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How To Build A Renter-Friendly Wood Accent Wall

I'm sure you've all seen the accent wall in my old house. That room was my greatest DIY accomplishment -- my sacred space. I used to work out up there, do yoga, exercise, meditate. It was my office. It was my creative sanctuary, where I started my Etsy shop and built my creative empire.

When I left there and moved into my 2-bedroom rental I remember thinking to myself, "It's going to be so long before I can rebuild that wall again!" Boo-hoo. Then I remembered who the f*ck I am and that anything is possible in my world. So I drafted up a plan, grabbed my keys and headed to the Depot.

I still had the paint left over from my old house (Tribal Pottery by Behr, for those asking), and I spent about $30 on the wood. Not bad! The rest of the tools and supplies I already had on hand, thanks to my dad. He helped out a ton with this project. I couldn't have done it alone!

If you're looking to spice up your boring rental (or any room in your house) on a budget, then I highly recommend this DIY. Disclaimer, I had full permission from my landlord to paint and hang stuff. He doesn't quite know that I took it to this extreme, but none of this is permanent! Anyway, here are the supplies needed along with the links to purchase. Note, you don't have to use these specific products, this is just what I bought / already had on hand for this project. If you're a visual person, here is the TikTok tutorial! Now, let's get into it.

Tools Required:

Step-By-Step Builder Guide:

  1. First, purchase your wood. I used 8' long 1x2" furring strips. This is a bit thicker than I'm used to for this type of accent wall, but I figured the thicker they are, the easier it would be to nail them together. Not to mention, significantly cheaper than other options.

  2. Map out the design you want on the wall with painters tape first to give yourself a clear visual of the design and how you're going to put it together. I came up with a two-part design that would connect at the center. I'm a visual person, so this was easier for me than just drawing out a blueprint and gave me a clearer picture of how and where my connecting points would be.

  3. Sand down your wood strips until they're smooth and free of imperfections and jagged edges. I used an orbital sander for speed and efficiency.

  4. Now, you can begin taking your measurements and start cutting your wood! I started with a 90 degree frame across the top and the left side, and then worked my way in on the design. I started this project using a miter box to make my cuts, which took approximately 20 years, so I borrowed my dad's miter saw. I only needed to make 90 and 45 degree cuts with the design I chose.

  5. Once you start making your cuts, you can begin nailing the frame together with a nail gun.

  6. After your frame is complete, fill the creases and connecting points with either wood filler or caulk for a seamless appearance.

  7. Paint your structure. You can either do this part before or after it's on the wall. I chose to do it before because I used a glossy finish on the wood. The back wall is a matte finish in the same color, so I thought this would be a great way to give the wall some dimension. I needed two coats to cover the wood.

  8. Time to hang it on the wall! Once your structure is up against the wall, use your nail gun to nail it right onto the wall - but make sure you're nailing it into a stud. I only used 3 nails total to hold up this bad boy. I thought about using command strips for this project because the structure wasn't that heavy, but I personally never had any luck with command strips. They always end up ripping the drywall completely off, which is much harder to patch up than a few microscopic nail holes.

Every DIY project is a learning experience, and I will be the first to tell you that I made a few mistakes. So this is the part where I give you a few tips and tricks on what I've learned, so that hopefully you don't make the same mistakes as me.

Important Things To Keep In Mind:

  • Make sure to buy straight pieces of wood. I went to two different Home Depots and both of them had an absurd amount of arched wood strips. If you're planning on nailing them directly onto the wall, a slight arch wouldn't hurt. But since this is going to lay flat against my rental wall like a frame, I needed pieces with no bend.

  • The bigger the structure, the more flexible and unstable it will be. With the larger structure, the frame was bending slightly when I attempted to lift it up and place it on the wall, so the seams that I filled ended up cracking. If I had to do this again, I would wait until it is nailed onto the wall to fill and paint the seams.

  • Since these 2" nails are so long, sometimes they pop through the back of the wood if the nail gun is at a weird angle. Watch your aim... also, watch your fingers! Blood was shed, but I won't get into that...

  • When you're making 45 degree angled cuts within a 90 degree frame, start from the inside and work your way out. The nail gun we used was big and bulky, making it difficult to nail certain pieces into place.

I completed this project in one weekend, and it only cost me around $30. Keep in mind, I already had most of the supplies on hand minus the wood. Check out this insane Before and After video! It honestly scares me a little bit...

When it's time for me to move out of here, I'll be able to remove these structures with ease and fill in the small nail holes. But who knows, maybe my landlord will want me to leave it as is! Either way, if I have to take it down and repaint the wall white, it's not a big deal.

I tried to document the process as best I could, but this project required all hands on deck at times. These photos aren't the most glamorous, but I don't like to sugarcoat anything. I wouldn't say this project was super easy, but it also isn't just for advanced DIYers. I definitely had moments of frustration, but anyone can do this! Overall, I think it was well worth it. I finally have my sacred space back, and it's even better than it was before!

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