what I learned on my first wallpaper attempt.


Last week, I wallpapered our powder room as planned! This was a small room (4' 10" by 8') with two doors and beadboard wainscotting that covered nearly half of the wall. I had my mom to assist (and she was necessary!) and it took us about 7 hours the first day and 5 hours the second day to complete the project. This room is not done (I am still going to paint the ceiling and doors, wrap the switch plates, install a sconce, find a mirror, change out the faucet, get the floors done and paint the baseboards but honestly the hard part is over.)

Per usual, let's start with a disclaimer: I don't plan for this post to be a tutorial! My wallpaper was called Alpine Garden by Schoolhouse x Hygge & West and I followed the H&W instructional videos to learn what to do. This page provides the basics for installing traditional wallpaper and then this page shares how-to videos for some of the more complex parts (wallpapering around corners and wallpaper around objects like outlets and molding). I watched all of the videos three or four times and did my best to follow the instructions.

I found the videos to be very clear and helpful but I did want to note a few things about my specific project and then emphasize a few tips I wish I had known right at the beginning.


First, my wall had an orange peel texture. You can see it in the photo above and you can also see how that texture "comes through" a bit on the wallpaper. This doesn't bother me visually at all but it's something to consider when you are looking at your own walls. It's obviously way too early for me to know if the texture will cause the wallpaper to peel or come loose over time (that's something I will update you on if it does happen!) but I can tell you that it definitely was sticking as I was applying it.


I did not prep the walls with a primer. That is suggested in the tutorial so maybe you will want to! I would have, but my local shops didn't have a primer available and I wanted to get going on this project. My walls were previously painted with traditional wall paint and I was not applying directly to drywall but I would need to do more research to know what exactly the primer is for and when it's needed. (Do your research if you are worried! Clearly I was not worried enough.)


The first panel I put up I did not use nearly enough paste and it didn't stick well. The tutorial says "apply a thin even coat" and I think everyone's definition of "thin" might be different and it may take you one attempt to get a handle on the appropriate amount. I also found it really important to be sure there was a lot paste on the left and right sides; if your paper is going to peel up, it's going to be along the edges and so you want to make sure you get a really firm hold there. (Can you see my seam in the photo above?) It's less necessary for you to get a lot of paste along the very top and bottom edges of your panel because those you will cut off once it's installed on the wall. (You can see below that third panel has not yet been trimmed.)


Speaking of cutting: be prepared to use A LOT of razor blades. It's noted in the tutorial that you will need a sharp blade but I found to get a clean cut I needed a fresh blade for every cut. I used 5x the number of blades I thought I would. When the blade is dull, you risk tearing the paper and you also may not get a through cut which means you have to go back and hit it again. Each cut is so tedious and doing another pass of the same cut line is extra tedious. I personally worked best with a pen sized razor (the smaller option here is what I used). I was working in a tight space and felt like I had more control with something small instead of a larger box cutter type blade.

I used scissors a lot too when cutting around objects because in my normal hobby life, I work with scissors more often than blades and I am very comfortable with them. The only scissors I had were the big orange handled Fiskars which worked, but the next time I do this, I will use detail scissors (something like this) for more control.


One tip from the tutorial that I skipped was the advice to paste your paper before cutting it for a corner (this is detailed around the 1:07 mark in this video). When I saw it I thought it seemed too messy and so I cut my paper to the correct size to go around the corner before pasting. This was a mistake. I realized around corner three that the paper expands when wet. So while my corners lined up okay (you can see some detail below), I could have gotten a better match (and had less vertical waste) if I had just followed the instructions and cut my paper after pasting. Next time I will do this step for sure.


Finally, I would highly recommend wearing a waist apron with pockets to hold the gazillion tools you'll need for this project. I would say 10% of my time went to finding and reaching for a pencil, straight edge, tape measure, blade, scissors, etc. (Not to mention the amount of excess paste I wiped on to my shorts and legs!) Before I wallpaper again I am going to sew up an apron! I can picture it in my head and it's going to be cute. I'll share a how-to for that in a post as soon as I have it made. (Project creep is real!).


To wrap up: installing traditional wallpaper is tedious and hard. I completely understand why it's a DIY people shy away from and why you so often hear it's worth it to hire a pro. After doing it myself, I believe the pros are artists and worth every penny. I also plan to do it again myself for sure. I do think it's doable with the right tools and a lot of patience. I also think it's important to have a helper at least for your first job. Be prepared to go really slow. Get excess of all the materials (paste, razors, paper) because you can most likely return what's not used but it would be very frustrating to run out early. Measure three times before you cut. When you start to get tired STOP and start fresh the next day. I found this to be one of the most satisfying decor projects I have ever done and such a confidence boost that I can DIY so much of this house. As you can see above, the rest of the powder room is far from finished but it's already so exciting.

My name is Elise Blaha Cripe. I live in San Diego, California with my husband and our two young daughters.

I make stuff like it's my job.

In 2015 I launched GET TO WORK BOOK®, a daily planner + goal-setting journal. In October 2019, my book about getting stuff done, Big Dreams, Daily Joys hit bookstores everywhere. For almost ten years, this blog was where I shared (daily!) general life musings, insight into being a small business owner and the occasional craft project. In 2021, I am sharing again as we prepare to move back home to Northern California and renovate our dream cottage. I have closed comments, but feel free to email me at elise[@]gettoworkbook.com if you have any questions about a post you see here.

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