5 Cheap & Easy Design Fixes That Make the Most of White Walls

Restrictions suck. Nothing is more frustrating than not getting to do what you want. This blog is a good example of my disdain for the notion that you “can’t” have badass style without spending a lot of money, so getting what I want how I want it is a major driver in my day-to-day. What’s fueling this fiery passion for social rules? A long history of people telling me no. One of the entries on that list of deniers: my first apartment manager for damning me to an apartment with untouchable, sanitary, plain, boring white walls.

Listen, I didn’t move out of my parents’ house at the first possible moment so I could abstain from painting each room a different color, okay? You call this freedom? This is America!  

But I digress. Turns out, a few weeks spent with Pinterest, HGTV, and some binge-watching of Mr. Kate videos have convinced me that white walls aren’t so bad! I mean, they’re terrible, but you can make them into something cool by… covering them up with stuff! Well, not always. It’s more like being mindful of your stuff, and maximizing the strengths that white walls bring to the table. Spoiler alert, there’s only one: they’re bright.

As you know, white goes with just about everything. That being said, there are strategic ways to use white to set off colors, textures, and patterns to make it not feel like you rented and are living in a bright, boring shoebox. White walls aren’t the worst feature your new apartment or rental house can have, trust me.

In the meantime, here are five sure-fire ways to turn a mandatorily white wall into a base for genius home decor.

White Walls Design Fix #1: All White Everything

While this is the design fix that looks the most chic, it’s also the design fix that gives me the most anxiety. The look of all white everything is paired-down, clean, and mildly meticulous – and none of those adjectives apply to me.

That being said, I know a lot of women (and some dudes, too) who love this look, and more important have the lifestyle to support it. They are naturally tidy, work best in clear, open areas, and glean tons of creativity from a bright, monochromatic space. I tip my hat to you, efficient alien people. Your aesthetic and your organization are delightfully frightening to me, but I encourage you 100%.

Source: Stories by Me

Source: Orchid Lagoon

Source: Interior Design Pro

Source: Wendy Word Design

If you can find a white couch on Craigslist, it’ll be a fun DIY to get it to maximum brightness. After that, collecting beautiful black & white photographs and prints is as easy as deciding you love the look of 8.5″ x 11″ photos and printing them out yourself. The frames can be identical, for that Pinterest look, or a bunch of different shapes and thicknesses, for that Tumblr look (more on that later).

White Wall Fix #2: Add a Ton of Plants

Adding copious plants to your small space has tons of benefits, many of which are aesthetic, but some of which are physical! Turning your clinical white walled space into a botanical paradise will create a home that is warm and full of life (literally!).

First – the aesthetic side: green is gorgeous! With all that white in your house, natural light will be bouncing all over the place. When it hits the leaves of your plants, it will not only help your little friends survive, but it will cast this beautiful, green, ethereal tint throughout your house. It’s a gorgeous radiant light that is as flattering as it is calming, and makes even the most stark white spaces feel like a secret garden.

Source: IKEA

Source: Apartment Therapy

Source: HN Style

Source: Liekeland (She’s an awesome Dutch illustrator & did the art in the photo!)

Plus, like I said, having plants around can help you with everything from memory to happiness, so there’s no reason not to! Some plants can even help purify the air in your house, as long as they stay healthy. Here is a list of easy plants to grow at home to get you started.

White Walls Design Fix #3: Make it Graphic

Using your white walls as a canvas for other things utilizes the greatest strength of white walls: their epic blank-ness. That means, according to color theory, if we want things to really pop and stand out, we should look for things that include the color __any__!

Well that certainly makes things easy.

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Source: Draumesider

Source: A Beautiful Mess

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If you’re appreciative of color, white is ironically your BFF when it comes to wall colors. Every since thing you put on those walls will have a vibrancy that a deeper wall color, or even an off-white wouldn’t fully celebrate. The textures are more detailed and the contrast is turned all the way up when you have white walls. It’s incredibly fun to play with if you love that graphic look!

White Walls Design Fix #4: Showcase Wood

Wood on white pretty much always looks incredible. It doesn’t matter what kind of wood, and in some cases, it doesn’t even need to be real wood! That being said, this is also good news for thrift shoppers. Finding a solid wood piece of furniture is actually quite common. Many times, thrifted furniture just needs a clean-up or a coat of gloss in order for it to look as good as new. In other cases, some sandpaper and your choice of wood stain can turn an old, rejected piece of furniture into a gleaming tribute to one of nature’s finest renewable materials.

Or, you can get all of your stuff from IKEA and it will probably look just as good. Not even kidding. Have you seen what IKEA is up to lately? I went a couple weeks ago and almost left with a new life. But that’s a story for another post. Long story short, wood looks amazing with white. It’s just a fact.

Source: Temple & Webster

 

Source: The Blue Hour

Source: The Design Files

Source: Jenni Kayne

Mixing different colors and types  of woods works well with white bolstering the color palette. Hell, even giant chunks of wood look like high end decor against a stark white wall. And if you don’t like the look of the wood you’ve got, it’s amazing what a stain can do.

You can make a room striking and graphic, or you can really warm up your white-ness and create a cozy atmosphere. I just love how wooden furniture is everywhere. Even in the second to last photo – that’s clearly some mid-century, hand-me-down 1970s furniture but along with white and some plants, it look effing amazing! Wood = powerful stuff. (Leave your “powerful wood” jokes in the comments, plz.)

White Walls Design Fix #5: #ThingsOrganizedNeatly

That’s a legitimate hashtag, by the way. Check out #ThingsOrganizedNeatly then compare yourself endlessly to people who have the patience to #ThingsOrganizedNeatly all the time. For me, the closest you’ll get is probably a project like a frame wall (see below, and above, and everywhere else on the internet).

Source: The Ivory Lane

Source: Brownstoner

Source: Decoholic

Source: Homedit

The fact that you can control the “messiness” of an organized set of frames is really appealing. Personally, I like the mish-mash of different sizes and colors that are cleverly (and meticulously) arranged with tidy spacing. That being said, the uniformity of the similarly sized and shaped frames is super slick and would look excellent in pretty much every application. It’s hard to mess up something like that, and I like things that are hard to mess up.


Everything from soft, natural browns to vibrant Spanish-inspired color palettes are supported by the strength of a boring white wall. Isn’t it amazing how a space can be transformed? I like to imagine what the “before” looked like in all of these because empty rooms always look plain, especially with white walls… But this is what you can do with it!

You might notice a lot of inter-mixing between fixings (you like that?) in this post. What I mean is the photos of wood-showcasing were full of plants, the #ThingsOrganizedNeatly was full of wood and graphic patterns, and the all white everything had literally every other design fix present… There’s clearly a formula here. These four design fixes are pretty much fool-proof and fail-safe.

Embrace your white walls and give these interior design ideas a try. If you do, leave a picture in the comments of your before & after. Which look is your favorite? Would you add any white wall fixes to this list?

  • Addie Talley

    or just do everything else in color if you cant touch the walls- furniture, rugs, art, lamps – all in bright colors!

    • Oooh yes! White walls are excellent canvases for color explosions!