How to create a wallpaper accent wall

There’s no need to wallpaper an entire room the way people did years ago. Instead, choose a bright and bold pattern and use it on just one accent wall

Materials

  • drywall mud or spackle (if the wall needs patching)
  • acrylic wallcovering primer with sizing
  • pre-pasted wallpaper

Tools

  • drop cloths
  • ladder or step stool
  • rubber gloves, bucket, and sponge
  • household cleaner, or deglosser
  • if existing paint has a gloss finish
  • putty knife (if wall needs patching)
  • paint tray
  • roller, 9 inch or mini
  • synthetic-bristle brush, 11/2 inch or 2 inch
  • tape measure
  • pencil
  • carpenter’s level
  • scissors
  • wallpaper water tray
  • wallpaper brush and wallpaper sponge
  • seam roller
  • taping knife, 6 inch to 10 inch
  • single-edge razor blade

Steps

1. Prep and prime. Spread the drop cloths. Wearing gloves, wash the wall with water and the cleaner or deglosser. Let dry. To patch any holes, apply the drywall mud or spackle with the putty knife. Let dry. Pour some primer with sizing into the paint tray and prime the wall; use the roller for the main expanse of the wall and the synthetic-bristle brush for the corners. Let dry.

2. Find the starting point. With the tape measure and the pencil, measure the wall’s width and mark the midpoint. Then, using the wallpaper roll as a guide, mark wallpaper-width increments across the wall to the edges.

If less than half the paper’s width is left over at each corner, plan to center the first strip over the wall’s midpoint. Otherwise, plan to have the first two pieces flank the wall’s midpoint. For either case, use the pencil and the carpenter’s level to draw a vertical line ¼ inch to the left of where the left edge of the first strip will be (so the pencil mark won’t show in the seam).

3. Cut the paper. Measure the wall’s height. On the floor, unroll a length of the paper. Choose what part of the pattern you want at the top of the wall. Allowing an extra 2 inches at the top and bottom, cut off the strip with the scissors. Unroll another length of wallpaper, line up the pattern with the first strip, and cut to length. Repeat for the remaining pieces.

4. Paste. Roll one strip so the pasted side faces out. Add water to the wallpaper water tray. Submerge the rolled strip in the water. Grab the paper’s top edge and lift the sheet from the water as it unrolls. Place the strip right side down on the drop cloths. Loosely fold the top and bottom edges toward the center, so no sticky side faces out. Wait the recommended “booking” time.

5. Apply. Unfold the top half of the paper and align it with 2 inches extra at the top, ¼ inch to the right of the guide line (from step 2). Working your way down, smooth the paper against the wall with your fingertips and the wallpaper brush. Brush from the center toward the sides. Prepare and position the remaining sheets in the same way, butting the edges tightly together. About 15 minutes after you apply each sheet, roll over the edges with the seam roller. Wipe the wallpaper with the damp wallpaper sponge.

6. Trim. To trim the top and bottom edges, place the taping knife over the wallpaper and press the tool’s thin edge into the edge. Trace against the edge with the razor blade, neatly slicing off the 2-inch excess. 

First-timer tips

Take along a sketch or photo of the wall and its dimensions when you shop for wallpaper. Once you find a pattern you like, ask a clerk at the store to help you calculate how much wallpaper to buy.

If the wall already has wallpaper, you may be able to paper over it after you apply a coat of wallcovering primer with sizing. But if the old wallpaper is loose or peeling, you must strip the existing wallpaper and start from scratch.

 

Alternate Method

If you use unpasted wallcovering instead, simply ask for the correct adhesive at the wallcovering store—and for a pamphlet or a flier detailing the procedure.