Walls are a great place where you can showcase your personality and add decorative elements, but does every wall need to be covered with art? What if you have a completely bare wall (or walls) in your rooms – what kind of statement might you make with that? There are many valid reasons why you might prefer to have bare walls, especially if you need to make a room feel more spacious.
Bare walls help balance a room or keep it feeling calm and minimalist. In rooms with low ceilings or many decorative furnishings, bare walls serve as a canvas to display the decor or make ceilings feel higher. Plain walls can also be used to draw the eye toward a particular focal point.
While many décor magazines and blogs may make it seem as though every wall in a house needs to be covered with paintings, photographs, or wall hangings, sometimes less is more. Too many blank walls without attention to other elements can make a house feel stark and dull, but there is a place for bare walls. There are ways to use bare walls to highlight different aspects of your décor or draw the eye to interesting architectural details.
Is it OK to Have Bare Walls?
I believe that not all your walls should be covered with art and that a well-chosen blank wall can bring some depth and stillness to a room that may otherwise feel over-cluttered. A home with every wall covered with art can feel overwhelming and frantic, especially in rooms where you want to have a sense of calm, like a bedroom, should be avoided.
Blank walls may be better for the overall design especially if you prefer a minimalist style. If you have a single impactful piece of art on one wall, leaving the other walls bare will force the eye to focus on that art piece, drawing it in and eliminating distractions.
Bare walls may also suit your personality and lifestyle more. If you dislike clutter and don’t want to spend a lot of time dusting and cleaning objects on your wall, bare walls will work better for you.
Small rooms can benefit from bare walls making the room look larger; the same idea holds for rooms with low ceilings. The blank walls draw the eye upward and make the ceilings feel higher.
Sometimes you may not be allowed to hang pictures on a wall because your home is rented. If this is the case, we have some ideas for you to decorate bare walls without ruining the finish and incurring any fines from your landlord or losing your deposit.
Should All Walls be Decorated?
Wall art often serves as the focus of a room, especially when you have one wall that displays a high-impact large painting or collection of artworks.
The art you put on the wall should harmonize with the rest of your décor, and your other decorative elements in the room should lead your eye towards this art. In this case, it is often helpful to have minimally decorated or even bare walls in the rest of the room. When these other walls are left blank, the gaze flows over them and is drawn towards the artwork you wish to prioritize.
While the temptation might be strong to cover every wall with something, you can do a lot for your décor by leaving some walls here and there bare of art. Especially if you choose these walls wisely, you can use them to guide the flow of the room by directing a visitor’s gaze to something you think they should pay attention to – perhaps a painting or an architectural feature.
In short, there’s no need to decorate every wall; if you do, it could be overkill. When choosing art for your wall, keep a thematic thread going throughout – choose similar subjects or colors, and echo these in other decorative elements throughout the room.
When Should You Leave a Blank Wall?
If you would prefer to give a room a clean and uncluttered look, you can quickly and easily do this by leaving the walls on either side of a door bare. These blank areas help visually ‘declutter’ the doorway area.
A few blank walls can give a sense of’ breathing space’ in rooms where you want the overall effect to be calm and relaxing. If you use one wall for a serene artwork in the bedroom, for example, you may want to leave the other walls bare so that you decrease any feeling of mess or business.
Blank walls may be preferable in bathrooms or other rooms where moist air could damage any art and make it difficult to clean. Fewer frames and shelves will collect less dust, so if your time is limited, you might prefer bare walls simply because they require less work and cleaning.
Eyes also need to rest, and that’s where the idea of ‘negative space’ comes to the fore: leave some walls empty so that the eyes can move over them without having to pay attention to something new constantly.
I suggest saving art for the most extensive walls and allowing smaller walls to remain bare. This limitation helps alleviate the feeling of the décor being too busy and distracting. Simple, bare walls can also make a statement of their own.
Can You Have Too Much Stuff on Your Walls?
Unless your style is cluttered and bohemian – and even then, you can go overboard – it’s possible to have too much stuff mounted on your walls. The eye should be drawn naturally from one piece of art or décor to the next, and not feel like it’s jumping around trying to work out what to focus on.
My suggestion if you want a wall covered with art or decorative elements is to make the other walls do less work and even leave them bare if that suits the style of the room.
Especially if a room is small and dark, covering the walls with art can make it feel even smaller, and the clutter can become oppressive. Use areas of light color and open space to make a room feel bigger.
Styling every wall is often a décor mistake that makes a room feel too busy. You can over-accessorize and attempt to cover the wall space with matching art and knickknacks, which leads to an overactive and unappealing feel. Use the negative space to visually ‘open up the areas around your art.
If you prefer a minimalist style of décor, especially the kind influenced by Japanese interiors, you’ll want to keep to a less is more philosophy. Bare walls and light, natural colors will help foster a feeling of open airiness. Draw inspiration from Japanese zen-inspired modern interiors to bring a sense of calm and quiet to your rooms.
How to Create a Bare Accent Wall with Color
A bare wall does not have to mean dull, however. An accent wall is a wall that uses a different shade or color from the walls around it to draw attention. Instead of filling a wall with shelving displays or art, you might want to paint it an attention-grabbing color. A feature wall is a clever way to make a small wall in a room a focus wall.
When choosing an accent wall, the best wall is one that has little or no distractions such as windows or doorways. Use a wall that you would see most often as your focus wall, and make it high impact with a bold color.
Make small or short walls seem bigger or longer by using cool shades of blue and green. If a wall feels too long for a room and disproportionate, balance it out by painting a warmer color with reds and oranges.
If you want to go bolder, use painted chevrons or stripes to jazz up a plain wall. Remember not to overwhelm the space, and use the points of chevrons to draw the eye through the room. While painted walls may not be technically bare, they are a great way to liven up a space without having to add extra artworks or shelving.
Avoid having more than one accent wall in a room, as the two will compete for attention and make the room feel too busy.
Using Texture on a Bare Wall
One really high-impact bare wall idea is to go down to exposed brickwork for a focus wall. This look is especially compelling in modern, industrial designs but can be made to suit many different styles. Exposed red brick walls can add texture and character to a room that may feel too stark and empty.
Contrast a clean, modern design with antique brick walls with a soft whitewash to add to the drama. The juxtaposition of modern and rustic can make for a great living room feature wall or serve as an accent wall behind a steel staircase.
Another way of keeping a bare wall interesting without adding designs or art is to use textured wallpaper. Wallpapers come in many bright and distinctive patterns, and if you prefer a calm, neutral space, you won’t want to use these. However, you can still create depth and interest by using plain or neutral wallpapers in colors like cream or beige, which have a textural pattern.
The texture on a removable wallpaper provides some interest and won’t leave a wall feeling empty and bleak. With many of these textured wallpapers, you can choose to paint over them later if you want to update the color but keep the texture.
Use a Bare Wall to Create an Illusion of Space
Bare walls are a great way to make a small space feel bigger and give the illusion of higher ceilings or more square footage.
If you’re fortunate enough to have an old building with high ceilings with decorative detail such as tin panels or ceiling roses, you may want to use bare walls to draw the gaze upward toward the ceiling. In this way, the focus is on these exquisite details while also making the room feel even more spacious and the ceilings even higher.
Leaving a wall bare also makes a room more spacious, as it is not crammed with decoration. Use space wisely to give a feeling of roominess.
How to Decorate Bare Walls in a Rented Apartment
Perhaps you are not a fan of bare walls, but you’re worried about putting up artwork or shelves or repainting the walls, as your home is rented. There are a few simple ways to can get around these issues — without adding screws or nails to the wall or doing something that could result in a lost deposit.
Any changes you make will need to be non-permanent and easy to remove without ruining the existing finish.
Removable wallpaper is a fantastic choice here, and these temporary wall coverings can really work to enhance your space. Use ‘peel and stick’ wallpapers to create a damage-free accent wall.
Removable murals are a great alternative to wall art that needs to be mounted, but if your pictures are light, you might find that picture hanging strips like these ones from Amazon will do the trick.
Another way to decorate a bare wall in a rental is to lean paintings and mirrors rather than installing them on the wall. A full-length mirror is easy to lean against a wall in a hallway, but consider using existing architectural details or furniture to display paintings. For example, you can place a painting on a mantelpiece and lean it against the wall above the fireplace, or lean a large framed poster above a sleek console table.
Not every wall in the home needs to be covered with artwork; in some cases, a bare wall helps accentuate and focus the eye on essential details. Plain, undecorated walls can also help a small area feel larger and more spacious and are an important part of the minimalist décor look. If you think you need to leave your walls bare because your home is rented, there are a host of clever ways to decorate your walls without damaging them.