The reason most of us don’t cover every inch of our homes with wallpaper is simple math: A roll costs an average of $25 to $50, so you’ll likely spend around $1,000 making over a decent-size room. That doesn’t mean you have to settle for a boring solid paint color, though—you’ll be surprised how much you can do with a brush.
There are infinite ways to spice up your walls, and skill has nothing to do with it. You can totally wing your strokes (free-form painting is incredibly liberating), map out illustrations with a pencil, or stick with familiar geometric shapes, all to mesmerizing effect. These 10 wall painting designs will get you thinking outside the solid-hued box.
The Simple Silhouettes
This landscape is about as uncomplicated as it gets—the pattern is so straightforward that blogger Cassie Bustamante didn’t even sketch it out before deciding to swathe her blank white hallway in the dark green curves. Once all her arches had dried, she used a small angled artist’s brush to clean up the edges.
The Corner Accent
According to artist Abbey Chiavario, a mural doesn’t have to be a whole wall and a project doesn’t have to be expensive to be eye-catching. Using leftover (aka free!) paint she had from another project, she created a vibrant citrus backdrop for a hanging plant in her office.
The Geometric Forms
This tone-on-tone scheme at the Russel Hotel in Nashville is all about crisp lines and large fields of color. If you’re good with a ruler and a level, these nontraditional blocks are calling your name.
The Supersize Doodle
Drawing squiggles isn’t just for kids. Thick black swirls, like the ones in this stairway, designed by muralist Ashley Mary, can be ultra-elevated when implemented on an extra-large scale.
The Color-Blocked Doorway
Believe it or not, Liz Kamarul tackled each shape in this arrangement without any blue tape. The design blogger and DIY-er says marking all the lines slow her down—and doesn’t change the fact that bleeding is inevitable. Instead, she suggests using a different brush for each blob and taking the time to achieve a seamless edge by hand.
The Strokes of Genius
Muralist Tiffany Lusteg took a patchwork-like approach to this sweet playroom. Shade by shade, she layered various tones of pink and touches of gold until she was left with winding, cloudlike forms.
The Status Symbols
Mila Moraga-Holz went beyond circles and rectangles for her colorful breakfast nook, featuring abstract nods to plant life and stars. After painting the background Radicchio by Farrow & Ball, the blogger drew her shapes with a pencil and filled them in using sample-size cans of latex paint, applying two to three coats for each figure.
The only thing cooler than a platform bed is a groovy mural that spans the whole wall behind it. The three-tone profiles at the Dive Hotel & Swim Club in Nashville get rid of the need for a headboard.
The Floral Exterior
The Kin Euphorics building in Brooklyn, designed by Studio Proba, makes a case for taking your brightest ideas outside. Just be sure to select a paint that’s latex based (they’re the most durable and dry the fastest).
The Ombré Arches
Canadian muralist Racheal Jackson’s kids aren’t likely to grow tired of this trio of gradient archways, each one of which has three layers (dark, medium, and light). Switch out the art and change up the bedding and—voilà!—a whole new room.