12 Easy and Affordable Ways to Transform Your Apartment With Just Paint

March 23, 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, the pros from Paintzen (“the Uber for painting”) share some easy and affordable ways to transform an apartment using just paint. 

With the countless other tasks on New Yorkers’ agendas, finding time to do some interior upgrading can seem daunting. But thankfully, there are some quick and easy fixes that you can do – in the smallest of apartments and over the busiest of weekends – that require nothing more than paint. From simple accent walls and chalkboard paint to more funky techniques like ombre walls and patterns, here are 12 tips for transforming your space with paint.

57 West 93rd Street 4A, Upper West Side real estate, Upper West Side rentals, NYC furnished apartments
Image via Douglas Elliman. See more on 6sqft >>

1. Accents walls

You don’t need to add color to every wall for paint to make an impact. In fact, painting only certain areas will make the color pop even more. Rather than painting a full room, try painting just one accent wall. You’ll still get a burst of color, and give yourself a more unique backdrop for shelves, mirrors or picture frames. Kitchen backsplashes, the area below cabinets and above countertops, are the perfect place to add pizzazz to an otherwise bland kitchen.

color blocking, paint ideas
Image via Karwei

2. Color blocking

Similar to accent walls, by painting just a section of a wall you can frame a piece of art, make a backdrop for a shelf display, or create a faux headboard in a bedroom.

two tone walls
Image via A Merry Mishap

3. Two-tone walls

No ladder? No problem. Apply painter’s tape horizontally at a certain height below your ceiling and paint from floor to tape for a mod look.

ombre walls
Image via DecorarUnaCasa

4. Ombre walls

This fade-out technique is actually much simpler than expected. For a single-color effect, paint the bottom half of the wall a darker color. While the paint is still wet, use a spray bottle of water to thin the remaining paint. Then, take a paint sponge to spread out the lighter hues up the wall. For a multi-color ombre, choose three complimentary colors. Paint the entire wall the lightest color, and then paint the next two in succession up the wall. While it’s still wet, use a dry paintbrush to blend the colors.

633 East 11th Street, Alphabet City, wood trim, common garden
Image via the Corcoran Group. See more on 6sqft >>

5. Paint walls and ceilings different colors

This is a tricky one because you don’t want the paint overwhelm the room, but if you choose complimentary colors like the ones seen above, it can create a very warm aesthetic. Go for lighter tones on the walls and darker on the ceiling to help the space from feeling closed in.

Amandine and Jules, paint techniques
Image via Amandine & Jules

6. Use paint to define spaces

It can be challenging to define separate “rooms” in studio apartments and open lofts, so use a bit of paint to delineate functions. The image above takes the tip quite literally, but you can also paint just a strip on the wall or have the overall color change from a darker to lighter shade.

RInaldi-Interior-design-door frame
Image via Rinaldi Interior Design. See more on 6sqft >>

7. Touch up trim

Color isn’t only about your walls. A unique way to add life to your home is to touch up the trim. This means your baseboards (along the floor), door frames, or window trim. If you have colored walls, try a bright and shiny white for a crisp look. White walls? Be bold and try colored trim for an eye-catching look.
Dustin O'neal tiny lower east side apartmentImage by Erin Kestenbaum. See more on 6sqft >>

8. Paint door edges

Similar to trim, door edges are a subtle yet impactful way to add color. It’s less forceful than painting an entire door frame, and it adds a fun and surprising element to your design.
Jessica Helgerson Design, painted shelvesImage via Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. See more on 6sqft >>

9. Color surprise spaces

Have a little extra paint to use? Try it in these hidden spaces for a super fun surprise splash of color — inside of drawers, back of bookcases or open shelves, window ledges.
paint patternImage via Homedit

10. Paint patterns

Wallpaper can be a bit too permanent for apartments, and oftentimes you don’t want a pattern covering the entire wall, which is why painted patterns are a great alternative. They can be as simple as stripes or as intricate as the design above. Use painter’s tape, aided by a measuring tape and a ruler, to section off the pattern and then paint in the empty spaces. Peel off the tape and voila.
chalkboard paintImage via Lowes

11. Use chalkboard paint

Make your space both pleasing and productive with chalkboard paint. It’s available in any color and will make whatever it is applied to a write-able surface. In the kitchen, a chalkboard paint job allows you to label cabinets and drawers so you never misplace things again, create easy-access grocery lists, and write passive aggressive notes to roommates who don’t do the dishes. These walls are also great in playrooms and homes offices.

Bohemian Apartment by Incorporated Architecture & Design
Image via Incorporated Architecture and Design. See more on 6sqft >>

12. Paint furniture to match walls

This is a great hack for small-space dwellers. By painting furniture the same shade as the wall behind it, the piece blends in and the room feels larger.

Lead image via Beth Bourque Design Studio



Paintzen is a revolutionary service that makes it quick and easy to get your home or office painted by a trustworthy professional. All painters are insured and background checked, and the convenient online process handles everything, from scoping a project and getting a quote to booking and payment. Considered “the Uber of painting,” Paintzen uses high quality Benjamin Moore Paints in over 3,000 shades and various finishes.


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