free wallpaper sample books & their uses

by | Jul 15, 2020 | All Things Home, Decorating | 38 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I drove over to the local paint store to pick up an order.  They are only serving customers curb-side, so I waited outside as they collected my paint cans.  As I was waiting, a pile of wallpaper sample books leaned up against the wall under a sign that read “free” caught my eye.  Hmmm…well, don’t mind if I do.  I figured the books would be filled with dated papers that would be of no interest, but I actually found two books with a lot of great patterns.

free wallpaper sample books miss mustard seed

One of them is filled with stripes.  I was particularly drawn to the grain sack stripes.  Aren’t they so cool?

free wallpaper sample books miss mustard seed

The second book is the real treasure, though.  It’s filled with grasscloth and paper weaves!

free wallpaper sample books miss mustard seed

free wallpaper sample books miss mustard seed

I’m sure some of you can guess why I collected the books and put them in my van, but others might wonder what in the world I’ll do with wallpaper sample books!  Of course, there is a wide variety of paper crafts that could be done with them, but here are the ways I plan to use the papers…

visual inspiration

I like samples for inspiration boards and playing with design ideas.  Even if the paper or fabric is no longer made, the physical sample can provide a visual of what might work.    Some of these papers will definitely make it to my inspiration board.  Just because they are pretty and might spark an idea.

inspiration board miss mustard seed

flat lay backdrop

I also like to use papers and fabrics to add color and/or texture to a flat lay or other photo vignettes.  These samples will be perfect for that use.  I realize most people aren’t looking for flat lay backdrops, but I do a lot of photoshoots, so it makes sense for me!

blue and white decorating inspiration miss mustard seed

photo/art mat

A use that has broader appeal would be selecting a piece of paper to use as a backing for a small photo or piece of art.  I think the grasscloth samples will be especially nice for that.

landscape color study miss mustard seed

Of course, wallpaper sample books are also perfect to test out in your rooms to see if a color or pattern would work in your space.  This is specifically helpful if the print is still being made, but it can give you a point in the right direction even if it’s retired.  You might be able to find some rolls on discount through an online search or something similar carried by another brand.

I didn’t find any papers in the wallpaper sample books that I picked up that I would want to use in my house, but I did finally find a beautiful blue and white print to use in my 1/2 bath in some samples I ordered online.  I’ve been looking for a pretty paper for that room for a while and haven’t found one that I really love that doesn’t cost a fortune!  I’ll share what I selected in another post.

Until then, if you’re interested in doing some wallpapering, here are a few posts that might be helpful…

Wallpaper Paste Comparison – (this is a super exciting, suspenseful post)

Pasted vs. Unpasted Wallpaper

Tips on selecting wallpaper

Would you have picked up the wallpaper sample books?

How would you put them to use?



  1. Rhonda K

    I make greeting cards and those different textures would make awesome backgrounds!

    • Betsy

      I’m right with you on that Rhonda. I love making greeting cards and those wallpaper books are a creative treasure. I’ve used wallpaper to make journal cover and envelopes to put gift cards in.

  2. Jan

    For me, old drapery sample books are the jackpot. I’ve made patchwork table runners and sofa throws. Upholstery samples make great handbags! Best of all, these fabrics come in color coordinated groups to make the color theory easy.

    • lynn wheeler

      Like you, I would have grabbed those books in a heart beat. Sooooo many uses! I get a European decorating magazine and the sender always wraps the magazine in beautiful wallpaper and then decorates it. It’s so pretty I hate to open it. 🙂

  3. Andrea

    Great score! I like the idea of matte for framing art. Could also recover books, use in collages, or make custom banners sewn on bias tape or string,

  4. MaryLisa

    Grass cloth is timeless it’s just very difficult to remove. The blue is beautiful

  5. Margaret

    I sell my designer discontinued wallpaper samples and books on Ebay.
    People use them for craft projects.

    • Marian Parsons

      I’ve bought some fabric sample books off of eBay and Etsy. They are so fun!

  6. Cheryl Atkinson

    I would have taken the. In a snap. I’m sure I could have line some old jewelry boxes I paint and put in my booth or something else fun. Old silverware boxes I paint up and make into keepsake boxes, for my booth. Oh I am going to the paint store to see if I can get lucky.

  7. Lillie

    Can you please tell me where you are finding your checked fabrics in blue and soft blue? Lisa Fine is whole right? Are you a dealer? Love your style ❤️
    Thanks Lillie

    • Marian Parsons

      Actually, none of the checks are Lisa Fine Textiles. Is there one you’re specifically interested in? Most are P Kaufmann, Pindler, and Linen Bee.

  8. Irene Kelly

    Those samples would make great mats for pictures or some needlework you plan to frame. Or mats for the bottom of serving trays. Great finds ! Lucky you !

  9. Jo

    I might use some to make backgrounds for miniature flower designs to enter in flower shows.

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, that’s a lovely idea!

  10. DBLori

    Another great use for the sample books is for decorating a doll house. Many many uses…

    • Marian Parsons

      yes! That’s a wonderful idea. I used wallpaper scraps in my dollhouse when I was a kid. 🙂

  11. Karen

    I had a three shelved little wall cabinet with an open back. I took three Farrow and Ball wallpaper samples and lined the open back of each shelf, so now the back of each shelf has a backed lining. As it hangs on the wall you see a pretty paper against the wall instead of just the wall itself.

  12. jean

    Oh I would hae picked them up as well but only because I’m a paper junkie and can’t resist something that might serve useful in a project somehow! What a great find!!

  13. Eileen

    I’ve collected books for years and once scored three sample fabric books by Ralph Lauren. What treasures! Since the collection is coordinated, i just put them all together and made a quilt top which I backed with another single piece of fabric and tied it. Just gorgeous and I use it as a light throw over a chair. You just reminded me that I have to get out the others and complete them.

  14. Julia

    Here in the UK I’m always on the hunt for sample books, before lockdown I picked up a Morris & Co book of wallpapers and some fabrics. I’ve cut out the samples I want and have used them for backdrops for antiques I‘ve found on my Instagram posts. Some of the wallpapers I’m using in my still life paintings, it’s amazing seeing how the light changes with different background papers and lovely reusing such iconic designs.

  15. monique

    Oh, I envy you, I always liked these samples books, in the past I used some to make book covers, and also some with upholstery fabric samples. So many ways to reuse and create.

  16. Carole

    I loved reading the comments. I sew samples of wallpaper into bags for small gifts.

    • Bex

      This idea is simply brilliant!

  17. Mary Kaiser

    You could use them for scrap booking. They would be cool for backgrounds for you pictures. You could also make a journal book out of them. I bet you could also paint landscapes on them with you oils.

  18. Chris

    Nice score! I did design work through a fine furniture store that went out of business, and what a bonanza that was! Not only wallpaper books, but fabric books, hanging fabric samples and, best score of all, LEATHER samples!! That was 10 years ago and I still head into my “sample chest” for one project or another!

  19. Antonia

    Loved all of the ideas. I have used those discarded samples to provide bookmarks for students using the library at my middle school. Volunteer moms cut the bookmarks using dies and die cut machines at our school district’s media center. We made sure to use papers trimmed of any writing on the backs. It was fun to watch our students choose a bookmark and learn to care for library books by not turning down pages to mark their progress.

  20. JC

    What a find! I especially love mounting your artwork on these. You could even do a framed “wallpaper quilt” with coordinating colors and patterns. So many possibilities!

  21. Julie | Home On The Hill

    Oh yes, I would have taken those treasures home – I love sample books for fabric or wallpaper, there is always a way to use them somewhere down the track. 🙂 Those ones you have are very nice, lots of naturals & neutrals.

    • Bea

      I too love sample books. I have friends who make gift cards to sell at the shop where I have my inventory and they would love to use wallpaper sample books in making their cards. Such creative ideas you all have for using sample books!

  22. sandi m

    As others have expressed, I, too, would have taken them in a heartbeat. Probably would use them to visualize new decorating ideas and jewelry designs.
    Great score!! I’ll be calling my local paint store in the morning! 🙂

  23. Pat McRee

    This sparked a memory for me from 1958 when my mother scored a discontinued Simplicity pattern catalog for me outside a WT Grant store. I was (and am) a paper doll fanatic and I designed clothes for my collection using the wide expanses of “fabric” in those full-skirted shirtwaist dress patterns! That catalog still counts as one of the great treasures of my life.

  24. mary m

    I have a family side chair that goes back to 1860. Many brides have posed on that chair and pictures of me as a child too. I found a LARGE sample of fabric and had the seat reupholstered in it. Looks very elegant.

  25. Sandra

    Bookmarks with inspirational verses or comments on back side using softly tinted paper. Cover with a piece of clear contact paper, punch a hole, thread ribbon through and a nice bookmark.

  26. Shelley Harman

    You can line drawers and cool boxes with them. It makes me happy every time I open a drawer.

  27. Sharon Rexroad

    I’d love to use those grasscloth samples as covers for Japanese stitched books / booklets! I haven’t done stab stitching in AGES, but I immediately saw these transformed for that purpose.

  28. Ginger Marshall

    When I was a child my mother would bring home retired wallpaper books from her decorator store, where she made draperies. I would use them to cut out clothing for paper dolls. Such memories!

  29. Susan

    What fun to read all these creative ideas! You all have inspired me to start a new creative project while I’m stuck at home.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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