Wallpaper 101

October 31, 2018

Wallpaper 101


You don’t have to be an expert to apply wallpaper.

Tackling a wallpaper project on your own can seem daunting. But fear not! Max Humphrey—interior designer extraordinaire of Decorist—shows how to easily achieve the wallpapered room of your dreams.

Peel and Stick vs. Paste Paper

Consider your living situation and level of commitment when deciding which kind of wallpaper you’re going to use. You have three choices: peel and stick, prepasted paper activated by water, and paper that needs a soluble solution applied to the wall. Peel-and-stick paper is easier to remove, making it ideal for rentals, dorm rooms, and experimental projects. They can also fake the texture of wood panels, brick, and stucco. Smaller decals, like dots and other eye-catching shapes, are also a great choice, and add interest to an already painted wall. This may lead one to wonder: Why bother with the mess of prepasted or traditional paper when it’s easy to peel and stick on a roll instead? Well, contrary to popular belief, any kind of wallpaper that uses paste or a soluble can actually be easier to apply. Because pastes and solubles take time to dry, you have more wiggle room to correct any mistakes with mismatched seams. They also create a stronger bond. The only downfall? They’re more difficult to remove.

Wallpaper Color and Pattern

The size of your room can help determine color scheme and pattern. Steer clear of small, saturated prints and bright colors in a larger space, as they can add a dizzying effect. Instead, consider a monochromatic color scheme with larger patterns and prints, and a neutral mix of hues, like gray, beige, navy, and white. With a smaller room, you can spice things up a bit. Florals, quatrefoils, and dots are all fair game. Explore bright color palettes and bold patterns that contrast with your decor. Max suggests mixing traditional prints with modern sofas and side tables, and geometric patterns in a more classic setting.

Accent Walls and Art Projects

We’re all about a fun accent wall, so long as it’s done tastefully. If you apply wallpaper to only one wall in a large, square room, you may have guests wondering if you ran out of paper a quarter of the way through. To play it safe, choose a space that’s clearly defined, like a breakfast nook, corner, or a protruding wall. Wallpaper can be used in unexpected places as well! Think wallpaper backsplash in a kitchen or tiled bathroom. Wallpaper can even extend to furniture — try a saturated print to spruce up drawer fronts and tabletops.

Wallpaper Prep and Application

Before applying your paper, clear out the room, clean your walls, and assemble a step ladder. Then comes the hardest part: measuring and cutting. Measure your walls from floor to ceiling, leaving a few more inches at the top and bottom. After the wallpaper is in place, trim off the excess wallpaper with a sharp razor knife. If you’re using pasted paper, apply the paste onto the wall with a paint roller for an even coat, then add the paper, starting at the top of the wall. If your seams don’t match up, gently peel back the paper (avoid pulling, as this can tear the paper) and reapply. For prepasted paper, soak the roll in a bucket of water first, then follow the same steps as pasted paper. To apply peel-and-stick paper smoothly, peel back the paper with a small portion of the sticky side against the top of the wall, slowly removing the rest of the backing as you move down. Smooth out any bumps and bubbles with a spatula tool and you’re done!

-Holly Stephens




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