What would you do? A Reader Needs Help.

Readers, we need your suggestions!

I get a lot of design questions from friends, family and of course potential clients.  Yesterday, I got “quick question” from a friend, who is also a reader, that I wanted to challenge you with.

Claire lives in KC.  She got married just over a year ago.  This past October, her new husband deployed overseas with the army.  She moved into this apartment just after he left, so she could be closer to family.  She’s working on decorating it without her husband but excited for when he comes home.


Question from Claire:
What do I do with the wall above my couch?  It’s the back of the kitchen cabinets.  Because it’s a rental, I cannot paint and cannot put screws or nails into the cabinets.   If I hang anything, it must be secure enough to stay put with a curious cat running the apartment.  Any suggestions?

The low down from Claire:
- The sofa is right up against the wall. There isn’t enough room to pull it forward in the room.
- The way the lay out is, the pass through is sort of a strange so the wall is more of just part of the living room.  The pass-through area is not functional.  
- There is about a foot of drywall above it so you can hang something.
- She wants to keep the pass through open.
- Cannot remove cabinets.
- Has to be fairly inexpensive.
- Cannot change the furniture placement or get new furniture.


My Suggestion:
I love the sofa and the colors that you are incorporating.  Right up my alley! 

These are very basic suggestions, as I thought I’d mainly start a discussion so that others can post possible solutions to this design challenge.

Perhaps you could distract from the problem area.  You could find a screen or room divider that is not solid, paint it a fun color and hang it horizontally from the ceiling, behind the sofa, but in front of the bar area.

room-divider-snowflake  hanging-room-divider-sotto


This could easily become a creative diy project with materials of your choice.

Or, you could hang some fun pendants of some sort.  They do not have to be lighting. 


They could even be made from small IKEA paper lanterns and coffee filters, not unlike the large one below.


What would you do? 

This is a tough one!  Please leave a comment with your suggestions.  Can’t wait to hear your ideas!



  1. A Vintage Vine

    I like your suggestions Kristy…very chic! A gallery wall would be inexpensive too, especially if she used vintage frames and pic's or art work she already had.

  2. Hyphen Interiors

    Thanks! How do you suggest that she attached the frames? She said no adhesive, nails or screws. Basically nothing directly attached to the cabinet backs. Any thoughts? The thing that pops into my mind right now is chicken wire attached to the dry wall above the cabinets and frames on that.

  3. I love your suggestion to suspend something from the ceiling. I think something light and airy would be great to prevent it from monopolizing the space but in a bold eye catching colour. A beautiful teal like that you used to paint your chair would be beautiful and coordinate nicely with the sofa pillows.
    Perhaps something like this diy mobile from Young House Love http://images.younghouselove.com.s3.amazonaws.com/2010/03/mobile-hanging3.jpg
    btw- love the mid-century style wood room screen. I would love to diy that project.

  4. For hanging photos, I have heard mixed reviews for command strips- although they do remove cleanly.

    I tried them but had a fail in my case- apparently they cannot be used on a freshly painted wall. The pkg instructions failed to warn of that but found online that paint should be allowed to cure for a week before using. Perhaps they would have worked had I allowed the paint to cure longer. I wouldn't risk it but others swear by them.

    Perhaps a fabric panel could be hung on the wall portion above the cabinets right near the ceiling. The picture frames could be secured directly to the fabric- because the panel hangs directly against the wall & cabinets, the frames would rest flat against the wall. The fabric would allow her to introduce colour to the space without painting. To secure frames to the fabric, a strong adhesive would work or staple frames from the back side of the fabric.


  5. Love some of your ideas, but I've got a few of my own. Ever heard of M3 Command hooks? They are amazing. They make hooks specifically for picture frames. they run about $2.50 each and the best part is if you hang a picture crooked, just pull the tab and use the extra sticky in the package! No holes, no mess to fix. I probably have about 22 in my house, and we own the place (i love them that much!). Also, If you want cheap, as in free, prints to frame, the NYC public library has a website you can print book pages from. I just printed out some botanicals and hung a series of five in my kitchen. I'll be glad to send some pictures if you're skeptical! Hope I've helped!

  6. Krysstyllanthrox

    I've used the command hooks and the velco-strips they make to hang pictures and mirrors on walls. They work, and so long as you take your time when removing them they do come off cleanly. I lean toward the safe side and use more hooks/strips than I think I need, just to be safe. ie, 2 hooks instead of one and 3 or 4 strips instead of 2

  7. I agree with those who have posted about the command picture strips. They are awesome! My husband and I hung some "art work" that I created using $.50 scrapbook paper and frames that were on sale above our house. I would suggest maybe a picture wall? Or frame some scrapbook paper you like. Hobby Lobby (and Michael's) have really nice frames that you can get for pretty cheap (either by using a coupon or when they have their 50% of frames sales, which is pretty often)

  8. Carol@TheDesignPages

    I think you nailed it Kristy. Those screens are great diy projects for someone on a budget. They'll add some whimsy to the room as well.

  9. I think the space needs some color, and since she can't paint, she could find a fun fabric and wallpaper that whole wall with it or just the recessed area. You use liquid starch to adhere it to the wall and it easily comes off when you need to take it down without damaging the wall. She could also add a mirror over the fabric with the command strips to give it some more depth. I used this wallpaper method in my pantry and it wasn't hard at all.

  10. I vote for using removable wall stickers, like a large cherry blossom branch extending from right to left, or a series of chandeliers (http://www.wallstickershop.com/style/color/blik-chandelier-wall-stickers.html). It would add some visual interest and is easily removable when they want to change it up, or are ready to move out. I used vinyl stickers in my last apartment and it was a cheap way to add design without the permanency of paint.

    Good luck with whatever route Claire decides to go!

  11. Aubrey {All Things Bright and Beautiful}

    It's so hard to deal with these design dilemmas! I think my vote would be for a screen, though…just because of all the issues with hanging something and I just think it would work well with the setup that's goin' on there…Good luck with that!

  12. Hmm, what about a large Typography print? I love the colors she chose too! Love the lighting idea too =)

  13. Hyphen Interiors

    Thanks so much to everyone who has chimed in so far! Awesome ideas! Claire is stoked about the ideas and has a lot to consider. She's very thankful for all of your comments!

  14. A fabric background hung from a rod with a nice mirror or favorite photos would look good. She could make it a gallery wall and hang pictures with a ribbon from the rod :)

  15. Hmmm….I think that by having the couch below that space demands it to be "designed". Not that this is an option, but being a criagslist queen, I would sell the couch and tables. Then I would by two large comfy chairs and angle them from the outer corners of the walls, and a round ottoman coffee table. Then a small taller table for in between the chairs. On the wall to the left side I would put a larger rectangular picture with a darker frame and green, blue, gold, tan, and black color elements. Then line the back of the bar area with equidistant blocky candles. I think instead of making it a focal point, try and divert it from BEING a focal point. It becomes your negative space. I hope that makes sense!

  16. Hyphen Interiors

    I agree. My first thought was to "design" and change the furniture arrangement, but Claire said that is out… I don't think she is able to change the arrangement or furniture itself. Great suggestion, though.

  17. I think the idea of a fabric panel is great. Something lightweight that she can hang from the drywall area above the cabinets that will cover the back of the cabinets, but not the whole space. I also like the idea of hanging an inexpensive rug from that area, again, covering the backs of the cabinets and adding a pop of color and some interest. Something like this from Ikea (less than $20!) and hanging it horizontally:


  18. I'm Busy Procrastinating

    I too was thinking of hanging fabric panels on the "wall" behind the sofa, in a pattern that would bring more color and life to the space. I would also suggest painting the end table, maybe even in a fun color. Lastly, I have all the same pillows on my own sofa (!), and although I like them, I think they read a bit "flat," so maybe I would change out some of the pillows with something that brings a little more color or life, or maybe just more texture?

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