Trend alert: wallpaper is cool again. And—thank goodness—it’s become easier to use, too!
Gorgeous wallpapers are all over Instagram, but when most of us click “like” on those perfect pics, we believe they’re so beautiful that they’re far out of reach. You wouldn’t be alone if you thought a wallpaper project was too messy or expensive to DIY. And aligning those patterns or creating a straight line? Sounds like a chevron-print pipe dream. Luckily for you, companies are making pretty papers that are much more wallet friendly and accessible to DIYers. “If you can assemble Ikea furniture, you can ace a peel-and-stick wallpaper project," says artist, author, and Jungalow blogger Justina Blakeney.
“It doesn’t have to be four full walls in a crazy print,” says Chasing Paper founder Elizabeth Rees. “Start with a small project that will give you confidence to try it again.” Some companies, including Chasing Paper, offer two-by-four-foot panels so you can work in smaller sections and buy smaller amounts if you’re using them in a narrow nook or utility space. They’re designed so each panel’s pattern will seamlessly blend into the next—helping you avoid the struggle to line up florals or stripes. Even high-end brands are making their products more user friendly. York Wallcoverings now offers Sure Strip, a water-activated adhesive that lets you slide the panels into alignment; then, if you add more water when you’re ready to redecorate, each piece will easily peel off.
Choose the Right Look for the Room
Choosing wallpaper is all about personal preference. With the huge array of patterns, colors, and textures out there, pinning up sample squares can help you decide what works best before you commit to buying several rolls or sheets. “If you have to learn to love it,” says interior designer Janie Molster, “it’s probably not a good choice.”
If you’re new to wallpaper, consider using it on an accent wall or in a powder or laundry room—someplace you’re not spending the bulk of your time. A graphic print can have a big impact on a small space, so you’ll get a huge bang for your (literal and proverbial) buck. Alternatively, if you’re struggling with an open floor plan, says Molster, wallpapering one section of the large space can help define distinct living areas. Add a few panels by your front door to establish an entryway or on the wall behind your dining table to create a visual boundary between your entertaining space and an open kitchen. If you would prefer to do a full room but are apprehensive about going too bold with pattern, opt for a subtly textured wall covering, such as grass cloth. It’s ultra-forgiving when it comes to nail holes too. When you remove a nail, says interior designer Jason Oliver Nixon, “just move the grass-cloth fiber over a little bit and it should hide the hole.”
If you love the current style of your room but want to kick up the character, look into wallpaper that’s the same shade as the room’s most dominant color. Paint companies like Farrow & Ball produce their wallpaper using the colors of their paints, so a transition from solid to patterned is simple.
Prep the Wall
Before you paper, assess the quality of your wall—bumpy surfaces are not recommended, as the texture can compromise the integrity of the pattern. But if you just have small cracks and holes from when you attempted a gallery wall, there’s no need to patch those. “Wallpaper is a great way of covering blemishes, marks, holes, and dings,” says Rees. Large cracks that could potentially let moisture seep in, however, should be repaired with spackle before papering.
If you have old wallpaper to remove first, score it with the Zinsser PaperTiger tool ($7.50; homedepot.com), then coat the surface with the brand’s DIF Wallpaper Stripper ($8.60; acehardware.com). Enzymes in the gel help remove stubborn wallpaper without the hassle of a steamer or the mess of a solution.
No matter what, give the wall a coat of primer so your wallpaper has a clean surface to hang from. Professional wallpaper hanger Mark Turner notes that primer is essential if you use wallpaper-stripper gel; otherwise, your new paper will fall right off.
Use a four-foot level to mark a straight horizontal edge at the top of the area you’re papering; that line will serve as your hanging guide. Don’t rely on the border between wall and ceiling, because it may not actually be level. Prep your paper by applying a glue or moistening it to activate the adhesive. Let it sit for a few minutes, then carry the strip to the wall. Line the top left corner of the strip along the horizontal line at the top left corner of your wall, smoothing as you go with your hand or a smoother tool (an old gift card will work in a pinch).
If your wallpaper is more like a mural than an unending pattern, start in the middle of the room, so your picture is centered on the wall, and work your way outward.
Use a sharp blade to trim any overages. Then post your handiwork on Instagram.
The Best Wallpaper Sources to Shop
Our design experts’ go-to sources: