Landlord-friendly ways to unleash your imagination

By Rose Bennet Gilbert
Posted7/19/2014 12:01 AM
  • A single roll of wallpaper energizes an entire, once-dull white wall. Better yet, no pasting was required.

    A single roll of wallpaper energizes an entire, once-dull white wall. Better yet, no pasting was required. Courtesy of York Wallcoverings

Q. We are grad students renting a nondescript little house for a year, which means we can't paint the walls -- they're all white! -- or do much else that's decorative. I've always loved decorating, but my artsy hands are tied. Maybe you have some suggestions that won't compromise our security deposit?

A. The answer to your injunction is: Think Temporary. There are any number of here-today-gone-tomorrow decorating tricks that will temporarily relieve your creative ache. A few to consider:

• Peel-and-stick removable wallpapers with patterns, murals, even your own photos and/or artwork. Enjoy this year, then peel and port to your next digs when your lease is up. A few of the many sources:;; (tempaper);; (includes midcentury modern motifs by Jonathan Adler).

• Art on a roll: A scissors plus six matching frames equals a red-hot wall treatment, shown in the photo here, from a single roll of wallpaper ("Pucker Up Buttercup" from the "Risky Business II" collection by York Wallcoverings,

• Color the inside of bookcases or shelves with cardboard cut to fit and painted whatever hue you cry for.

• Go a bit mad with colorful curtains. Hang them so they extend beyond the windows themselves to add interest to the walls, too.

• Velcro fabric to the wall behind beds, canopy-style.

• Go on, dare to paint just one wall some wonderful color. Repainting should cost no more than a gallon of paint and an hour of your time while you're waiting for the movers next year.

Q. OMG! My much-loved uncle has left me the l9th-century landscape painting that had hung in his dining room ever since he came to this country. I loved him.

I love the painting, too, but it's huge! It's nearly 6 feet wide and 4 feet high with an ornate gilded frame. My house is kind of humble. This is a showstopper. What should I do with it?

A. Invite a couple of strong friends in and hang it! Your showstopper will also be a room-maker. The best location for such a sensation might be behind your sofa, even if the sofa back overlaps the frame bottom a little. Over-scaling can be a huge wow factor in a room of any size.

Q. The wood floor in our guest room is a mess. We are expecting relatives for a week next month and need a quick remedy. My husband votes for carpeting, but that's expensive. What else can we do -- fast?

A. Paint it. A couple of coats of deck enamel will give the entire room a lift. White is always right; black can be smashing, especially in a high-gloss finish. The late and truly great interior designer William Hodgins famously lacquered a client's bedroom floor a brilliant aquamarine and trimmed it in white.

The only caveat: The glossier the paint finish, the more your floor's imperfections will shine forth. But between us, the net effect will be well worth a little extra sanding.

© 2014,

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