Installing wallpaper in unexpected places is a great way to bring interest and color to a space. It can also be a fun way to incorporate a design trend without committing to a whole room makeover.
A few years ago, we took on a major remodel to update our home's original 1950s floor plan. Basically, we knocked down all of the interior walls.
I love how light and open our new space is, but it’s been a challenge to decorate as there aren’t many walls.
I got an idea from a restaurant that had wallpapered the back side of a bar. We have an island in the middle of our kitchen and one side functions as a bar – the perfect spot to add some interest and a pop of color!
Now that I had my idea, I just had to figure out how to do it. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to get this look in your own kitchen. Plus a few tips on what NOT to do!
Step 1: Pick your space and decide on your print
Since this was my first wallpaper project, I wanted
to choose a space that would be fairly easy for a beginner, but also maximize the impact. While I loved the idea of wallpaper on the back of the island, I still needed to consider a few things to make sure this was the right space.
The best surface for wallpaper is one that is smooth and dry. The island hit this criteria. But,
the island is also dark blue, which could have been a problem. Darkly colored surfaces may need a coat of primer if you’re installing lighter wallpaper. (And the primer should dry for a few weeks for best results). I didn’t want to wait weeks to start this project (much less prime the surface), so I needed to take this into consideration when choosing my print.
Our kitchen is light and open with white cabinets, white subway tile, and natural stone and wood finishes. The neutral colors and natural finishes are a pretty blank slate, but the look could also be overpowered by something too bold. Even though I wanted something that would pop, I didn’t want it to look completely out of place.
I decided on a bold, colorful floral print on a navy blue background in a peel and stick wallpaper. (Click on the image to shop for this design).
The color works well with the current color on the cabinets. It’s a dark enough that it can be applied on a dark surface. The loose watercolor blossoms are very natural looking and go well with all of the natural finishes in the kitchen. The oversized bright pink blossoms add that bold element I was looking for while still feeling fresh and light and open.
Step 2: Choose the right paper
There are many types of wallpaper to choose from. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but there may be one that’s best for your project. I chose peel and stick wallpaper for a few reasons.
Easy to install. Check.
Easy to remove if you change your mind. Check.
Works well on smooth surfaces. Check.
Durable for high traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms (or the underside of islands that are kicked by teenage sneakers). Check.
Easy to clean with a damp cloth. And Check!
Other common types of wallpaper include pre-pasted wallpaper that has adhesive already applied to the back and is activated by soaking in water. Pre-pasted is easiest with another person since it’s a little hard to manage once it’s wet.
Non-pasted wallpaper needs paste applied and should be installed by a professional installer. Non-pasted papers often have more texture than the other types, which can add a nice dimension to the paper.
Grasscloth paper is made from grass fibers and has a rich natural texture. Because it’s made from natural fibers, there is variation to the texture and color of the paper. This effect can be beautiful, but is best with more minimal designs where the texture and fibers can shine. It’s also not the best choice for bathrooms or kitchens where there is more moisture and the walls may need to be cleaned more often.
Pro Tip: Order a sample! Most wallpaper can’t be returned once it’s ordered, so it’s always a good idea to order a sample. These are usually only a couple of dollars and will ensure that the color and scale are correct and that it looks good in your space.
Step 3: Measure twice, order once
Get out your measuring tape, calculator and notebook for this next step. It’s not too difficult, but makes things easier if you spend a little time making sure your measurements are accurate.
When measuring for wallpaper, the general calculations are simple: measure the width and length of your wall or surface and divide by the width of the roll of paper.
If you have a bigger project, you might want to break it down into a few steps. First, measure the width of each wall or surface you want to cover. Add up all the widths for the combined width of the project. Next measure the height of your surface and jot that down as well. If you have different shapes or sizes of walls, it may help to draw each wall or surface out and calculate the amount for each wall.
Once you have your wall measurements, look up the width and length of the wallpaper rolls. The rolls should all be the same width, but may have different lengths, which makes smaller spaces like half walls a little easier to paper.
Now divide the combined width of your surface by the width of the wall paper roll. It helps to use the same unit of measurement, so if your wall measurements are in inches, make sure you are using inches for the denominator as well.
For my project, the calculation was fairly simple since the space was a rectangle with just a few cutouts for outlets.
The width of the area I wanted to wallpaper was 119 inches, or 9 ft. 11 in. I rounded this up to 10 ft.
The height of the area I wanted to wallpaper is 2 ft. 11 in., which I rounded up to 3 ft.
Rolls of wallpaper I ordered are 2 feet wide, so I divided 10 ft (the width of the island) by 2 (the width of the wallpaper roll). 10 / 2 = 5, so I needed 5 rolls. The peel and stick wallpaper is available in a 3 ft length, so that was enough for the height.
My total order was 5 rolls of the 3 ft peel and stick wallpaper.
Pro Tip: Round up on your measurements to make sure you have enough. If you’re covering a larger space, like a whole room, order an extra roll to allow for mistakes or tricky angles.
Step 4: Install the paper
Peel and stick wallpaper is like a giant sticker with a paper backing. To install, remove the backing and apply to the wall.
Simple, right? Right?! Well, maybe not simple, but definitely doable with a little more instruction, plus a few hints and tips I wish I had ahead of time.
Before starting, make sure you have a clean space to work. I swept the floor around the island and wiped down the surface to make sure no dust would get caught in the adhesive. I also moved everything off the island so I had space to lay out the paper and materials.
Read any instructions that come in the package and lay out all of your materials so they’re easily accessible. Peel and stick wallpaper only requires a few tools: a squeegee, which was included in the package, and a sharp blade, like a box cutter. I used an X-Acto craft knife, which worked fine.
Pro tip: If you have puppies or small children, don’t leave your knife on the floor, unless you want to chase your puppy/child while they run around with a knife in their mouth.
Unroll the wallpaper to let it relax. Or, if you’re impatient like me, roll them up in the opposite direction to get them to relax a little faster. I started hanging the paper while it was still pretty tight, but I “reverse rolled” the last few rolls. It made hanging the last few strips much easier when I wasn’t fighting against the curve of the paper.
When you’re ready to begin, slowly peel back 5-6 inches of the paper from adhesive. Starting with the top left corner, line the roll along the edge left edge of your wall or surface, then begin sticking the paper to the wall across the top of the roll. As you apply the paper, use the squeegee to remove any air bubbles between the paper and the wall.
Working from left to right and top to bottom, keep working your way down the wall a few inches at a time. Use a straight edge or blade to cut the paper along the floor or bottom of your surface.
When you start the second roll, there will be a slight overlap in the pattern (about ¼ inch). Starting with the top left corner again, line up the pattern and begin applying the paper along the left hand side so the pattern continues to line up as you work your way down the wall.
This part was a little tricky at first. It helped to pull the paper back from the corner to get the placement correct along the left side before sticking it down across the top. Continue to pull the paper back little at a time as you work down the wall with the squeegee.
Be careful pulling back the paper to make sure it doesn’t tear as you remove it. If it does tear, just lift the wallpaper up and make sure to get all of the paper off the back so it adheres correctly.
Pro tip: The peel and stick paper can be pulled up and adjusted if you don’t get it quite right. Yes, this happened more than once. Just try to adjust it before securing it with the squeegee.
Once you get to the end of the wall, or surface, use the blade to cut along the edge of the wall. A straight edge, like a ruler, can make it easier to keep a straight line. If you covered any outlets or light switches, cut around the shape with the blade and smooth out the paper with the squeegee.
Trim away any extra paper, then stand back and enjoy your work!
This project took a few weeks from start to finish, including ordering samples and then placing the full order. The actual installation took about two hours, including cleaning the space and putting everything away. Easily doable for a weekend project!
You made to the end! Enjoy the Timelapse of the installation complete with curious dogs and hungry hubby getting lunch in the background.