So, you've completed your layout with the perfect sectional or a new bedroom set, but the room still feels a little impersonal. Decorating empty walls is often an afterthought, especially when you're on a budget, but it's a crucial part of interior design. Even in minimal spaces, customizing your walls is a big part of making any house, apartment or condo seem more like home.

Filling up empty walls means different things for different people. For some, family or travel photos take priority, while others prefer paintings to complement their color palette. Keep reading to learn more about styling walls with accents and lighting as well as furniture that takes advantage of vertical space. We'll also include a few decor arrangement tips to help you get started.

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Take Notes

Grab a notebook and spend some time in the rooms with plain walls. Take measurements, especially in narrow areas between window and doorframes or blank sections above a console table, so you'll have them for later. Sketch a rough plan to visualize your wall design ideas, and ask yourself a few questions about the practical and decorative aspects of the room:

  • Is there anything I can add to the walls to add convenience to this space?
  • Does this room have adequate lighting?
  • Do I need more shelves or storage?
  • Is there a predominant shape that I can emphasize? Consider repeating forms such as round coffee tables and circular ottomans or boxy couches paired with square end tables.
  • Which colors from my palette do I want to highlight?
  • Are the furnishings mostly fabric, wood or metal? Could this design benefit from more textures?
  • What unique wall decor is popular with this room's particular theme or style?
  • Where should I display my favorite collectibles, souvenirs or photographs?
  • Is this a small space? What hues or accents could make this room feel more open?

Decor, Lighting and Wall-Friendly Furniture

Advanced Organization

Look for wall decor that makes rooms more efficient. In an entryway, coat racks, key hooks or hall trees fill empty space while keeping jackets, purses and other essentials organized. Meanwhile, a tall ornamental ladder set against the wall can serve as a bathroom towel rack or a frame for quilts and extra blankets in a guest room.

Every room has a few useful wall accents to consider. Chalkboards and corkboards are helpful in kitchens, kid's rooms and home offices. Swapping a mounted TV for a home entertainment wall unit also lets you transform a blank space while providing a surface for your flat screen and storage for DVDs or games.

Shed Some Light

Light fixtures are a smart way to decorate empty walls. Choose tall floor lamps for unused corners or add extra lighting and symmetry with a pair of sconces that fit your style. Chandeliers can spotlight an heirloom dining set or provide a focal point framed by plain walls above low-profile furnishings.

Suit your Shelf

Be on the lookout for areas that present storage or display opportunities. A floating shelf with a mirror by the doorway allows last minute primping and a platform to hold spare keys, sunglasses or lip balm. Artistic display shelves deliver the best of both worlds. Style them with planters full of trailing vines, a few object d'art or treasured photos.

Bookshelves also take up vertical space and allow you to show off your favorite hardbacks. Other wall covering ideas include tall accent cabinets and bureaus that provide storage for towels, blankets and off-season sweaters in bedrooms, guest rooms or bathrooms.

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Maximize Motifs

Echo the underlying forms of your furnishings to create a sense of visual flow. Mount a rectangular mirror on the wall behind a dining table of the same shape. Or, add an oval analog clock or unique wall decor with interlinking rings to a living room with a round cocktail table. While subtle, these small touches connect to your overall theme.

Patterns work in a similar fashion. For example, if you have accent pillows with a simple stripe design, look for wall art that captures the same lines. An exact match isn't necessary, as long as the pattern evokes the same shapes to unify the motif.

Color It In

Coordinating with color is one of the easiest ways to decorate walls. For instance, a slate sectional topped with dove gray and beige toss pillows allows you to incorporate silver and gold hues, whether you opt for a clock, a painting or both. Or, try complementary and contrasting colors to expand your palette. You can also choose a single hue to emphasize with artwork and other wall accents.

Engage the Senses

Use textured wall coverings to bring dimension to your design. Hang a silky tapestry or an intricate, low-pile 4x6 area rug on the wall to introduce another material to leather or linen furniture sets. Look for interesting frames on artwork or mirrors to introduce wood grain or smooth metal surfaces, while sculptural pieces carry rough stone textures indoors.

Style Icons

Certain decor styles have common motifs. Abstract artwork, cityscapes and geometric pieces work best with contemporary furnishings, while ornate plaques and floral prints complement traditional layouts.

Kid's rooms lend themselves to personalized wall decor ideas, too. Sports, dance, character and motivational themes are popular for children and teens. Other items like tall cubby organizers and dry-erase easels also take advantage of vertical space.

Put it on Display

Collectors can use empty walls to display their treasured mementos. Curios and accent cabinets showcase your beloved art pieces or souvenirs while adding height to the layout. To emphasize your collection, look for openwork bookcases or glass shelves that focus the attention on your keepsakes.

Open Up

To make a small room seem bigger, angle decorative mirrors so they reflect the opposite wall, a window or the room's focal point. Pale walls and a single large-scale art print also help open the space, whereas multiple galleries of small photos and shelves full of figurines may make the room feel cramped or cluttered.

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Wall Design Ideas & Layouts

Once you have a plan and a few wall decor ideas, consider your placement of mirrors, artwork and tall furnishings in the room. There are a few things to think about before you pick up the hammer and nails:
  • Gallery Wall: You can arrange framed prints or family photos in a number of ways. Place them single file with either top or bottom frame alignment. Or, create a square on the wall with painter's tape and fill it to the borders with art or postcards in varying sizes. A random collection can also work, as long as you hang pieces evenly and coordinate them along the midline.
  • Oversized: Using extra-large prints, paintings, photos or murals is a straightforward method for wall decoration. Simply leaning an oversized mirror against a wall in a small bedroom provides the illusion of openness with the added benefit of reflected light.
  • Think Vertically: In addition to bookcases and curios where height helps populate empty spaces, plan out your use of decorative accents. Look for tall, slim sculptures to assemble on console tables against the wall's solid color backdrop.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: While overlapping decor can result in a gorgeous layout, too many objects arranged too close together can seem haphazard. Allow the painted walls to form a frame around each item by spacing them a few inches apart.

Putting it all Together

Planning, choosing your accent pieces and arranging every item when decorating empty walls may seem daunting, but the payoff is worth it. Carefully selected artwork, mirrors and furnishings can make spaces personal as well as efficient. Wall decor transforms color palettes, themes and furniture layouts into comfortable, familiar spaces for the entire family.