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Unique Feature Wall & Ceiling Ideas For a Rental + Help Mallory Decide Which One To Choose

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Hey all, Mallory is back and ready for more apartment action. This is Mallory, I’m just talking about myself in the third person for some reason. I already showed you guys my initial studio apartment design plan + shared all of my “stupid” questions that I needed answered by a professional (aka Julie), but I still have one more major question that haunts me in my sleep. It’s a question we all face when designing anything, but especially me as a new designer. It’s that bratty blank white wall behind my bed. What the heck do I do with it?? Yes, I probably could just add some cool art eventually, but I’m greedy and want more. I want it to be a loud, fun statement and I’m striving for my before and after photos to have two things: 1. Shock and 2. Awe. So HOW do I achieve this when I’ve never designed anything before in my life? After staring at thousands of inspiration photos I realized the missing link between my apartment and the rooms I want my apartment to look like – COOL ARCHITECTURE.

Let’s address the elephant in the room…I live in a rental. BUT I think there are ways to add a totally unique, brilliant, never before seen, showstopping, feature wall (if you’re confused why I have so many adjectives in this sentence, click here). We’re ready to go balls-to-the-wall (and even to the ceiling) to figure it out. Trust me, I’m not just going to show you 1,000 different moulding options, but prepare yourself for this post to get a little wild. As Emily would say, let’s get weird.

Before I forget (again), I realized in my last post, I showed you photos of our naked studio apartment, but I never introduced you to the people living in and (trying to) design said apartment – HOW RUDE OF ME. So here it goes, I’m Mallory and this is my boyfriend, Chase, and here are photos of us to prove that we are real people:

I picked photos of us in Palm Springs since the design vibe we’re going for is very much Jonathan Adler’s Parker Palm Springs and Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s The Sands Hotel (these photos were taken at The Sands) –– gotta stay on brand, you know? 🙂 Now that we know each other a little better, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Here’s the LATEST version of the main room design plan (the last one you saw was pretty different and here’s where we’re at now…please note I’m sure this will change again before I show you the final plan).

Bar Cart |Art |Dining Chairs| Dining Table | Pendant | Nightstands | Bed | Bed Area Rug | Lamps | Sofa | Living Area Rug | Credenza | Ottoman | Sofa Pillow | Throw | Pendant Light Shade

Okay now, let’s talk about the reason we’re all here…what are our feature wall options for behind the bed? Let’s start with what Julie suggested:

Box Paneling

design by angela rose home

This option is super solid. It has a lot of texture without being too distracting, plus it easy for renters because you don’t have to shove nails in the ENTIRE wall. Just build it off of the wall then just use a couple screws in the middle + edges and badabingbadaboom, you’re done. I’m sure it’s not actually as easy as I just made it sound, but it’s also not overly hard.

Hot Tip

Julie informed me that the wood has to be a skinny lumber because if you go too thick on the moulding it would require a lot of nails and therefore wouldn't be as renter-friendly.

PVC Pipe Wall

design by anne sage and caroline lee | via design sponge

Remember at the beginning of this post when I said it was going to get wild? This is the beginning of that. I saw this DIY on Design Sponge a while back and I came into an editorial meeting basically screaming “HAVE YOU GUYS SEEN THIS” and then I told Emily I wanted to write a post about unique and “easy” feature walls. Then everyone laughed at the fact that I called this “easy” and they were right, but we all agreed it’s VERY cool. So as you can see I didn’t end up writing about super easy feature walls, but instead, I think this post is more like “the ballsy renter’s unique feature wall” post. Maybe easy feature walls will come later. But I digress. You guys. Seriously how cool is this???

I think this photo is what originally sparked the need for me to create my first design plan mood board for our apartment. When I showed Chase our first-ever future “bedroom” design with a wall full of PVC pipes, he was utterly confused. But, I still think it’s a contender and this idea catapulted our collective strong urge for a feature wall.

Retro Midcentury Wall

photo via inhabit

Let me be honest about something, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this fully fleshed out and executed in a studio apartment, but I think that’s why I’m so interested in maybe trying it out. I found this idea from Sugar and Cloth, and it seems super easy since it looks like it only requires a couple of nails on the corners of each panel. Also if you’re not into this exact panel style, there are a bunch of options over on Inhabit you can check out. Overall, this option seems the most in theme with the palm springs vibe, but Chase and I are worried it’s a little TOO retro for our style. When it really comes down to it, we don’t live in the 60s or in Palm Springs, so we don’t know how far to lean in there. What do you think?

Cane Wall


design by mandi gubler of vintage revivals

After I wrote this post about the best DIY bloggers which featured this DIY cane wall, Jess personally called me to say this could be the one. Jess, I like it and I agree. I mean, it’s basically the box moulding with a lil something something. If we were going to go for it, I think going for the caning with the little tiny circles in it would be more my speed, and then maybe we could paint the wood part white? Or all of it white?? Check it out below and let me know what you think…

Wood Slat Wall

WE ARE VERY INTO THIS. It feels very contemporary, and we like that. Not to mention all of the common areas throughout the apartment complex has this sort of stuff EVERYWHERE so we think it might be fun to incorporate this. Should we paint this too?? Or leave a wood kinda texture? Again…the photoshopped version is down below!!

Faux Beam Ceiling

design by brian paquette interiors | photo by laure joliet

It’s about to get even crazier now, guys. Our apartment complex name has the word “Bungalow” IN IT, so when we were trying to get some design inspo, we searched “hollywood bungalow” on Pinterest and we got incredibly jealous and obsessed with what we found. THEY ALL HAVE THESE VERY CUTE AND BEAUTIFUL BEAMS. We too would like some cute, beautiful beams. I thought it was impossible (it still might be), but as we were looking through these photos and I was feeling discouraged, Chase convinced me we should keep this option open because he thinks it can be possible. He’s very persuasive and also very right about me having an ego sometimes when his ideas are better than mine, so Chase, I’m publically sorry for shutting you down about this beam idea at first.

We started doing some more research about the beam concept and came across this video about faux beams. In the video, this girl literally describes these beams to be “light as foam.” This could work because if it comes crashing down on our heads there’s likely to be no death by beams, right?? There’s a high risk for this to go very wrong, but if it works, it’s going to change the space drastically like it did in this apartment therapy blog post. But do we think it will even look good? There are white and black beam options photoshopped below…

DRUMROLL PLEASE… The Photoshopped Options

Box Paneling

All I’m going to say is Julie is always right. This is the option I’m definitely leaning toward since it looks clean and has a ton of texture. I just like that it’s not too much (but is still a wow:)).

PVC Pipe Wall

The amount of vertical stripes in this makes me feel straight overwhelmed. I still love this idea and concept, but I’m not sure if this is quite right for the space. Do you guys agree??

Retro Wall

She’s fun, flirty, and VERY palm springs retro. I think this option is very cool and unique but is it too much? Does it beat out the box paneling option?

Cane Wall

This is definitely leaning into the “bungalow” idea like I mentioned before. Plus, it’s very similar to the box paneling, it’s just a little warmer since it’s a natural color…is it sleek enough though for the overall vibe we’re trying to achieve?

Wood Slat Wall

Again with the vertical stripe thing…I’m not sure if I 100% love it, but this is why we photoshop and try things online so we can figure out if it’s worth pursuing. The wood slat thing might be my least favorite. What do you think?

The Faux Ceiling Beams

Please enjoy these renderings that I unprofessionally created on top of a regular photo in photoshop. If we can swing this without ruining the ceiling, I’d be all in. What do you think? Should I attempt it? And which color…white or black? So many questions and I desperately need your help. PLEASE COMMENT BELOW WHAT THE HECK WE SHOULD DO!!

El Fin.

Opening Image Credit: Design by Anne sage and Caroline Lee | via Design Sponge

Fin Mark

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Jenny W

Black beams, wood slat wall. I think you will need the warmth and texture of wood to balance all of the black and white. 🙂

Mara

Retro wall

Katie

This! I love the retro wall!

It’s similar to the slats but way more unexpected and uncommon.

Plus – how many chances will you have to do an amazing retro wall on the actual Hollywood Boulevard again? You can pretty much put slats into any house (although if you go this way I’m sure it will still be very cool).

Bente

Agree! So good! I feel like the others are starting to hit insta….Except for the pvc which looks amazing but seems like a nightmare to execute 🤣

karen

I like the cane and the slats. They’re all good options though.

Sigrid

Those are my favourites too! Love how the sofa looks against the natural materials.

Margaret

Not to rain (much) on your parade, but any additional horizontal surfaces are going to add exponentially to the amount of dust you have to deal with. I have a picture ledge running around most of my bedroom walls–I really like it, because I can add, subtract, and re-arrange nail- free–but it gets furry fast.
Not saying don’t do it, just saying be prepared to put in some serious time with your vacuum cleaner, the extension rods, and the dusting brush.
I like the box version.

Jan Kuhl-Urbach

That’s what I think too-I LOVE the cane and slat walls, but it would be really difficult to clean dust out of the caning and in that tiny space behind it-allergy city.

Tracey (From KY)

Cane or wood slats

Ashley

team cane wall or wood slats! both make the room feel so warm

CATHERINE Zea

Beans, slat and cane

Cane slat wall. Love it.

Carla

Wood slats!

Carla

Wood slat!

Elle

Agree, wood slats look great, but change the rug, too many stripes.

Isabel

Love the paneling idea… Maybe you can spice it up a bit with different sizes/shape boxes.

Having said that, the cane looks pretty cool too!
Good luck!

LouAnn

I think they all look cool except for that PVC pipe wall which is just hideous.

Kelly

Regarding the PVC pipes, am I the only thinking about crazy off gassing if it’s at all warm in the summer?!

davoco

maybe foam cylinders cut in half, a la Brady’s headboard masterpeice? (minus the fabric)

Carmen

Wood slat 1,40m high and black beams. Love it!

Nissa

I love the box beans but I think I’m actually team ‘retro wall.’ It’s perfect for the vibe you’re going for and keeping it white would calm it down a smidge.

Alice

Black ceiling beams.

Lauren H

Retro wall 100%

Rebekah

I love the first one – box paneling. I feel like it really flows nicely with the rest of the room. My second choice would probably be the caning. It’s going to look great! Excited to see how it all turns out.

Wood slat wall and Jeep is wood toned!💕

Carolyn

I’m DYING to see this transformation, as someone who is also ballsy in a rental… I really want to see how you do all of them realistically, but top for me would be PVC or the wood slats. The cane wall is epic but Mandy already did that recently, lets see you try something new!! Love the young renter content!

Nicky

That slat wall looks amazing.

A

Ok, as someone who lives in a place with actual post & beam construction the idea of faux beams is just… terrible. On so many levels! 1. Beams are a structural support, not a decorative option. As such, they would not be laid out in vertical lines throughout an alcove… so it already looks inauthentic before you even notice the material! 2. Earthquakes. Enough said. 3. I don’t know how dusty your home gets (we have a wood stove & a crummy heating system in our rental so the dust & cobwebs are bad) but cleaning our beams sucks! I can’t even imagine wanting to deal with a more fragile variety in a studio apartment. I also wouldn’t want to deal with fixing that wall upon moving out… and most of these options require that. Why no large screens or fabric hangings as an option? One of the columnists at manrepeller did a really beautiful large screen behind her bed (forget who, just search apartment on there). I personally prefer to err on the side of easy to clean and easy to walk away from, but that’s just me!( We have moved from many, many rentals.)

Lisa

Yes. Good point! And they could wash it occasionally vs. dust. We have high shelves about the bed, so dusting is necessary and makes a mess.

Eileen

I really like the mid century retro wall. I think it is the option that complements your windows best, which are also a bit of a statement themselves. The ceiling beams just don’t feel right to me in this apartment. But I’m sure it will be great no matter what you decide! Have fun getting weird!

Suzanne

PVC pipe wall!

Megan

My vote is for the wood slat wall! I love the way it looks, and I think it meshes well with your other design choices.

Susan

Retro or cane! 😊

KP

Ok. So. The house I live in had two really horrible feature walls when I bought it – one in the living room and one in the bedroom. We removed the one in the living room immediately on moving in, and it was such an awful, time consuming, totally unpleasant experience that it has now been 20 months and we’re still living with the horrible feature wall in the bedroom. We’re that scarred.
Anyway, I am here to tell you that RETRO MIDCENTURY WALL is exactly what is in my house and it’s bad. It looks good in pictures but up close it looks cheap, plastic-y, hollow and … not custom. And the removal. I can’t even. I am also here to tell you that, after we ruin all the drywall trying to remove said retro midcentury wall, and have to replace all the drywall and get it re-plastered and re-painted, I am considering the wood slat wall. Ergo, my vote is the wood slat wall and the moral of this story is definitely still have a feature wall but definitely do not let it be the retro midcentury wall. Good luck!

Elizabeth

Yikes, that is a compelling anecdote! Is it possible that they could use a different material though? A not cheap, plasticky version?

GJ

Retro wall is my top pick but I love the cane wall too. The box paneling is nice but it seems like you want more of a wow factor!

Julia

Black beams. 100%

Kali

Cane wall! The room needs some warmth in there and I agree – all vertical is too much. But cane is very Hollywood bungalow!

Josh

The wood slat seems most in line with the rest of your furniture and looks cleanest. Second pick is the cane. Last would be the box wall.

Josh

The box wall feels very builder-grade basic which I’m sure is not your goal. It’s a great feature, but it’s probably the least expensive that builders love to use to make homes feel more custom. Almost every new spec home in my area seems to have this feature. Too much of a good thing and it’s no longer special. 🙁

Jessica

Team box paneling!

Anastasia Diakides

Box paneling or retro wall. But I think the black bed seems weird in there. The inspiration photo for the box paneling has a more neutral bed color.

Stefanie Schofield

i vote: retro, cane or wood slat!

Deb

Retro wall!

Patricia

I’m totally team box paneling. I thought of that even before you showed the inspiration photos. Yes, yes, yes. It will take a little math to get the spacing right (that’s what Julie is for). Also, show your landlord the inspiration photo, maybe he/she will like it so much and deduct the cost from your rent. And let you leave it when you move. It’s that cool.

Annie K

My favorite thing about the box paneling is that you said you liked it the best. Of course we all love the more interesting options, but that’s because we won’t be living in your one bedroom with you. In a small space- I’m there too- I think we get to feel some envy and fantasy about the features that would be amazing…but belong in a house with somewhere else to escape to. Living in a busy world and coming home to a busy home…it’s just not for everyone. If the box paneling makes you feel like you can breathe out, if you feel calm, I think go with it and you will not regret it. And it looks great!

Emily

Cane wall all the way!

Hanh

Voting cane or slats too 🙂

Molly

I think the caned wall adds some warmth and picks up the tone of the media console. The retro wall could be really fun too since that’s the style you’re aiming for.

Deborah

Another option is Anaglypta, which Daniel Kanter used in his bathroom refresh (https://manhattan-nest.com/2019/06/18/my-upstairs-bathroom-refresh-the-big-reveal/). It’s basically thick, textured wallpaper that you can paint whatever color you want.

Paula

I LOVE anaglyptic!

Erin

Box paneling or wood slats are cool and also more timeless. Caning is pretty but something feels off. Retro is too busy and almost too “look at me” if that makes sense. I didn’t think I would like the PVC but it’s not bad although it competes with the bed. If you would go that route I think you would need a bed that is more simple/sleek. What if you ran the PVC horizontally rather than vertically? Evokes the feeling of the current bed but across the whole wall. To another poster’s point, this could be a dust magnet. As for an even more weird idea, do the PVC horizontal only the width of the bed or so (would obviously need to have some sort of framing/capping for the sides) and run it all the way up the wall and across the ceiling. So essentially, a horizontal PVC striping up and across the room. It would give you some of the ceiling architecture you seem to be interested in but in a very unique way. Now photoshopped out, this could be hideous but in my head it is kind of a fun idea!

Ann

I like the slats but would run it horizontally so that you could use the grooves to hang floating nightstands and shelves.

Elle

One word: Dust. In SoCal, which is desert dry, it is a Problem.

Kara

I vote for the retro wall! I love how the curves in the shapes in the retro wall options mimic the curves in your credenza, sofa, dining table base. The glam of Palm Springs is a real vibe but doesn’t have to be “too much” especially when painted white rather than colors and paired with some of your other fixtures that you have chosen to be more modern. Any of the options are going to look great! Love seeing these posts about rentals!

Jennifer

Wood slats, for sure.

Trudy

Retro Wall! That whole mood board is perfection.

For the curved wall feature, and an element of sound dampening, look at this system. I met them at a Dwell on Design years ago and was very impressed by this felt panel system plus they can be made in many different colors, so bonus!!!https://www.filzfelt.com/images/uploads/downloads/FF_ARO_Plank_2.pdf

Kath

Cane wall 😊

Michelle

I am a big fan of the wood slat wall… but I also design custom millwork as part of my job so maybe I’m biased?! IDK! But whats nice about the wood slat is you can change the dimensions to get what you are looking for. Using thinner pieces of wood would decrease the “stripey” feeling. Alternatively you could look into a product that has texture incorporated into it (decoustics quadrillo panel comes to mind) but is actually a panel. That would make for easier install/future tear down.

cane wall! though I like all of the options except the wood slats.

Jess

The wood slat wall is the most visually appealing at first glance for me!

Linda Burns

I love the box paneling. It looks so elegant!

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