How To Decorate With Wallpaper

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A Guide to Using Wallpaper For Interior Design

Wallpaper is a trend that has been around for centuries. People who want a custom look without the tools and time necessary for painting turn to it for a simple solution. Like paint, wallpaper is easy to do yourself, so hiring a professional is rarely necessary. Take a day with some friends or your family, and add a spruce of color or design to your house.

Wallpaper Designs

Solid Colors work best in rooms with ornate furniture or decoration. This avoids clashing, tones down the fancy décor and brings attention to the important pieces in the room.

Light Colors -- For smaller rooms and for living areas, consider light colors, which make the space appear larger than it is. Again, it highlights hanging art and fancy accoutrements to the room. Light colors also provide a sense of warmth, which works well in family-centered areas.

Dark Colors -- Dark colors do the opposite of light colors. While they can make a room feel cool and relaxed, they also make spaces seem smaller than they actually are. To avoid too much cramping, consider only wallpapering one or two walls, always leaving the ceiling alone. Dark colors may work best in a dining room, where a relaxed atmosphere is ideal.

Patterns can do one of a couple things. Most commonly, they operate as shields, hiding bumps, nicks and other imperfections on your walls. They also serve as eye-catchers, appealing on their own as decorative contributions. Avoid dark patterns, which often come off as dated and cluttered. Lighter, brighter colors are better for adding a splash of creativity without appearing old.

Repeated/floral patterns -- Floral patterns are the most common "shield" wallpapers. For smaller rooms, such as guest rooms or nooks, floral patterns work well, as they highlight the limited space. In bigger rooms, floral patterns are best when limited to one wall alongside paint of a complementary color. It adds a splash of design without overwhelming the large space. Also, floral wallpaper is recommended to accompany simple, limited room décor.

Large patterns -- To make a space more cozy and intimate, adding large patterns works best, creating a visual appeal that supplement the existing room décor. Many people use large patterns in larger living areas to make them feel less intimidating. Be sure to choose colors, designs and shapes that match your existing furniture.

Small patterns -- Small patterns, like floral patterns, work well in small spaces, adding volume to the room. If you design with specific color schemes in mind, small patterns work well also, because they call attention to specific hues depending on the pattern you purchase.

Stripes, whether thin or thick, are extremely bold designs. For this reason, they should be limited to two walls maximum per room and should also never face opposite directions in the same room. For example, do not have one wall with horizontal stripes and its neighboring or mirroring wall with vertical stripes. The clash will likely cause disorientation to room goers, making one wall appear larger than the other.

Vertical stripes -- To heighten a short room, consider vertical stripes, which visually expand the wall, making the ceiling appear higher. This typically works best with two colors from the same hue, because simpler is better for space expansion. Vertical stripes can also add a dash of flair to a child's room or a den/library area.

Horizontal stripes -- For small closets and other narrow spaces, horizontal stripes are creative. They elongate the walls, making tight spaces appear larger than they are. If you choose to use horizontal stripes in a large living area, restrict them to one all to avoid making the room appear too short.

Wallpaper Features

  • Scrubbable wallpaper can withstand brush scrubbing with a mild detergent to remove stains. This is ideal for family homes or accident-prone decorators.
  • Washable wallpaper is extremely beneficial for bedrooms and living rooms, spaces where furniture is often placed close to or directly against the wall. Washable papers have acrylic coating, making them sponge safe.
  • Textured/embossed wallpaper adds another dimension to a room, something that works well with big spaces. Some textured wallpapers can even imitate certain materials, such as leather or tin, and embossed papers add an eclectic touch that appears to rise from the wall. Some embossed papers are ready to paint. Many designers use embossed/textured wallpapers in children's rooms for visual stimulation, and they also work well on uneven walls. Simple textures work well with light-colored wallpaper, updating it to simple elegance.
  • Coordinating borders are extremely helpful for DIY decorators. Most wallpaper has a coordinating border system, which lists a complementary border for the paper design/color you have selected. The manufacturer's selection will guide you to a traditional, effortless look. If you want a more custom appearance, you may want to choose your own pairings, but tread carefully, because borders are hard to replace once they've been glued.
  • Faux surfaces/landscape wallpaper can replicate the appearance of any setting on your wall, from a log cabin to a space station. Many people like to use these in game rooms or children's bedrooms to add flavor and creativity. Do not use them in general seating areas -- living room, den, library -- where the effect will eventually feel tacky.

Where Not to Put Wallpaper

  • Outside -- While many wallpapers have an acrylic coating that fights moisture, the combination of sunlight, infestation and moisture will wear out the paper quickly. Outdoor wallpaper also has a kitschy appearance, which can come off as tacky.
  • Bathroom -- The excessive buildup of moisture and harsh cleaning chemicals will stain and wear out the wallpaper. Because wallpapers do not stand up to intensive scrubbing or cleaning, they become nearly impossible to maintain in a bathroom environment.
  • Stove side of a large kitchen/anywhere in a small kitchen -- Too much direct heat and/or poor ventilation can cause the paper to boil and crack.
  • Under excessive direct sunlight -- While many wallpapers today are colorfast (resistant to changing color under sunlight), they still cannot be continuously exposed. Too much intensive light will cause the paper to fade, and the heat will eventually cause it to crack, so sun rooms or walls directly beneath sunroofs.

Wallpaper To-Do List

  1. Measure the room you want to paper as accurately as possible before going to the store. Bring the surface area measurements with you to gauge how much paper you need to buy. Before checking out, always ask a professional if you have enough paper, as some require minor overlap or trimming.
  2. Check the dye lot of the wallpaper rolls if you are buying more than one. Also referred to as the batch number or run number, the dye lot is a number including on each wallpaper roll to note which rolls were printed together. To avoid subtle color differences, you should always check to make sure the rolls are from the same dye lot. Even if the colors look extremely close in the store, you may not be able to see the complete shade change until the wallpaper is hung up.
  3. Check your wallpaper-border compatibility before hanging anything up. While fabric-backed wallpapers are easy to remove from the wall for redesign, borders are not, so you'll want to be sure of your choice.
  4. Find out how to remove your wallpaper before you install it. There is always a chance you'll no longer want the wallpaper, so be prepared for when/if that time comes.

How to Remove Wallpaper

Last Updated: January 18, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for

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