Is wallpaper the new black?Published on August 22, 2014

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  • Andrew Downward

Remember when wallpaper used to be so 1970s?  Sadly, I do!  Funny, but as I look back it seems as though I spent the first 10 years of my career taking wallpaper off and the last 10 years putting it back up.

I first noticed the shift back to wallpaper during my time on Divine Design. Each new episode seemed to introduce another dynamic way to use wallpaper in the home. From bold prints, birch forests, woven grass, wood grain, metallic and botanicals, the use of wallpaper was making a comeback and this trend is still very much alive and well! Are you ready to commit? 

Typically, wallpaper comes in rolls of 20.5-or 27-inch widths. It's important to measure out your space before heading out to your local design centre. Remember length x width = area. Each roll will tell you how many square feet it will cover. I always add at least 10 to 20 per cent to this total, since matching patterns often leads to a lot of cutting.  

Choose your wallpaper wisely! Certain types of wallpaper will give you vastly different visual results. For instance, metallic paper reflects light, which provides a fun way to add a visual backdrop to bold lighting, but may look ridiculous in a sun-filled room. Grass-cloth wallpaper is very soothing and will provide texture and depth to your space, but is often difficult to hang and any glue residue that accidently makes its way onto the paper is almost impossible to get off. If you are planning on hiring the job out, budget an extra 30 to 50 per cent for installation.

Wallpaper Prep

There are two types of wallpaper - pre-paste and paste. Pre-pasted paper requires you to soak the paper in water before applying to the walls. Most hardware stores sell a wallpaper tray with a long skinny bar that holds the paper in the water as you pull it through. I personally like to use a one-litre spray pump bottle filled with warm water and soak my paper that way. Whichever method you chose, make sure you fold the ends into the centre, or "book the ends" (paste the side of the paper). This allows the paste to activate and gives you time to apply the paper without it drying out.  

If your wallpaper requires you to apply the paste, purchase a heavy-duty wallpaper paste and pour it into a paint tray. Using a paint roller, dip and roll out the paste on the back of the paper as if you are painting it. Take a paintbrush and apply extra paste around the seams so that there is no lifting after the paper dries. Have a spray bottle ready to dampen your walls before you hang the paper. This allows you to move the paper around and keeps the paste moist.  

Step by Step 

Make sure your walls are smooth before hanging the paper, as even the slightest bump will cause big problems. Sand your walls first.

Measure the width of the paper. From the first corner, measure out the width of the paper and subtract by half an inch. Drop a plumb line from that point and snap your straight line. Apply your paper to the plumb line and work the paper towards the corner using a plastic wallpaper spreader. The overlap at the corner is now ready to cut off.  

Using a large putty knife, push it into the corner and with a clean, sharp box cutter knife cut along the edge. This will give you a clean cut and the paper will not pull.

Using the putty knife, cut along the edge.

With your first piece of paper in place and completely straight, you can now line up your pattern, cut your next piece and apply it using the method described above.

Take your time and be patient. Clean up any excess glue from the top of your paper as you go.

Working with a partner will make the process smoother.




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