It's time for a really exciting part of our Guest Bedroom Makeover! I have finished painting all the woodwork, the ceiling, and the walls in this room and, while I am thrilled to see the room changing, that was a lot of painting. And I really hate painting. So I am very happy to be moving on to something different. Something I actually enjoy doing: hanging wallpaper. I am using a beautiful wallpaper mural called Etched Arcadia from Anthropologie to create a feature wall behind the bed.
This wasn't my first time hanging a wallpaper mural, but I really hoped that this one would go more smoothly than the last. The first time I had used a cheaper product and it had been a nightmare to hang. It came in half-height rather than full-height panels of thin paper that stretched and tore easily when wet. Plus not all the panels would align properly and required quite a bit of finagling by Hubby and I to make it look good on the wall. After that, I definitely felt a little trepidation facing into this project because this mural was much more expensive and I didn't want to mess it up. Thankfully, it was as good quality as any of the reputable wallpaper brands I have used and it was very easy to put up. Moral of the story? Buy a quality product to make your life easier.
These are my favourite tools for hanging wallpaper.
- Wallpaper cutting guide. This is like a ruler with a handle that makes it easy to hold onto when you need to trim wallpaper along the ceiling or skirting board. I usually use it to help make the initial crease in the paper and then I cut the using the edger (7).
- Wallpaper brush. Used to press the paper onto the wall and to smooth out any air bubbles.
- Seam roller. Roll this along where the panels abut one another to make the joins extra-smooth.
- Paste brush. For brushing the paste onto the back of the wallpaper or onto the wall (read the instructions to see if your wallpaper is paste-the-paper or paste-the-wall). Some modern wallpapers, like our mural, are pre-pasted and just require soaking in water.
- Pencil. For marking the wall or wallpaper.
- Craft knife. For trimming the wallpaper in tight corners e.g. where two walls meet the ceiling. Use a sharp blade and change it often to avoid tearing the wet paper.
- Wallpaper edger. This is a really useful tool that creases the wallpaper along an edge and cuts it neatly at the same time. Again, ensure that the blade is always sharp when cutting wet paper to avoid tearing it.
- Wallpaper pasting table. Another really useful piece of equipment not pictured here (although you can see it in the pics below) is a pasting table to lay the paper on while you paste it.
- Measuring tape.
- Ladder and/or step stool.
- Sponge. Use damp to wipe off any paste that oozes out between the seams.
- Laser level. This is a great all-around tool to have around the house. When wallpapering, I use it to establish a plumb line to ensure that the first panel is hung perfectly vertical.
- Quilter's rule. My new favourite tool for measuring and cutting fabric ... also useful for wallpaper!
- Rotary cutter & cutting mat. More tools that started life in my sewing kit and that now find uses elsewhere.
- Paste. You can either buy pre-mixed paste in buckets, or mix the powdered types with water.
- Large Waterproof Container. For soaking pre-pasted paper.
- Timer. To time the soaking of pre-pasted paper.
The Anthropologie mural arrived in one continuous roll.
So the first task was to roll it out and cut it into the individual panels, which were clearly marked along the roll.
Next I went about planning the project. As the panels were taller than the walls, I decided which part of the image I wanted to display. Most of the detail was in the trees at the bottom, so that seemed the obvious choice - except that I absolutely had to include the birds flying among the clouds at the top. So I took some measurements and worked out the optimum placement of the panels on the wall.
Too much excess paper is difficult to work with, especially in the corners of the room. So if the panels are quite a bit longer than your wall, trim them down until there is only 10-15cm (4-6") extra at both the top and bottom. You need this bit of extra paper to allow for inconsistencies in the wall - this is not the first (or likely to be the last) DIY project where I mention that there is never a straight edge, right angle, or level surface in a building. Certainly not in our house anyway.
In my case, the last panel also needed to be cut roughly in half lengthwise. The easiest way to cut a straight line along such a long length of paper was using a quilter's rule and rotary cutter. I marked the amount that needed to be trimmed using masking tape on the quilter's rule.
Then I lined that up with the edge of the paper and cut it using the rotary cutter with a cutting mat to protect the surface underneath.
Obviously, it wasn't practical to leave the panels lying on the floor where I needed to work, so I rolled them back up and numbered each piece.
The paper was now ready to go and it was time to start prepping the wall. As I had just finished painting earlier that week, I had already done all the necessary work such as filling unwanted holes and loosening the electrical fixtures* such as light switches and sockets (outlets) to make it easier to work around them (*do this only if you can do so safely).
Note: Many sources recommend priming the wall before wallpapering. I have never done it, and the wallpapers I've hung still look perfect years later. I don't know if it would be different in an older house, and I can't say if priming makes it easier to remove the wallpaper later on as I still love all my wallpapers so I haven't had to remove any.
I usually prefer to work in the reading direction, left to right, and so I generally position my starting point about a half panel width from the left side of the wall. However that didn't make sense with this project because of the placement of the door. I also chose not to start on the extreme right side due to the placement of the electric socket because I wanted to start with a panel that didn't need to be cut. So I picked a starting point about two-thirds along the width of the wall.
When deciding the placement of your starting point, it is worthwhile taking measurements to ensure that you won't end up having to cut a thin sliver of paper along one side later on as this would be difficult to work with. (This only applies when doing a feature wall as otherwise you can just fold the paper around the corner and continue onto the next wall).
It's important to ensure that the panels hang precisely vertically, so next I needed to make a plumb line against which I could place the first panel. Do not assume that the wall is straight (it probably isn't). I measured and marked my starting point on the wall using a measuring tape and a pencil. Then, with a laser level casting a vertical line through that point, I traced that line onto the wall using a ruler and pencil. Once the first panel is hung, all the others just slide into place against that, so getting the first one right is crucial.
Hanging the Paper
Usually you will paste either the paper or the wall (the manufacturer will give specific advice for each product). However, this product was pre-pasted, so all I needed to do was to submerge each panel in water to activate the paste. I used a timer to ensure that it was soaked for the correct amount of time.
To carry the wet/pasted panel to the wall, it is easiest if you fold it almost in half, pasted sides together, so that only about 20-30cm of pasted paper is free at the top. Each drop should be longer than the height of the wall, so start by applying the free section of paper to the top of the wall along the plumb line you drew earlier. Overlap the paper onto the ceiling a little (you will trim it off after). Then unfold the rest of the paper, using the wallpaper brush to smooth it as you go. There is no need to panic or to rush this part - the paste will stay wet long enough for you to slide the paper around in order to position it perfectly into place.
Use the wallpaper cutting guide to crease the excess paper along the ceiling and skirting board and trim it using a craft knife or wallpaper edger.
As the saying goes, "Tús maith, leath na hoibre" (A good start is half the work). With the first panel in place, the hardest part of the job is already done. Now just continue to hang subsequent panels in the same way, placing adjoining panels with no gaps in between and taking care to match the pattern correctly. Use a seam roller to ensure that the edges don't lift up, and wipe off any excess glue with a damp sponge. Don't worry about glue getting onto the surface of the paper - this is inevitable and, since the paste dries clear, it will not be noticeable when the job is finished.
When wallpapering where there is an electrical socket or switch, it is easiest if you can remove the plates completely (but, please, only do this if you have the expertise to do it safely). Then hang the paper in the usual way, covering the opening.
Allow the paper to dry, so that it is less fragile. Use a craft knife to cut into the paper over the opening and trim the edges neatly. Then reattach the cover plate over the top.
To trim the side edges of a feature wall, use the the wallpaper cutting guide and a craft knife or wallpaper edger - exactly as you did for the ceiling and skirting board. It can be a bit tricky where the ceiling meets the walls at a corner due to all the excess paper making it difficult to find the precise corner point without creasing the paper. My suggestion is to work your way gradually into the corner, pressing the paper to the wall and trimming as necessary as you go.
The job starts to go pretty quickly once you have the first few panels hung.
I really love how the trees in this mural create visual continuity with the view outside the window!
As I mentioned above, I would usually try to work left-to-right across the entire wall, but that wasn't possible here because of the placement of the doorway. So after I had finished this section, I then worked backwards from right-to-left, still making sure to use the first panel as a reference so that all the panels hung along the exact same vertical alignment.
I knew in advance that the mural we bought wouldn't quite cover the entire wall. (Yes, I had cut some off the right side, but if I had just moved everything to the left, then trees wouldn't frame the bed the way I wanted and the best-looking tree would be cut off where the doorway is.) As I only needed to cover about a 20cm width above the doorway, it wasn't worth spending the money buying a whole other roll to cover the gap . Instead, I made a collage using offcuts and pasted those into place instead.
The pattern was very forgiving because even when I look for the joins now, it takes me a moment to find them.
Notes for Regular Wallpaper
Almost everything that applies to hanging this mural also applies when hanging regular wallpaper. One difference is that a wallpaper roll does not have pre-marked panels, so you will need to determine the length of each drop yourself.
Each panel in the mural is unique, but wallpaper has a repeating pattern and you will need to allow for the offset in that pattern between each drop. Figure that out before you cut each piece to avoid cutting it too short for the wall. Once you do this for the first couple of drops, it's easier to work it out for subsequent pieces.
Update: I made a video note about pattern matching wallaper ...
Be sure to cut each piece a little longer than the height of the wall so that you have some wriggle room to accommodate inconsistencies in the wall. You will trim the excess length after you hang each piece.
Hanging wallpaper is one of my favourite DIY jobs to do because it is relatively clean and easy, and yet it creates a massive impact in any room. This wallpaper mural is basically a larger-than-life artwork that I feel like I can almost walk right into. It's just magical!