Bringing a little color home sounds like a good idea—but painting isn’t always an option. Instead, try these easy, paint-free updates for rooms that feel refreshed.

By Lauren Phillips
December 19, 2018
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Try: Bold organizers Laundry rooms may be the most utilitarian rooms in the house—which is why they often don’t look too great. They’re also often tight on space, so turn a necessary laundry room item into something pretty and practical by swapping out lackluster storage bags or boxes for some that work well and look great, too. Get the look: reisenthel Blue Pleated Laundry Bag, $35; thecontainerstore.com.
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Painting a room—or even a whole home—in a new color scheme is an appealing idea. Paint colors can do so much to change up the look and feel of a room, and painting (or even wallpaper) can sometimes be an easier alternative to buying a whole new set of furniture. But painting isn’t always an option. Renters or anyone unpracticed in the art of home improvement will likely shy away from the task, and anyone just hoping for a temporary design shift (for a season, say) will want a room update that’s a little less permanent.

Fortunately, introducing a new pop of color to rooms can be easy, low-risk, and effective—it just takes the right decorative items and furnishings. Adding rugs or wall art to a space is always an option, but sometimes—especially in rooms with white walls and white ceilings that are suspiciously close in shade—an addition with a little more scale is required. Plus, some rooms don’t avail themselves to high-end rugs or throw pillows: Think laundry rooms, kitchens, narrow hallways, and other rooms that are wholly utilitarian.

For renters or dorm residents, there are so many simple ways to install decorations that aren’t permanent and won’t put a dent in the security deposit. Tension rods, Command strips, nail-free wall hooks, and more allow damage-free installation, so there’s almost no risk of these no-paint room upgrades causing major damage. And if it doesn’t work out, unlike a coat of paint that is irrevocably on the wall, it can be taken down and returned in a matter of minutes.

Picture what sorts of colors—warm or cool, solid or patterned—might work in each room, check out these ideas for ways to update rooms without painting, and go forth and decorate.

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1
The Living Room

Try: Large-scale wall-art

Living rooms can be one of the most frequented—and most napped in—rooms in the house, and surfaces such as the coffee table, side table, media center, and even the couch can often get cluttered with pillows, blankets, books, tablets, and more. Make the pop of color in this room something that won’t get buried in the mess by perching it on the wall, where it can also distract guests from whatever clutter situation is happening below.

Get the look: San Diego Surfer by Gray Malin, from $249; graymalin.com.

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2
The Dining Room

Try: A versatile tray

Most dining rooms don’t get daily use, so enliven them with items that don’t need frequent cleanings to fight dust (a.k.a. tablecloths or runners). Set a large tray in the center of the table and dress it up seasonally, monthly, or weekly with objets, knick-knacks, and plants from around the house. For best results, pick a tray that contrasts well with the material on the table.

Get the look: Cambria Lazy Susan, $175; cambriausa.com.

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3
The Kitchen

Try: An oversized floor mat

Giving kitchens some color can be tricky, not least because anything that goes in there will likely come out with lingering food odors. Maximize usefulness with a floor mat that’s durable, comfortable, and eye-grabbing. Any unattractive (and unchangeable) floor tiles will be covered up, chefs will have a comfortable place to stand, and the color boost will help the space feel a little livelier.

Get the look: Comfort Design Mats Foam Floor Mat in Navy Geo Mountain, $140; amazon.com.

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4
The Bedroom

Try: A colorful quilt

The focal point (practically and physically) of the bedroom is the bed, of course. Dress it up with a bright duvet cover, quilt, coverlet, or other top blanket to help it pop, even if the other bedroom furnishings are a little dull.

Get the look:  Ettitude Bamboo Lyocell Duvet Cover in Cloud Pink, $103; ettitude.com.

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5
The Bathroom

Try: A surprising shower curtain

Shower curtains are bathroom essentials, but that doesn’t mean they have to be bland (or, worse, transparent). Pick a vibrant one, patterned or solid, that meshes well with the bathroom tile to completely change the look and feel of the room. (As the largest textile in the room, shower curtains certainly have that power.)

Get the look:  Agneta Shower Curtain, $88; anthropologie.com.

 

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6
The Home Office

Try: Full-length window curtains

Home offices—or office nooks—call for some décor that’s not distracting, but still breaks up the monotony of an all-white or all-neutral room. Curtains can multitask by helping to moderate light and heat levels in the room and by offering large-scale color that doesn’t cost a fortune or require a day-long installation.

Get the look: No. 918 Millennial Montego Solid Color Opaque Grommet Single Curtain Panel in Lilac, from $13 per panel; wayfair.com.

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7
The Hallway

Try: Framed mirrors

Hallways are, often, narrow. They’re also often undecorated and dim—which makes adding a little color especially tricky. Look for antique-esque mirrors with thick frames, either gold or colorful, to increase the amount of light in the space and offer some vibrant décor. (Bonus: There will be another opportunity to check for stray hairs and food in teeth before running out the door.)

Get the look: Dennison Botanic Bone Inlay Accent Mirror, $210; jossandmain.com.

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8
The Laundry Room

Try: Bold organizers

Laundry rooms may be the most utilitarian rooms in the house—which is why they often don’t look too great. They’re also often tight on space, so turn a necessary laundry room item into something pretty and practical by swapping out lackluster storage bags or boxes for some that work well and look great, too.

Get the look:  reisenthel Blue Pleated Laundry Bag, $35; thecontainerstore.com.