From Dorms to Rentals: 13 Ways to Decorate Walls Without Damaging Them

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY The Havenly Team

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Published on September 6, 2023

When you’re decorating your space, nothing is quite as exciting — or as intimidating — as a totally blank wall. Do you go for a classic gallery wall? Hang up a small woven artwork? Or try something new altogether? The options stretch far beyond hanging up a picture frame or two, especially when attempting to decorate dorm walls. 

Add a technical challenge, like not being able to paint or drill holes, and you might not even know where to start. For the renters and college students of the world, damaging your apartment or dorm walls for the sake of aesthetics can be a pricy proposition. No one wants to pay those annoying repair fees! Luckily, with many of these wall hanging tips, you can still decorate dorm walls and rental space in an artful, exciting way, without causing any damage. 

Ahead, find 13 ways to decorate dorm walls and rental apartments without causing damage, courtesy of Havenly interior designers.

Hang Tapestries Like a Pro

How to hang a tapestry without nails

To hang a tapestry without nails, think of them like art that needs a frame. We recommend mounting your tapestry to a piece of wood, or a dowel to hold the wallhanging without any bowing or collapsing in the center. A few staples or nails will do the trick. Then, you can use command hooks to easily mount the wood on the wall and give your space a little bit more color. Command hooks are great for a tapestry because the fabric is so lightweight. You can even use the tiny, clear command hooks for an invisible look!

Mount Curtains Without A Rod

Wall hanging tips

To hang curtains without a rod, get creative! Since dorms and rentals often lack rods, get a dowel rod, light curtain rod, or shower curtain rod from the hardware store. Use large command hooks in the corners of your window frame or even a few inches above it to hold the rod and curtain. If your window is inset, you can even get a tension rod that will fit exactly inside the frame without any hooks at all. Finally, floor-to-ceiling drapery doesn’t have to be reserved for window treatments only. In fact, drapes can add texture and dimension to your space when installed along a large, blank wall. Bonus: You can use it as a sneaky storage space, tucking away any narrow objects that may fit behind it.

Hang Posters & Photos Without Frames

Decorate dorm walls

To hang art, posters, or photos without frames or nails, think outside the box! To minimize the damage to your walls, use colorful washi tape for each corner of your poster or picture. Binder clips at the corners of a poster also make a convenient hanger- just use a thumbtack to hang each binder clip. Or, use a framed bulletin board for an elevated, fun twist on a gallery wall (like the above space). You can always use command strips or hooks to hang your art, too.

Hang Heavy Objects Without Hardware

Decorate dorm walls

They key to hanging heavier pieces without nails or screws is to do your research. As always, command hooks or strips can work great! But, be careful which ones you choose. Pick a hook with a heavier weight limit (some can hold up to 8 pounds), appropriate to your art piece. You can even combine several hooks for one item, which can help distribute the weight. Be careful– maybe avoid hanging something super heavy right above your bed, since accidents do happen. But, these are great pieces to place above a desk or bookshelf.

Install Wallpaper Without Commitment

Decorate dorm walls

The key to renter and dorm-approved wallpaper is peel-and-stick removable wallpaper. We recommend only using it in one space, since installing removable wallpaper throughout a whole room can be very challenging. But, it’ll make a great, non-damaging accent to any space! You can even get wallpaper that creates a mural on one wall of your room. Just make sure whatever you purchase is removable and doesn’t require permanent adhesive.

Hang Baskets Without Nails

Wall hanging tips

Wall hanging tips | Decorate dorm walls

Using strong command hooks or tacks, hang a collection of woven baskets and bowls for unique, sculptural wall decor. These decorations are lightweight and easy to hang, so no need to worry about weight and wall damage. We love the idea of incorporating a mix of patterns, sizes, and neutral colors to add depth and texture to a large, blank wall in a dorm or rental!

Display Instruments As Decor

Decorate dorm walls

Sometimes, the coolest design features are also the most practical. When it comes to instrument storage, give them pride of place right on your wall — easy to reach whenever you’re in the mood for a jam sesh. To avoid using nails or screws, pick up a few guitar wall mounts and fasten them to the wall with command strips. Lightweight instruments, like acoustic guitars, are a great option! If weight is an issue, consider using nails and simply drywalling the holes when you move out. 

Install Picture Ledges Without Tools

Wall hanging tips

Wall hanging tips

To create a cool picture ledge-style gallery wall, consider lightweight acrylic shelves with ledges so you can easily layer books and artwork without worrying about them falling off. Install them with command strips instead of nails and opt for lightweight items like books and frameless art prints to avoid any weight issues. 

Hang Metallic Details Without Nails

Decorate dorm walls

You don’t have to go full maximalist to make an impact in a dorm room or rental. Here, a smattering of brass wall details evoke a nature-inspired scene of birds in flight — while looking totally luxe. Skip the hammer and nails and install these lightweight flourishes with command tape or Scotch mounting putty. 

Mount a Floating Shelf Without a Drill

Wall hanging tips

If you want to create a dynamic focal point without having to worry about a complicated installation process, use a single shelf as a place where you can arrange art, plants, and decorative items. By layering different pieces, you can add dimension to your space. Consider command hooks, strips, or mounting tape, or sacrifice a few holes and repair the drywall when you move out. 

Want expert advice on your actual space, straight from an interior designer? Start with our style quiz to work with a design pro one-on-one.