Today's stylish designs look great in unexpected places. Get 4 off-the-wall ideas

“I can’t stop wallpapering. It’s sick,” admits Christiana Coop, who has turned her San Francisco apartment into a lab of sorts. An interior design consultant and U.S. representative of Denmark-based Ferm Living, Coop finds easy, innovative ways to transform her home ― from stairs to ceiling ― with modern, colorful wallpaper.

“I like to use it as art so that it adds a fun dimension but doesn’t overtake the space,” she says. By choosing smaller projects, she gets to experiment without committing an entire room to a single color or pattern.


1. Wallpaper and wallpaper paste

2. Tape measure and ruler

3. Scissors

4. Craft knife (such as an X-Acto knife)

INFO The wallpapers used in these projects are from Ferm Living. For more info and a design consultation, contact Coop directly (415/399-1559). 




Big idea: Choose a wallpaper with a repeating vertical design, and align the pattern from panel to panel.



STEP 1 Measure the door panels and cut wallpaper to fit.

STEP 2 Apply double-sided tape (we recommend Scotch double-sided permanent tape) around the perimeter of each door panel. (Alternatively, use a 2-in. sponge brush to apply wall-paper paste.)

STEP 3 Adhere wallpaper to each panel, starting at the top right corner and working across the top and down the sides, smoothing with your fingers as you go. If using paste, wipe off any excess with a damp sponge.


Big idea: Pick a nonlinear pattern that looks good horizontally and vertically. (This project usually requires two people and a ladder.)

Step 1 You’ll need two pans, one for primer and one for wallpaper paste. Using a paint roller, apply primer to the ceiling. Let primer dry. Rinse the roller and let it dry.

Step 2 Cut a strip of wallpaper the length of the ceiling, adding a few inches on each end for wiggle room.

Step 3 Roll a thin, even layer of paste on an area of the ceiling about the size of the strip. Adhere the strip, starting at one end and working toward the other. Flatten bubbles or creases by working a wallpaper smoother outward from the middle to the edges.

Step 4 Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the ceiling is covered, carefully matching the pattern and wiping off excess paste with a damp sponge. Trim edges using a straightedge and craft knife. 


Big idea: Use paper with an intricate pattern for smaller areas.

Step 1 Measure the inside of a tray (we painted one that came with a stand; West Elm,, including sides. Cut one piece of wallpaper to fit.

Step 2 Determine the height of the tray’s lip; use this measurement to cut a small square from each corner of the wallpaper (when placed in the tray, the edges should meet at the corners).

Step 3 Apply wallpaper paste to the inside of the tray with a 2-in. sponge brush. Adhere wallpaper, starting at the top edge of one lip. Smooth from the middle outward. Remove excess paste with a damp sponge. Let dry.

Step 4 Cut out handles with craft knife. Spray with a protective glaze (we recommend Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear).


Big idea: A staircase is usually wider than a wallpaper roll; choose a pattern that looks good sideways, so you only need one strip per stair.

Step 1 Measure each stair riser separately. Cut wallpaper exactly to fit.

Step 2 Follow steps 2 and 3 of the door panels project (above). Spray risers with a protective glaze (we recommend Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear), taking care to keep it off the wood.