10 Ways to Decorate an Exposed Brick Wall Without Drilling

March 15, 2016

6sqft’s series Apartment Living 101 is aimed at helping New Yorkers navigate the challenges of creating a happy home in the big city. This week we offer up ideas for decorating exposed brick walls without drilling.

Exposed brick is one of the most common architectural elements in NYC apartments — even otherwise bland spaces often feature the material. Though it offers tons of character, it can make decorating quite challenging since drilling into brick isn’t the easiest task. Renters especially have a tough time, as putting holes in a brick wall can be a big no-no for landlords. But 6sqft has come up with 10 ways to dress up such walls, no drill necessary. Thanks to decor like string lights and ladders, you’ll never have to stare at a blank brick wall again.

brick wall-garland
Garland from Lucy Birdy/Etsy

1. Garland

We tend to think of garland in its pom pom form for children’s rooms, but there are plenty of adult-worthy versions out there. Using wrapping paper, wallpaper, or fabric you can cut out fun designs of just about anything (some of our favorites includes simple triangles or hearts cut from old map pages) and string them onto some twine or ribbon. Other ideas include tassels, feathers dipped in paint, and felt balls from the craft store. It’s also an inexpensive way to change decor out seasonally, and since they’re so lightweight they’ll hang from your brick wall with just a few tacks or mounting putty.

brick wall-string lights
String lights via Juliana Isaac

2. String lights 

Similar to garland, string lights come in all sorts of sophisticated varieties these days, many of which are nice and lightweight. We prefer subtle versions like those pictures above; clunky lights like the notorious chili peppers can distract from the classic brick wall. Some tacks or tiny stick-on hooks should do the trick.

Ljung & Ljung, Bamboo Lights, Scadinavian design, Thai bamboo, bamboo craft, Sop Moei Arts
POP lanterns on 6sqft via Studio Ljung & Ljung 

3. Lanterns

Another way to use light is by hanging lanterns from the ceiling. This alleviates the need to work with the brick directly, but still uses it as a backdrop. Hang the fixtures at varying heights and select different colors, patterns, or shapes to create a more artistic look.

93 lexington avenue, sitting area, loft, loft co-op, clinton hill, copper elevatorImage via the Corcoran Group on 6sqft

4. Hanging plants

This is the same idea as the lanterns — use the ceiling as your surface instead of the wall. Hang various indoor plants at different heights using the brick as a canvas.

brick wall-unframed
Image via Decor8

5. Unframed pictures

Hanging unframed pictures, papers, and postcards doesn’t have to look messy. If you’re going the paper route, pick a color palette, but vary the sizes and designs. Postcards of all types work nicely together since they’re the same size. Thinking of doing a photo collage? Why not print them all in sepia or use one of today’s fun Instagram printers?

hanging Empty Frames

6. Lightweight frames

Simple wood or plastic frames don’t weigh much, so can be hung up with adhesive hooks. Find them in different colors (or paint them yourself), sizes, and finishes to create an artistic collage.

brick wall-fabric

7. Fabric and curtains

Because they’re so light, curtains or large fabric panels make great wall art. Use them to frame out spaces (like the faux headboard above) or simply stand in place of a colorful painting. To tie them off to the side use a hook mounted horizontally.

brick wall-ladder
Image from Urban Outfitters’ Firefly String Lights

8. Ladders

If you don’t want to adhere anything at all to your brick wall, consider a decorative ladder. Some models have deep enough steps to hold tchotchkes, but they’re also another great way to adorn the wall with lights, garland, and plants.

brick wall-mirrorImage via the Corcoran Group on 6sqft

9. Leaning pictures or mirrors

Oversized pictures and mirrors don’t always need to get hung up. Consider leaning them against your brick wall for a decorative effect that helps ground the room. If you go the mirror route, a nice addition it to place a cabinet or table in front of it to add depth.

brick wall-bookshelves
Image via DigsDigs

10. Backless bookcases

You can still display all your books and keepsakes while letting the brick shine through with a backless bookcase. Just make sure the structure is made to stand without the back and will be sturdy enough.

brick clip

Bonus! Brick Clips

If all else fails (and if your specific brick allows), hang up your heavier paintings, mirrors, or sconces with Brick Clips. They hook on to the lip of the actual brick and can hold up to 25 pounds each.


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