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wallpaper – do not be afraid!

I say “wallpaper” and you cringe. I used to be that way too. I have vivid memories of spending hours and hours at friend’s places with a scoring tool, steamer, stripping solutions and painstakingly peeling hideous old wallpaper off the walls left behind by the previous homeowners.

Well, I am now a convert. Today’s wallpaper options are just not like that anymore. There are a whole host of options readily available – textured, paintable, made from recycled paper – and so much more. Retro, modern, kiddie, traditional, contemporary prints and patterns…there is a lot to choose from. No matter what you decide, wallpaper can add volumes of style to your space at a relatively low cost. All it takes is a little bit of elbow grease and a little bit of patience.

My favorite product (so far) is the Debbie Travis line of paintable, textured wallpaper. It’s heavy so it’s easy to work with and it’s already primed, so it saves you a step when it comes to painting. Available at Canadian Tire for approx $20.00 a roll, it comes in a variety of patterns and textures. It’s great for covering cracks, problem walls, ceilings and paneling.

Tip: to calculate how many rolls you’ll need, measure the size of the walls you want to cover in square meters (multiply the width by the height), subtract the surface area of any doors, windows or other openings, and divide by 4.8. If you forget this formula, it’s also written on the outside of the packaging!

All you do is wet it, wait 5 minutes for the adhesive to activate and put it on the wall. Using your hand or a dry & clean paint roller, smooth it out to make sure there are no wrinkles in the paper and let it dry overnight before painting. Because the paper is so thick and heavy, there are virtually no bubbles to worry about. Any minimal lifting will disappear when the paper dries to the wall and shrinks ever so slightly. You can barely see the seams after it’s painted.

And here’s the best part – if you ever get tired of it, you can repaint it or remove it. To remove, you simply wet it again and the entire strips will peel off with no damage to the wall behind it.

I used the “large dots” wallpaper on one wall of this bedroom in my own home. I painted it the same color as the walls so it would be a bit more subtle and allow the pattern & texture to be what really pops. Viola! — a fun and interesting focal point. Without exception, every person who gets a tour of my home walks into the room and heads directly to this wall to touch it. I love it. It adds so much to the room, and it makes me smile every time I look at it. (See “vintage gems” blog for info on lamps.)

Tip: the key to installing is to spend all the time you need to make sure the first strip of paper installed is plumb (and level). This product is made so that each strip automatically matches the pattern of the next strip, so there is very little fussing to do and very little waste.

Warning: Because the strong, symmetrical pattern draws your attention, if your beginning point is not plumb, it will be really obvious.

Here are the before & after photos of an entryway in the home of a recent redesign client of mine. He wanted to up the “wow factor” to welcome guests into his space. There is a large, brushed steel framed mirror on the far back wall of the dining room that you can see from the doorway (not shown).

Drawing from this much loved piece, we opted to go with the more industrial looking “metal” pattern. Painted with a similar metallic paint, this entryway wall is now much more interesting and gives you a small taste of what you can expect in the rest of the house.

We decided to install this paper on the horizontal, instead of on the vertical because the wall space was just slightly larger than the width of one strip. So there are more seams, but they are all symmetrical and therefore much less noticeable to the eye. There was a little extra wasted paper in matching the pattern and it took a little extra time, but it was well worth it.

A special shout out to my client for having a keen sense of foresight and vision on this one!

Tip: metallic paints are often thinner than regular paints and you can see the seaming more when you use it on paintable wallpaper. Be prepared for this…or be prepared to put on a few extra coats of paint.

Now imagine painting the large dots a bright pink or purple in a little girl’s room. Or a classy grey or silver in a modern living room or hallway. Think about the metal pattern painted in a copper or bronze in a kitchen or bathroom. How about a fun blue or green in a boy’s room? Think of either in just about any color in just about any space…the possibilities make my head swirl!

Wallpaper. Do not be afraid any longer.

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