5 easy ways I'm adding color to my new apartment, without painting any of the walls

A rental with neutral walls can prove a challenge, but here's how I'm ensuring mine features plenty of color

white dining room with colorful artwork, white dining room with checked rug, bed with pink bedding
(Image credit: Jenn Verrier, LAYERED Interior, Piglet in Bed)

Next month, I'm moving from one rented apartment to another. The definition of a blank canvas, my new apartment features white walls throughout, and I'm already anticipating how I'll be adding color – without painting any of the walls.

Luckily, I'm a fan of a neutral base when it comes to the color of the walls – I love the calming, light, and airy feel they create. However, I'm equally aware that an all-white color scheme can soon appear bland if color isn't introduced in other ways. 

One thing I've learned since living in rentals is that when you are restricted to keeping the walls neutral, it allows you to make the most of your decor. When you can't channel the latest color trends through wall decor, smaller furnishings become the standout pieces that add personality to a room. It can take a bit more creativity but I'm convinced white walls don't have to result in a bland space. 

Below, I've rounded up the five apartment decor ideas I'm turning to to ensure my neutral apartment layers plenty of color in creative ways, all of which are rental-friendly.

1. Add interest underfoot with rugs

woden bench seat in a kitchen with a small antique table and a red and white checkerboard rug

(Image credit: LAYERED Interior)

When painting the walls is off the cards, there's all the more reason to get creative with flooring ideas. Channeling color through rugs is a simple way to offset the neutrals and add interest underfoot, as well as more practically helping to zone different areas. 

I recently purchased this IKEA TESAMMANS multicolored rug, which couldn't be any more colorful. While something so bold could quickly overwhelm a space with many competing colors, it can handle an otherwise understated interior scheme. I'm anticipating this brightening up my home office against its neutral palette. 

2. Decorate with artwork

dining room with natural wood floor and bright colored artwork and chairs

(Image credit: Jenn Verrier)

Decorating with art is one of the easiest and most effective ways to add color to a neutral room. When contrasted against white walls, colorful artwork stands out and provides a break from all of the neutrals. 

I've fully embraced this in my current apartment and it'll be top of my decorating to-do list in my new home. I like to choose artwork with bright colors such as yellow or blue, as this really stands out against white walls.

Art doesn't have to be costly, either. Posters from galleries often feature playful graphical designs and once framed, they can add maximum impact to pared-back spaces. With more walls to fill this time round, I'm already on the lookout for new colorful pieces of artwork to display in my apartment.

3. Create statement lighting moments

neutral living room with unexpected red lamp

(Image credit: Studio Atkinson)

A neutral space is the perfect opportunity to create statement lighting moments with colorful lamps that add warmth and design interest to a room. Just like this red lamp that contrasts against the white walls and neutral sofa (perfectly demonstrating the unexpected red theory), I'll be incorporating colorful lamps throughout my home.

From the entryway to even the kitchen, I'm of the opinion that lamps can work in any room of the home, and the more colorful their design, the better. 

4. Offset neutrals with colorful seating

yellow sofa and gallery wall with antique chest and rug

(Image credit: Julie Soefer)

With additional square footage to work with in my new living room, I'm on the hunt for a new sofa. While previously I would have most likely played it safe by opting for a neutral color, I'm more tempted this time to see this additional piece of furniture as an opportunity to layer even more color into the room.

Admittedly, I won't be going for anything as bright as this yellow one, but I'm currently favoring a deep shade of green or rich terracotta to bring more warmth and vibrancy to the space than a neutral-colored sofa would. 

5. Embrace color through soft furnishings

White bedroom with iron bed with modern style bed sheets

(Image credit: Future)

Lastly, I've learned to never underestimate the importance of soft furnishings in a neutral home. Whether that's bedding, pillows, or throws, these smaller additions are an easy yet hugely effective way to balance neutral tones and layer more color into a space.

I'll be avoiding white bedding since the walls in my new bedroom are white, and instead reaching for a more colorful style – such as the striped bedding below which is high on my wishlist. 

With these decorating ideas, I'm certain that my next neutral apartment won't be lacking in color. If you're also taking on the challenge of creatively adding color to a neutral space, consider these ideas to do so in a subtle and liveable way. 

Emily Moorman
News Writer

Emily Moorman is a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, working across a range of topics spanning interiors, celebrity and emerging trends. With a background in the fashion industry, Emily is well-versed in the world of design and trend cycles. Her undergraduate degree was in Fashion Communication and Promotion which she studied at Norwich University of The Arts, specialising in writing and digital communications.