Moving? Tips for decorating your walls.

An expert offers advice for renters who want to hang art AND get their security deposits back and to homeowners who need a little inspiration.

Gallery of trendy posters in elegant grey living room interior with brown corner sofa
Gallery walls don't have to be tricky. Adobe Stock

Decorating your walls can be thrilling for some but overwhelming for others. Whether it is a rental property or an owned one, a houseboat or a tiny home, knowing what to do with your walls is a challenge.

And with Sept. 1, Boston’s biggest moving day, on the horizon, we asked Sarah Henley, founder of Henley Design in Somerville, for tips on how to make your space feel more like, well, your space. 

Find that wall. Search for a wall that is “void of character,” Henley said. Every space has something unique and different to bring to the table, so letting the space speak to you can help you determine what it needs. Once you find that wall, or walls, then the bigger question arises: What do you put on it? 


Listen to your emotions. Henley is a big advocate of throwing out the rule book when it comes to decorating your space. The emotions an item brings are important, whether that be a family heirloom, a framed photos from your travels, a hat collection, or even a single piece of art that catches your eye.

“There are sort of these clichés about how you hang things on your walls that I don’t really think are serving people,” Henley said. “I think the better way to think about it is the pieces themselves. What heirloom pieces have you maybe inherited through your family or collected on your travels or what specific family photos really resonate or bring you joy?”

Before you reach for a hammer, drill, or those removable hanging strips, Henley suggested arranging those pieces around the room and asking yourself whether they belong there. Think of the color scheme in the space and whether the pieces fit in with the feel you want for the room, she said. And it’s not just Henley. Research suggests that emotions play a big part in how we feel about spaces.

“Try it on.” Once you have selected a piece, “try it on” as if you were in a fitting room, Henley advised. Get a removable hanging strip and see how the piece looks in the space.


Gallery walls. This famous arrangement can be tricky, Henley said, but you can make the process easier by making paper cutouts in the size of the gallery items you want to hang and mapping them out on the wall with painters tape. There are services, such as Frambridge, that provide gallery wall sets, if a pre-packaged design would ease your mind. 

How to hang things. It all depends on whether you rent or own the space. Renters should use removable hanging strips, Henley said, but make sure they are the correct strength to hold the weight of the piece. Homeowners can put holes in the walls, with hooks that have nails or ones that use screws and molly bolts.

Wallpaper is an option. Even for renters. Wallpaper is trending this year and can add something special. Try peel-and-stick removable products, Henley said, but if you can put up traditional paper, the real thing holds up better over time.

Finding inspiration. That’s the question of the hour, but Henley suggested social media as a great source that can get you to that happy space, particularly Instagram and Pinterest.

Walls are a blank canvas just waiting for you to make the space your own.


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