Sunday, January 18, 2015

From the O Chickadee Mailbag

Our entryway before wallpaper installation.
I never get mail. So I was delighted to get this email last week:

Dear O Chickadee,

I would love to see a post on wallpaper.  My husband and I recently moved to a new place and want to try some fun things to make our space feel more like us.  We like the idea of using wallpaper on one of the walls in the kitchen, but our building is a bit older and the walls are textured and fairly uneven. Is wallpaper impossible?  Would a bright bold paint color work better?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Lindy, I am happy you asked and happy to chime in. As you know, this year we spent a lot of time painting walls and hanging wallpaper, a refresh to our home that made me feel so much happier in our space. I am sure that it would do the same for you!

A few logistics- we rent our house, so I used renter's wallpaper, or removable wallpaper, from Spoonflower (Dawn introduced me to Spoonflower wallpaper way back when). This wallpaper (we used what they call "Smooth Wallpaper") has an adhesive backing activated by water, and you can take it off easily (this has been proven by Ames, who decided to peel a piece off about three weeks after installation. Sigh. Life with toddlers.)

The great thing about Spoonflower is that they have so many designs to choose from. At first I felt overwhelmed by the choices, so I requested swatches of the designs I liked best. Ultimately, I went with this one, a design called Farmers Market. Part of the reason that I chose it (and frankly, what is driving a lot of my design decisions these days) is that it was bright and made me feel so, so happy. There were other designs that might have been more sophisticated or more in keeping with the style of our home, but because this house lacks a lot of natural light, I wanted to choose things that were bright, cheerful and made me smile. This wallpaper did exactly that.

Anyway, I found the entire process of working with Spoonflower and hanging the wallpaper totally doable although it took a long time. Here were a few of the pitfalls we experienced:
  • We wasted a lot of wallpaper due to the fact that we were wallpapering around four (!) doorways. This project would have been much simpler (and cheaper) if we had just done a flat wall.
  • Many of the wallpapers tools we bought were unnecessary, but this smoothing tool was absolutely critical. You will also need a really sharp x-acto knife. Other than that, I found hand towels to be critical but all the other recommended tools (the seam roller, etc) were not needed.
  • It was not cheap. This was exacerbated by the aforementioned fact that we were working around a lot of doors, but I think most people would be shocked that I spent about $500 on wallpapering the entryway in a house we don't even own. I think it was totally worth it though, in that it was an immediate transformation that made our space feel more like ours and it makes me happy every time I walk by.
  • You will need two people. My mom and I did it together when she was visiting.
  • Make sure you unroll the wallpaper and determine if you need to hang it from left-to-right or from right-to-left to get a smooth repeat of your design. We did not do this and hung it in the wrong direction, so on some parts of our wall, the design is off. Happily, our wallpaper is busy enough you don't really notice, but with another pattern, we would have had to start over.
  • I found this tutorial on Spoonflower super-helpful
Ok. Now that you have the basics, let's tackle some of the questions in your specific situation.

I think it would be very, very difficult to wallpaper textured and uneven walls. My first thought was to wallpaper some large pieces of plywood and simply attach those to the walls you want wallpapered. Is that a possibility? If not, paint might be a better option, although it doesn't do as much heavy-lifting as wallpaper from a design impact perspective. 

Another option might be to paint your walls and then frame large squares of wallpaper- I can imagine different size square frames of wallpaper hung close together, giving a kind of patchwork quilt effect.

If your walls are only lightly textured, I would recommend ordering the swatches from Spoonflower and actually trying to install them. Even with the small swatch, you should get a feeling right away on if the wallpaper would work in your space.

After dipping in the water, waiting for the adhesive to activate.

Before trimming, Why don't my boys ever wear pants?
Hope this helps. Whichever way you go, I think the investment of time and money on making your space a reflection of you will be well worth it.
Happy boys with my mom following our successful installation.

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