tips on selecting wallpaper

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating, Guest Room, My House, Room Makeovers74 Comments

As I shared a few weeks ago, I’ll be hanging wallpaper in our guest room (above a chair rail).  Well, my mom is visiting this week and we’re taking that on as our big project.  Hanging wallpaper in an entire room feels like a bit of a risk for me, but a guest room is a good place to take risks.  This particular one is in our basement, so it’s separate from the rest of the bedrooms and the living spaces where we spend most of our time.  Ever since I hung a wallpaper mural in our tiny upstairs bathroom in our last house and saw the visual impact it brought to the table, I’ve been eager to try it again on a larger scale.

And this guest room is one boring box that could use a visual punch to make it special.

I realize that I’ll be putting a lot of work into something I’ll probably be shaking my head at in a few years, but I refuse to make all decorating decisions based on what I may or may not love in a decade.  I want to make choices that feel timeless and stay away from what is just trendy, but wallpaper in and of itself isn’t trendy.  It’s been around for a loooooong time.  It’s the pattern and the color palette of the wallpaper that is trendy.

I say geese in bonnets and you know that is straight out of the ’80s.  I say hunter green and burgundy and you can picture it in all of its 1990’s glory.

So, I looked through a lot of wallpaper before settling on something that looks timeless to me.

But, I learned something as I was shopping for wallpaper.  First of all, even though I think wallpaper is a rising trend, stores don’t seem to agree with that!  Our Home Depot doesn’t even carry wallpapering supplies like paste brushes!

The second thing I learned is that wallpaper patterns are a lot like impressionist paintings.  They don’t impress when you’re too close.  The magic happens when you take a step back.  And that it very tough when you have to make decisions based on small swatches.  It’s like deciding to buy a painting based on only seeing a little square of it.  You can’t see the whole picture or the effect.  You just need that going into the shopping process.  Most samples will look unimpressive and even disappointing.

Swatches still are good to get, though, so you can look at color and scale.  Don’t judge the pattern, just make sure the colors look right in your space.

If you can’t see the paper in person (which you can’t in most cases), judge the overall effect of the pattern by the online pictures…

Do you see how much more information the above image provides about the overall pattern?

And it’s even better if you can see it in on a wall in a room.  Most sites will have the paper digitally imposed on a wall, but it still gives you a sense of how it’ll look in repeat.

And lastly, if you’re still not sure, buy one roll.  As soon as you roll it out and take a step back, you’ll know if it works for you and your space or not.

So, if you’ve been shopping for wallpaper and haven’t been too thrilled with the swatches you received, just know that wallpaper isn’t meant to be impressive in little squares.  It’s meant to wow on a wall.  And, if it does impress in little squares, chances are it will be a very busy wallpaper!

Does anyone else agree that wallpaper is on the rise again or are you still peeved about the 1980’s and ’90s paper you had to strip?

PS – The paper I’m installing is Antigua Oak by Annie Selke.

 

tips on selecting wallpaper

Related Posts

framing a baby dress

picture frame molding tutorial

“week” wall clock

antique store finds & Junk Bonanza 2019

74 Comments on “tips on selecting wallpaper”

  1. Our home is around 130 years old with eleven rooms. Five of those rooms have 10 foot ceilings and they were all papered when we purchased the house. The owners before us were smokers so it all had to go. Not just wallpaper, but curtains on 53 windows. We worked on the house, mostly on scaffolding, a year before we were able to move in and even though we went through all of that, I still love wallpaper and would consider using it again. I am seeing it more and more and believe it is making a come-back.

    1. We are looking at a 100 year old house with a lot of wallpaper…I think maybe some in the 60s? Would you remove it or could i maybe get away with papering over it?

    2. If you can’t do your own walllpaper you may have a problem. We just built a new house and our builder and painter were young….they knew how to take it down but hadn’t ever put it up. I have also been told if you find someone to do it it willl be very expensive. We are 66 & 69 and we wallpapered our bathroom. I love to tell people we walllpapered a room and we didn’t get hurt or each other!!!

  2. I’ve been looking at wallpapers and have run into this very problem of “small sample, large wall”. I found several on Pinterest but they are no longer in print…….. and what about color on a monitor? It’s so easy to be overwhelmed! I’m still toying with the starched fabric on the wall. Decisions, decisions! P.S. My view still says I need to spring clean!

    1. Starched fabric is awesome because you get the look of paper but it’s very easy to remove. Just peel it off!

  3. Still peeved 🙂 I KNOW it will be beautiful in your guest room, I love your choices. And I won’t be the one stripping it down the road, so I’m all excited to see it completed!

  4. We bought a house that had wallpaper from the 90’s. Yes, burgundy and hunter green were the color scheme. The kitchen was covered with two layers of wallpaper – under the hunter green pattern was a gold and brown design (70s?). I decided if I wanted visual interest, I would stencil. It’s much easier to paint over if my tastes change. I’ve designed my own stencils in the past or used parts of existing stencils.

    1. I think that’s a good point that stencils are a nice option and much easier to change in the future. They can be tedious to apply, though, especially in a large room.

  5. If you have any Sherwin-Williams paint stores in your area, they should everything you need – paste, brushes, knives. Can’t wait to see the finished room!

  6. I love your wallpaper choice! Classic and classy. I don’t think you’ll regret it in 10 years. As for me … I love wallpaper similar to what you are putting up, but in small doses, not in every room like what was done a few decades ago. I have a similar story to Betty’s, above, where the existing wallpaper HAD to go due to the previous owners having been smokers. I still have bad memories of stripping it (while pregnant–steaming it off was the easiest way to remove it but boy it sure kicked up the smell of cigarettes!) so I don’t know if, personally, I can go there again, but it’s fun to watch you try it!

    1. Oh man, I’ve worked on some furniture pieces that were saturated with smoke and I can only imagine how bad it would be to remove paper with a steamer. I can understand why you’re not eager to put up paper!

  7. Beautiful wallpaper but I’m not sure I see that with your fabrics/colors. But feel free to prove me wrong!

    I do see alot of wallpaper now.

    1. Ha! I hope I do prove you wrong! 🙂 It all is working in my head, but we’ll see how it plays out in reality!

  8. I am not peeved at having to strip old wallpaper but my husband still is! In our first home, he had to strip wallpaper and sand walls smooth before he could paint. It was then and there he told me in no un-certain words he never wanted to see any wallpaper again.

    We have been in this home almost 25 years and have done many upgrades but I have never mentioned the word wallpaper. However, I have wanting to do a accent wall in our dining room more specifically “grass cloth”. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said selecting a timeless pattern instead of trendy makes all the difference. I have seen wallpaper making a comeback too especially on some of the new home tours in our area. I have looked into some of the removable wallpaper also which surprisingly had a nice selection of pattern and designs.

    1. I’ve not figured out why people pull wallpaper off the wall and just leave it! Sweet Husband had rented the house out after his divorce, (before we married) and for some reason, the renters from hell decided to remove the wallpaper in the powder room downstairs and the guest bath upstairs. Now I’m faced with sanding the walls down and painting. Not looking forward to doing that with 10 ft. ceilings and the tiny space in the powder room. Love wallpaper, but after this, I’m not so sure. Ugh.

      1. Oh man, that is no fun! I enjoy projects, but not when they are undoing something. I hope the hard work pays off, though!

    2. Hi Teresa,
      Read my post below… I’m Mary. I totally understand where your hubby is coming from.
      No paper for me either. I even thihk grass cloth will come and go too.
      Good luck.
      Mary S

    3. You might want to look into starching fabric onto walls as well. You simply roll starch on, stick up the fabric, and roll on more starch. It can simply be peeled off when you’re ready for a change! I have a tutorial on my blog about it if you search “starched fabric wall”.

    1. Me, too! I typically like to make a departure from my usual palette in the guest room. The last one was red and yellow! I have a beautiful mustard yellow wardrobe in the room, so I’m working around that. I think a color palette of mustard, beige, and some touches of blue/gray will be soothing and easy to adjust as the years pass.

  9. Geese in bonnets!!! I had that chair rail border in my 1985 dining room!!!
    When I bought my current house only the kitchen had wallpaper but it had to have been up for 25 plus years and the friend that helped me tried ALL the
    removal techniques before finally getting it all removed.
    Having said all of that I think the easily removeable
    wallpaper would be a great alternative if one wasn’t wanting to have to commit to a long term design decision. Right now I am contemplating a wallpaper mural for my laundry room which is also the room that contains one of my backdoors so I pass through it frequently and it needs some love.
    Of course because your mother’s room is one of the most loved rooms you have ever done….I feel certain this guest room will be wonderful too as she is going to be there to assist with the project.

    1. Yep…geese in bonnets. So funny how that was once a huge trend. I remember painting raw wood napkin rings that were shaped like geese in bonnets when I was little. I painted them as a gift for my grandparents. 🙂

      1. you will! while I am not a fan of patterns, what you have chosen is perfect together. It will shout ‘Marian’…..and be beautiful.

      2. My Mama bought me EVERYTHING they offered in the ‘geese and bonnets’…..cookie jars to butter dishes…

  10. I love wallpaper, and the choices now! Yep, wallpapered in the 80’s, cute country blue, didn’t strip, covered with bead board in the 90’s….which i painted hunter green…lol. I love that yours is neutral looking, but adds interest. I’ve seen some i absolutely love on Instagram. But i now have plaster walls, i’m a little shy to attempt. Can’t wait to see the transformation of this room. Enjoy Mom time!

  11. I LOVE wallpaper. I love to hang it. The key to stripping it later is correctly hanging it in the first place, be sure to size the walls. After I’ve taken down wallpaper I always scrub the walls with vinegar water. It takes all the leftover glue off and the walls are ready to paint. I’ve never had to sand a wall before painting it.

    1. Can you please tell us your “recipe” for the vinegar water? Is it half/half or something different?

      1. I usually add a cup ior so yo a gallon of hot water. If the water starts to feel “slimy” it’s time for fresh water.

  12. UUuugghhhhhh…. wallpaper!! I have nightmares when I think of it. I once wallpapeed the ENTIRE HOUSE. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was so determined to hang paper, that I sanded EVERY wall in the house to be rid of the sand in the paint. I sized the walls… and pity the poor people who bought it after I moved. So, I’m sticking with good ole’ fashioned paint! I also papered the kitchen and halfway thru I decided I didn’t like it and took it off for a different pattern. So…. Not going there anymore. 🙂 Haha!!

  13. Still peeved, especially with our current home which was wallpaper everywhere and then painted over…..bad choice “flipper”. Happy to say my hubby has had success in removing most of it. I paint after he does all the hard work. I’m sure your room will be lovely – enjoy your visit with your mother!

  14. I owned a retail wallpaper store in late 80’s to early 90’s. I also installed…and removed wallpaper. Bonnie is right. It’s the proper prep of your walls before hand that makes removal much easier. New builds absolutely do not have sealed walls. If you hang paper over builder grade paint the wallpaper becomes part of the dry wall and will rip the top layer of drywall off if you ever remove it. Sizing wont even help on those new walls, but sizing is an absolute must and will work on walls that have been previously painted several times. Wall paper was really expensive way back then and was a major investment. I like the idea you are much less invested with a change made with paint. But this is an opinion from someone who has spent countless hours picking off someone else’s wallpaper mess a quarter inch at a time.

    1. Yes, we are going to size the walls prior to installing the paper, but I picked something that I feel like I can work with for a long and since it’s in a room that isn’t used frequently, I don’t think I’ll get sick of looking at it!

      Thanks for all of the great information!

  15. I just finished papering my small guest bath and am thrilled with the results, but it was a bear (small, tight spaces and lots of corners!) I was frustrated from the get-go because nowhere could I find wallpaper books, and looking on-line was hit or miss. Very little paper is pre-pasted these days. Wallpaper wheat paste in is not available, either in-store or on-line, so I tried concocting a “home-brew” (which turned out lumpy), so I settled for expensive ready-made adhesive from Lowes. Fortunately, it was very easy to use. Thank heavens, I do love the paper I chose, hopefully for the next decade, and by then I’ll be ready to move.

  16. Still peeved!! When we moved in our house 20+ years ago, EVERY room and hallway was wallpapered! A few rooms had 3 layers and we pulled off chunks of sheet rock in the process of removing it. It has been a nightmare. We’ve ended up using painted shiplap and beadboard in a couple of rooms. After all this though, I’m actually thinking of papering the master bath which is a new addition – have I learned nothing?!? LOL!

    All that being said, I do love the pattern you chose and I can’t wait to see it in the room!!

  17. When we purchased our home 29 years ago it had foil wallpaper from the 1960’s, all of that was removed. In November I put a toile wall paper in he dining room and it’s appearance on the wall in some sense reminds me of your mural painting. I have a red and white toile in the foyer and I have an English floral wall paper in the Master Bedroom, that was installed in 1997, but I still love it because it was a timeless design. I think the choice of design determines how long you can love it.

  18. Call me old fashioned, but I’ve aleays like a bit of wallpaper. Also have done stenciling. I, trying to talk my daughter into papering a small area in her mid-century remodel, but not having much luck!

  19. I just finished a complete house remodel including redoing 2 wallpapered rooms and going from orange peel to wallpaper in the living room where it had to be done right. I used all 3 glue types of wallpaper–contact paper style, glue the paper and “book” the sheets, and glue the wall. The contact paper style was really hard. The other two were about equal in moments of gruesomeness. Patience is required.
    Tips: You can apply new wallpaper over old if it is stuck tight. Just or peel off seams and any loose areas and smooth out with a skim coat of drywall and sand smooth. On orange peel, apply a skim coat of drywall so it’s nice and smooth. Before putting on the wallpaper, apply primer paint–2 coats and let get good and dry. You will have a great surface and fantastic results. I will say I hired out the drywall job as I have a friend who is a pro. But I paid rather dearly, especially for the skim coat on the whole living room.
    Don’t worry about fashion. Just get the perfect paper you LOVE and it will be a long time before YOU want anything different. I went from cabbage roses and gardenias and rag rolling in the living room to (20 years later) aspen trees and ferns plus winter branches in the living room. Gorgeous.

  20. I also want to say that wallpaper has had a bad rap, perhaps deservedly but people all LOVE my wallpaper and cannot believe how good it looks and what it does to the space. Also my husband and I hung the paper over several very long weekends and are still married and even more in love so it”s quite the joint undertaking to do with a pal. We’ve been married for 30 years.
    If it is experiencing a comeback, it’s for good reason but it takes a bold approach to make the leap.
    I say go for it!

  21. You’re room will be beautiful and I love your choice of wallpaper. I can already see the completed room in my head. You’ll be happy with it for years to come. It’s a guest room and downstairs away from the rest of your living space. I’m personally not going down wallpaper lane. We’ve lived in our home for 16 years and last year I removed the last of the wallpaper. Nearly every room had some form of wall paper or border. I was smiling as I took the last bag to the garbage, nineties hunter green and burgundy with cabin and wolves running around the basement. I teased my husband, if I go to heaven before him to please not let his second wife hang wallpaper. 🙂
    My business partner and I always laughed that she was putting wallpaper up at her house and I was taking it down at mine. Enjoy your guest room, can’t wait to see the reveal.

  22. I think wallpaper could certainly make a comeback!

    My aunt used to wallpaper 2 adjoining walls in her guest bedroom and it worked really well. It created a cozy corner and kept the room from feeling claustrophobic. The other 2 walls were painted a coordinating color, which made it looked finished and intentional. The trim was a neutral color.

  23. I like your choice! I do think that wallpaper is enjoying a comeback, but for me, the only way I’d do it again would be to use peel and stick wallpaper baby! I’ve seen some beautiful examples. Easy to install, easy to remove.

  24. I love the greige and ivory papers you show. They wow me and are my color scheme.

    Wonder if just one wall in my master bedroom (super double story wall) would work – artwork looks weird cuz the ceilings are so high. You have given me a possible idea – didn’t know papers now were so pretty!

  25. Just recently wallpapered behind my bookcase with Laura Ashley Wallpaper I bought when Carson’s went out of buisiness by us last year! The roll came out to be about $5 a roll! Now that’s a deal! And wallpapered inside my China Cabinet. What a difference they both made to the rooms! Back to being a fan again!

  26. I’ve had blue toile wallpaper with matching bedspread, chairs, and bench for 20 years – still love it!

  27. I remember all that. Funny how we laugh at all the different colors/trends over the years. We will probably be doing the same in another 10-20 years. I had the country blue couch. Then it was the hunter green/burgundy plaid couch. I even painted a Hoosier cabinet hunter green which is now waiting for a new coat of white paint. As far as wall paper, I had to strip a dining room and damaged the walls. After that I decided no more wall paper. With the new trends, I look at the different options but just can’t grasp it. I know whatever you come up with will look awesome. It always does.

  28. I used to work at a wallpaper/paint store. A lot of people did not know that wallpaper sizing is so important to prep the walls if you ever intend to remove the paper. Also, I keep seeing experts on TV recommending all kinds of concoctions to remove wallpaper, but the easiest way is to rent a steamer and it comes right off. Yes it costs more to rent the steamer than one bottle of remover or fabric softener, but you will still struggle with removal, damage the walls, and spend a lot more time than if you just steam it off and wash it down.
    p.s. We were only supposed to give customers a 12 inch sample, but I used to give them a complete repeat if the pattern was big. Of course, this doesn’t apply to choosing from a book. Customers could take the book for a limited amount of time to see if they liked it in their home.

  29. Our previous home had many rooms and hallways of wallpaper that nightmares are made of. A boys bedroom had bird contact paper that he had used for dart target practice so there were holes EVERYWHERE once we finally removed the stubborn paper. One bathroom had (envision this) bicentennial wallpaper with a presidential seal type eagle. Hubby said he didn’t know whether to s#*% or salute! That being said, we have grass cloth in our current living room for the past 15 years and I still love it! Timeless and neutral is key.

  30. Ha…I am much older than you, Marian, but after I had stripped the last of the wallpaper that I had installed in our house previously, I told my husband to “shoot me” if I ever said “I think I will wallpaper this room.” But I love seeing it in others’ homes and agree that it is making a comeback. So I guess you could say I’m still peeved.

  31. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve seen so many gorgeous rooms with wallpaper lately. Honestly, I would probably put some up…
    But, I do still have nightmares of the last time I stripped it too! I restored a Victorian era home (back home in PA) & the owners before me, thought it was a good idea to fix any falling paper with super glue 🤦🏻‍♀️!!
    The one bathroom alone took me DAYS! Everywhere that it had come loose over the years from bathroom condensation & who knows what else…they just “fixed the problem” with a tube of super glue.
    If they had not told me themselves at closing that there was a tiny spot coming loose that they didn’t repair, but that they had kindly left me a tube of “repair glue” in the medicine cabinet…never in a million years would I think anyone would apply super glue to wallpaper!
    Words can not describe what removing it was like. Had the walls not been lathe & plaster…(& given the age of the house- I already new that there was not a thing inside it’s walls that even pretended to be square)… ugh! I would have knocked it all down & put up new walls.
    We were 1st time home owners, renovating a monster AND both still doing our undergrad degrees (+) working full time, or new dry wall it would have been.
    Not even kidding. It was THAT bad!
    I shudder just thinking about it.
    I’m sure though that when you’re done, I will be totally in love & it will have me eyeballing walls to install my own nonetheless. Can’t wait to see how yours turns out!

  32. Oh, I think that there is so much GORGEOUS wallpaper right now. I’d love to use it, but our house still has the previous owner’s 1980s and 1990s wallpaper choices over half of the house–so impossible to remove! My husband took the paper off of the kitchen, hallways, dining room, dinette area, etc., and that was so bad that we had to hire people to repair the walls. So we’ve been afraid for 15 years and have left the rest of it up (all of the bathrooms, ugh, all the bedrooms, the living room and family room, the staircase, etc.). But there are so many pretty papers now, just beautiful ones. Your room will be wonderful.

  33. I usually add a cup ior so yo a gallon of hot water. If the water starts to feel “slimy” it’s time for fresh water.

  34. I love wallpaper, but I too love it only in other people’s homes. I think that is because deep down I know that repainting is the only change I care to attempt in any room in my house. Even that can be overwhelming at times.

  35. Still PEEVED! Can’t tell you how many walls we’ve had to re-float after taking down wallpaper! It’s beautiful but I will never have wallpaper again. I know it’s popular again but I’ll be sticking to paint. Paint can make a dramatic change to a room at minimal expense without damaging walls.

  36. When I moved into my house, one room had a zebra print wallpaper with matching drapes. It was quite the assault on one’s vision. Fortunately, the walls had been properly prepped so it was easy to remove. Good luck with your project.

  37. I’ve had wallpaper in every home we’ve owned and have removed it also. Now we use paint. Designers love trends. I had a friend who has had her wallpaper up for over 40 years.
    I worry about your shoulder doing this kind of labor..

  38. YES! WALLPAPER! I love it. My mother and I ran a small business hanging and selling wallpaper when I was in my 20’s. I totally agree with Bonnie, Debbie and Celeste that proper preparation is key. I papered my master bathroom in 1982 when we moved into our new home. Last year we had a water leak, and although the paper wasn’t damaged I decided to update with a co-ordinate to a loveseat fabric in the bedroom.
    I really thought I’d have to paper over the existing stuff, but everything stripped off perfectly. I was so excited I just kept stripping and throwing everything on the floor in a frenzy finally understanding why Chip Gaines gets so excited on demo day.

    Sherwin Williams didn’t carry the sizing, but I ordered it through Walmart online.

    Also, after hours of searching for a pattern and colors to match my English Country Victorian Cottage look I finally went to ebay and found a discontinued batch. I should have known the current trends were not going to be my style, I should have searched for vintage in the first place.

    I thought the physical work would be easier, but my husband reminded me it’s a lot easier in your 20’s as opposed to your 60’s. No joke.

    Best wishes on your project. I hope it goes well.

  39. I like your choice. Have you checked out Bradbury and Bradbury? I was never a lover of wallpaper until I saw some of theirs. Makes me want to cover every wall in my house! But I won’t. Like many of your commenters, I’ve fought the stripping of too many times. Still, I fantasize….

  40. I actually have two rooms still with wallpaper! Mr B’s office which is a tone on tone blue without a real pattern (more like the old sponge painting only lots better) and the pool bath, which is also considered his bathroom and is papered in a golf pattern. His choice his room… so while other rooms in our home have changed, some more than once, his rooms have been the same for 20+ years! egad. But he likes them. Having said all that that, yes, I think wallpaper is on the rise again, especially large scale patterns, (think giant florals) and murals. Like you, I don’t think of wallpaper as trendy, I think it evolves. I’m currently on the hunt for wallpaper for our master, for the wall behind the bed, and appreciated your insights!

  41. I’m in love with it again, but try to stick to neutral colors or grass cloth. Of course, rules were made to be broken! The decorating bang you get for your buck is big!

  42. Wow! A lot of wallpaper stories. I’ve certainly hung my share of wallpaper, and removed it too. I think most of my tips have been covered, but when ordering rolls of paper, it’s best to order what you need all at one time due to different dye lots. Just make sure it’s returnable should you not like it.

  43. If you are planning to sell your home I wouldn’t put any wallpaper up –wall paper is one of the top 5 reasons people don’t buy a home. Because of the problems they (or someone they know) had removing it! As a home stager I always recommend the seller remove all wallpaper.

  44. We bought our house in 1992 and it included quit a bit of 70s & 80s wallpaper. We ended up taking it all down and painting, except in our entryway, which is quite small. The walls were in such terrible condition I decided to re-paper with something I liked much better. I don’t regret the paper choice, but it is getting old, and is difficult to keep clean. I think I will take a page from your book and upgrade to something more 21st century !

  45. I am THRILLED Wallpaper is making a comeback, of some sorts, lol. I have papered my walls since the mid-90’s and cannot imagine my home now without wallpapered rooms. But I was heavily influenced by the romantic (and papered rooms) of Laura Ashley. When I worked there in the 80’s/early 90’s, I fell in love with wallpaper and never looked back. I think perhaps a lot of people haven’t tried it because they are too afraid or too doggedly follow trends or what the latest blog or IG feed shows them. They miss out on truly bringing their own style and personality to a space by copycatting others.
    Your choice is superb!! It’ll be wonderful to look at for years to come. Me myself, I get bored at looking at plain walls. But give me a floral, damask or chinoiserie and I am happy! Can’t wait to see what else you do with your home – its truly genuine and wonderful with all your art and one-of-a-kind touches.

  46. Pingback: Thistlekeeping - Thistlewood Farm

  47. I need to know what I can do about wallpapering over wallpaper. Wallpaper is intact and an entryway. Going to go over a red/cream plaid with a black and white print. What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *