How I transformed my living room in an afternoon for under $100

While redesigning the entire space wasn't practical, I realized one small change could make a big difference.
Casey DelBasso
By Casey DelBasso

Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

I've been known to complain about not having enough time to finish the projects I always dream up in my head. The 9-to-5 life always gets in the way. Days turn into weeks and before you know it, those best-laid plans are a distant memory. During the coronavirus crisis, I'm finding I actually have the time to make these goals a reality.

As I read about the creative ways friends and perfect strangers alike are passing the time, it inspired me to think about what I could do within my own four walls. I decided to reimagine my living room on a budget. While redesigning the entire space wasn't practical, I realized an accent wall was.

Styling a rental can be challenging. It can be difficult to get landlord approval on options to spruce up the walls, and wallpaper can feel like a scary choice. I imagined hours of labor-intensive work trying to precisely install it or worse, remove it. I'd heard the horror stories. But it turns out the wallpaper world has completely stepped up its game. A quick search on Lowe's, Anthropologie and Home Depot will reveal plenty of non-permanent, adhesive-based wallpapers. Given my year-long lease, it seemed like the perfect solution.

Our living room before the transformation.Casey DelBasso

In one rainy afternoon, I completely transformed my living room. It took about four hours from start to finish, including moving all of the furniture out of the way and back to the original setup, but less than $100 later, this one small change gave the entire space a new feel. Below's what I learned in the process.

1. Do your research.

Do not buy any wallpaper willy-nilly. Create the interior design vision board of your dreams before making a final decision.

I had already contemplated the style of wallpaper I was looking for to fit the space. A room without a pattern can feel like a bore, while a room with too many patterns can feel messy. Was it going to be a bright color or solid monochromatic color? Does a dark color open up a small space?

I chose a wallpaper that complemented the existing decor in my apartment.Casey DelBasso

While I do not consider myself to be an interior decorator, I had been studying Joanna Gaines’ simplistic style as a source of inspiration. The beauty of her design aesthetic is that it's simple enough for even a novice like me to follow. So I was happy to discover that her Magnolia Home collection included a line of removable wallpaper.

The colors in our living room are taupe and neutral tones, so I decided to complement them with the “neutral” olive branch design that added a touch of green. The pattern and the calming colors were a perfect fit for the space. As an added bonus, the branches of the pattern reach toward the ceiling to help elongate the wall make the ceiling appear higher.

Olive Branch Wallpaper

2. Buy more than you think you'll need.

The particular wall that we were looking to cover was about 30 square feet. One roll covers about 56 square feet. Though I did measure before ordering, I didn't accurately account for mistakes or small pieces of the paper that had to be thrown away. I would suggest buying more than what you need and returning any unused rolls.

The installation took around four hours in total.Casey DelBasso

3. Have a spray bottle and sponge nearby.

This wallpaper uses a Sure Strip adhesive backing, which is activated by water. It does stick effectively but the application requires more water than you'd assume, so we found it handy to keep these tools around to make the process more efficient.

After you cut your strips of paper using either a box cutter or a blade, make sure each piece is thoroughly wet before placing it on the wall. We also watched this YouTube tutorial of an installation using the exact wallpaper on a similar-sized wall. Since I am visual learner, having a video to follow was really informative and helpful.

The subtle pattern brightened the room without being too busy. Casey DelBasso

The manufacturer's directions say that removal is easy, so when I’m ready to change things up or move out, there won't be any scraping or peeling. This strippable wallpaper should come off the wall easily in full sheets.

It seems far away now, but the day will come when we'll be able to move freely outside of our little hideaway. For the moment, I'm taking the time to enjoy this fresh corner of our 600-square-foot space.