PW BLOGS: PhillyNow  |  PW Style  |  Make Major Moves  |  The Trouble with Spikol

How to get rid of blank walls

OK, you are no longer living in a dorm. You do not lead a completely joyless life. Nor do you live most fully when playing World of Warcraft. Failing to put anything on bare, white walls, like in the picture above, sends a signal to potential sex partners that you may be at least one of the above. So what to do with bare white walls to make a good impression?


Obviously, painting is a good option if you’re allowed; a hardware-store gallon of paint is only about $20, painting most rooms only takes a few hours and not having your wall be dorm-room white does wonders for your quality of life. But use really bright colors sparingly; they look pretty on the paint chip but are way darker than you’d expect when covering an entire room.


Hanging art is another option. However, keep in mind that if you’ve seen a piece of art in the apartments of more than a couple people, you should maybe keep looking for something more interesting. For example:

None of the above posters should be found in an adult home. The message you want to send is “I am interesting and have my post-collegiate shit together, potential sex partner” not, “Dude, I just discovered this SWEET underground artist called Dali, oh no WAY you’ve heard of him too? BTW, don’t you totally love beer/college/some movie/faux-arty lesbians? Because I totally love beer/college/some movie/faux-arty lesbians.”

But Emily G! you say, How can I afford to put stuff on my walls when I have zero dollars?

Well, there are various events around town, such as the Punk Rock Flea Market and Art for the Cash Poor, at which you can get neat prints for not that much, but when neither of those are happening, here’s a few ideas for making your own cheap art:


Get hold of a bunch of old family photos, preferably unposed and of only one or two people. Scan, print, blow up, whatev. Black and whites can be printed big on regular paper rather than photo paper without too noticeable a difference except in price, as color photo 8×10s can get very expensive. Frame 4×6s with IKEA clip frames, which are about a quarter apiece, and there’s an 8.5×11 document frame at Dick Blick (at 13th and Chestnut) for like $3. Arrange in a big, parallel-ish blob as far away from the bed as possible. On a similar note:


If you take hi-res pictures and know someone who’s willing to lend you their Sam’s Club number, they do photo enlargements for ridiculously cheap: the largest size is a 20″ x 30″ poster print shipped to your house for under $12. The quality apparently isn’t bad, either. But don’t try to print pictures that were obviously not taken by you, they’re big on copyright.


But not this mirror:


Another option: in addition to cheap frames, Dick Blick has a wall of wrapping paper sheets that actually make pretty decent art. They fit in standard poster frames, and they’re $3.

OK, some of the postcard-y ones on the right are a little cheezy, but maps? Vintage desserts? Phrenology charts? Anatomical illustrations? Definitely! I’ve got a skeletal system one framed in my room:

There’s also a whole bunch of really nice patterns that would look good framed (maybe more so if you’re a lady than a guy):

I also used one of these patterns to make my ugly bathroom slightly less ugly by spray-adhering a piece to the back of my broken bathroom cabinet:


This is always hit or miss, but I’ve found some pretty awesome art at thrift stores that I can be sure nobody else is going to have on their wall, such as this tiny-headed cat:

You can also buy crappy art with hopes of modifying it into not-crappy art; painting new things into landscapes, for example.

If the art is irredeemably crappy (motivational posters?) but in a nice frame and cheap, take it home, throw out the motivational poster, then stick the frame in the closet until you find something you like that fits in the space. You’ll have saved, like, $15 at least.

That’s all I got for now. Anyone else have any tips on covering wall space for cheap?

emily g | Jul 31 2009 2:37pm | art, home, posters | Comments 7

Erica  says:

This is one of the most useful posts that’s ever been on this blog! Thanks, Emily G!

Jul 31 2:41 PM

Rajiv  says:


Jul 31 3:26 PM

Beth  says:

Fo free: some art shows give out pamphlets that fold out into larger illustrations, and then I’ve heard there are often some pretty cool illustrations in alt-weekly newspapers…

Jul 31 5:39 PM

Emily G  says:

ooh, good one Beth

Aug 2 6:47 PM

Scott  says:

i will be using this advice in two weeks.

Aug 3 10:22 AM

Chakara  says:

This post is so helpful. I’m entering my sophomore year of college…first apartment to decorate! These ideas are perfect…thanks :-)

Aug 5 11:49 PM

abagail  says:

these are very helpful ideas! thanks! my room needs some fun and something on the wall!

Aug 14 12:32 AM


name *required

mail *will not be published, required