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4 Things I Wish I’d Considered Before Wallpapering My Whole Home

Hello, it’s me – the lunatic who spent thousands of dollars wallpapering her rental apartment. (The full cost breakdown from 2021 is here, in case you’re interested.) Do I regret it? No! But I also wallpapered each space without a corresponding design plan, which did also create a few unintentional challenges – for a hobby designer like me, at least – so today, I’d like to walk you through what I did right, what I did wrong, and a few tips that I’ll be keeping in mind for any future wallpaper projects. I lived it, I learned it, and now I hope I can help you make the perfect wallpaper choice for your home!

Tip 1: They Say To Start Small – They’re Right!

Spoiler: Clichés? They’re cliché for a reason. So the classic wallpaper advice we’ve all grown up with – try it in a powder room! Test it in a closet! Throw it in a space you’re using relatively infrequently! – is TOTALLY CORRECT. If this is your first foray into wallpaper, testing it out in a smaller space is a GREAT call. Will you get sick of seeing the same thing every day? Can you commit to looking at a pattern for years? Find out before you slather your walls in paste and paper!

I wallpapered my bathroom first, and it was a great way to gauge my tolerance – I learned that I can handle an “out-there” pattern, I love a graphic print, and I was also awed by its transformational powers! (Who knew that gluing some stuff to the wall would totally change how I felt about my home?) But if I hadn’t liked it, I still would have been totally fine – I’m not spending 8 hours every day in here. It was a functional space before, and it would have been a functional space after. No harm, no foul! (PS. For what it’s worth, it’s been 3 years and we have no peeling, bubbling, or humidity issues in this bathroom! I open the window and my door when I shower and it’s been totally fine. But I also worked with an incredible installer who took some extra steps, like sanding the walls, so keep that in mind if you’re also eyeing a bathroom!)

What To Think About: If you can shut the door to not have to look at your paper 24/7, go wild! But if you’re working with a more open-concept space, read on.

Tip 2: Keep Your Home Saturation Consistent

This is the one thing that I think I’ve done right (as seen above) and wrong (we’ll get there in a minute!). But first, as a refresher: I live in a long, railroad-style one-bedroom apartment with all of my important spaces located off of one VERY long, and VERY dark hallway.

When I decided to go crazy with the wallpaper, I chose the patterns that I would most enjoy in each room…and to that end, I knocked it out of the park! I still love every selection. Buuuuut I also forgot that I live in a home, not in a discrete series of photos on the internet, and I was left reeling as I tried to figure out how to create a more cohesive sense of flow.

So I just went for it: I slathered the hallway – ceilings and all! – in this rich, green-gray paint from Sherwin-Williams. It wasn’t a perfect color match for any of the papers I’d selected – not that they even shared any similar colors, ha – but it had enough visual weight and depth to balance out each of the strong, bold patterns.

design by caitlin higgins | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: caitlin’s living room reveal

And that’s what I think I got wrong in my living room. I played it too safe! I thought that going a bit more neutral in this room would let those patterns shine, but instead, it feels a little off-balance to me. When I look back into the dining room and kitchen, I’m so excited and energized by the pattern – it feels like me! But I held back a bit in the living room and I think it falls a little flat. If you’re gonna go for it, you REALLY gotta go for it, you know?

There’s hope, though! My boyfriend, Dennis, is moving in later this spring, so we’ve been working on some updates – desk space for both of us, a sectional that we can sprawl on, all that jazz – and I’m so excited to take another stab at making the living room feel like it speaks to the dining room AND kitchen. I’ve realized that those walls draw a lot of attention, so it’s okay to bring in some more colorful or denser pieces! Before, I’d assume they’d be competing with those patterns – but now, I know that a punchier living room will help my entire home feel more harmonious.

What To Think About: What sort of visual weight does your home have? If your furniture is on the leggy, airy side, you might want to consider a wallpaper that’s a bit quieter. If you’re drawn to large, statement-making pieces, you can probably pull off a busier, bolder print! It’s like that old What Not to Wear adage – it doesn’t have to match, but it has to go. You want your wallpaper to blend in with your home, not to be the only thing people notice when they walk into a room.

Tip 3: Remember The Repeat Size

This one should seem obvious, but it’s often forgotten: if you have a big space, consider opting for a wallpaper with a bigger repeat! The two (very sweet) rooms above are pretty large, so Emily and our team opted for mural-style wallpapers which keeps your eye bouncing around.

But like most design “rules,” there are exceptions. On the left, this botanical wallpaper is desaturated and quiet – the small repeat still feels calming and refined. Now, imagine if the wallpaper on the right was scaled down to a similar size. It’d be WAY too busy and chaotic, right? You’d probably be begging for it to end! When it comes to design, scale really IS everything.

What To Think About: Hang your wallpaper sample up on the furthest wall and give it a good look. Can you still see all the detail or color that drew you to this paper in the first place? When you look at the wallpaper’s product rendering online, do any jarring patterns or lines emerge in the negative space? It’s hard to go too big, but you can DEFINITELY go too small.

Tip 4: Keep It Simple To Allow For Future Changes

photo by kaitlin green | from: the case for the quiet neutral wallpapers

I’ll be real: I’m jealous of Em’s ticking stripe wallpaper! Because she picked this timeless, almost-neutral print, she’ll easily be able to swap art around, try out new color schemes, and play with her design. I didn’t even consider a simpler pattern in my home, but it’s meant that choosing art, furniture, and accessories is WAY more difficult than I’d anticipated. (“Duh,” said everyone.)

photo by kaitlin green | from: the case for the quiet neutral wallpapers

I love that Em’s ticking stripe still adds depth and interest and pattern, but it’s also an AWESOME backdrop for whatever she wants her home to look like! In my home, the wallpaper will continue to dictate the design for the remainder of my tenancy. But in Em’s home, she’s the boss.

I’ll be real: when I move into a new spot, I’ll absolutely be wallpapering again – but I’ll be leaving the loud prints for rooms with closed doors and the timeless patterns for the main areas. That said, I’ll only be in my thirties in LA once, and I’m SO GLAD that I really went for it this time around. I’ll always remember this little funhouse apartment SO fondly, and that’s because it’s color-drenched and cheery.

What To Think About: What kind of designer are you? Are you constantly swapping art and accessories, or are you more of an “it’s finished, and I’m not touching it again for a long time” type? If you love to shake it up, consider a more neutral backdrop. If you’re a one-and-done type, consider going for something a little bolder! In my case, I think I’ll be eyeing something more quiet and tonal – I still want color and pattern, but I think it’d be easier to change things up frequently when I have a little less color and pattern.

Tip 5: You Can’t Go Wrong With A Classic

What do these three spaces have in common? They’re all using an iconic pattern! The added bonus? If you’re ever in a design rut, you can search for TONS of great inspiration on Pinterest. Take a peek at your own boards – have you pinned the same wallpaper several times? Are designers using it in different spaces and in different ways? If so, you may have just found your next new wallcovering!

What To Think About: What kind of classic are you? Are you a Martinique, a la Blanche Devereaux? Are you a Raphael, like Emily and Sarah above? There are tons of classic prints out there that fit each architectural and design style – and you know they’re good because we’ve been raving about them for decades!

Well…I hope that helps a bit! (And if you’re on the hunt for any more wallpaper inspiration, I pin a ton of awesome spaces – from all styles and eras! – on this catch-all Pinterest board.) Please drop any questions or tips in the comments – I’d love to hear what you think, too. LET’S CHAT? xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Caitlin Higgins (me!) | Styled by Emily Bowser | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: The Reveal We’ve All Been Waiting For! Caitlin’s Mostly Thrifted, Postmodern Regency Deco Living Room

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anni
1 month ago

For your living room, I’m so curious what you’ll choose! If it wasn’t a rental, I would consider wallpapering the ceiling, and leaving the walls pink. (way too much work for a rental, I’m exhausted just contemplating that!)

Mariana
1 month ago
Reply to  anni

Great idea!

Susan
1 month ago

I just spent 2 full days scrubbing wall paper glue off of a series of rooms in a charming 1920s brick bungalow. I’m not a wall paper hater, but I get hired a LOT to remove wall paper and fix the walls. I guess I would say think long and hard about what you want before doing it, OR set aside a realistic budget for future you who needs/wants to take it down. I do not think a person should keep their house neutral and sellable for some future someday when you want to move on, but I would say be realistic about the fact that it’s harder to change than other options.

Gabi
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

My wallpaper theories (gross generalizations/humor)

  1. Nobody who has ever done the labor (or paid for the labor) to remove wallpaper will ever wallpaper again.
  2. No future homeowner will EVER like your wallpaper (see 1)
  3. There is no wallpaper you will like FOREVER (see 1)
  4. The current wallpaper craze is for those who have never had wallpaper (see 1)
  5. Proceed with caution (see 1)
Erin
1 month ago
Reply to  Gabi

I agree wholeheartedly with these AND love wallpaper in other people’s homes. But I have pretty stark memories of scraping about 8 layers of wallpaper in an old house in Maine (with high ceilings and fleas)… shudder! Definitely do it if you love it, just make sure you really really love it…

Brenna
1 month ago
Reply to  Erin

Exactly! I remember helping my mom scrape wallpaper off the walls of the house we had just moved into when I was 9. That was almost 36 years ago, and I know wallpaper is (I’ve heard?) easier to remove now, but even so… for 36 years it’s kept me from wanting to put wallpaper in any home I’ve lived in. I also don’t have any tattoos… I wonder if there’s a correlation! Haha! I enjoy both on other people and their homes, but I have a huge fear of getting tired of such a big commitment. (And yet I’m happily married. So who knows…)

CGinAZ
1 month ago
Reply to  Gabi

Amen to everything you just said. Especially no. 1

Lia
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

I have terrible memories of scraping wallpaper in our current home while six months pregnant with twins. It was a small space but such a pain! However, in a shocking twist I never anticipated, I just had paper installed in our powder room earlier this week! And it is WILD – baboons and chameleons, large scale, QUITE THE STATEMENT. I only did it on upper third of the room and it reminds me and my husband of our pre kid life when we lived overseas and had several baboon encounters. If the next person hates it, TOUGH.

Lane
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

We’re heading into sameness . Some call it the age of average. Why not live a little on the edge of design, do something passionate that you’d love to live it instead of making a home for a stranger in the distant future (who might decide to level the house anyway)? By the way, I did scrape off wallpaper in several rooms by hand. We fixed the walls too. It took some effort, but I wanted to give this house some love. Everything nice having takes time and effort. Ugly wallpaper would not keep me away from buying a house, but lack of character and architectural detail certainly would.

Max Smack
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

FWIW – while wallpaper can be divisive, I encourage anyone to try it. I wallpapered my powder room with 10 foot plus walls in a chinoiserie mural (my husband hates it, says that it looks like someone took acid and painted the walls). I love the wallpaper, but I don’t think it would take much to pull it off the walls if I decided to try a different pattern. Perhaps the older wallpaper paste was harder to remove? If you’re on the fence about trying wallpaper, I would encourage it. There are tons of peel and stick as well as paste the wall options. If you try it in a small space and have a weekend to DIY, I think it’s worth the experiment. I would 100 percent wallpaper another room in my house and do it myself. This is after I spent two days standing on the very top of a 10 foot ladder (dangerous I know), getting paste all over my person, and trying to butt pieces of a mural together in a space with walls that are not square and wavy at some points. In fact, I’m planning on wallpapering my guest bathroom in the next year.

Donna J
1 month ago

This is a great article! My four tips are : One: if you have wild taste but want a calm mood you can do a wild or busy pattern in a neutral. That way your eye can decide if you want it to be restful or exciting. Next if you’re doing a DIY bit by bit decoration, go slow . Do the research and take the time to really consider and wait until you find the pattern you love. Not like, not settle for but LOVE. I have rich taste and a room that needs 10- 13 rolls and window shopped a lot of papers out of my budget at $239 a roll for about a year until I found my perfect designer paper on super sale for $13- 17 a roll. I was able to pull the trigger fast because I had done my research. It being so affordable made the process less stressful. Third , for small spaces like a powder room consider starch pasting fabric to the walls. It works really well. And finally my advice is that it it’s always a little nerve wracking to use wallpaper and that’s normal.

Loveley of HoneymoonVintage.com
1 month ago

Caitlin! I looove when you post. Because I love your space and style and also because they’re always so timely to me. We are redoing our bathroom and I picked out the most awesome wallpaper to go behind the mirror. And I’ve been waffling about whether or not to wallpaper in there because of humidity. If yours is holding up, I’m thinking mine should be OK. Do you have a vent fan in your bathroom? Also, what are your thoughts on using wallpaper that is so awesome that you want to look at it, but most of it would be covered by a big mirror? Don’t bother wasting it and use it in a more visible space or just go for it? also, yes, you are only young and in LA once, and your apartment should be everything you want it to be! Personally, I love all your choices. That shot from the living room to the dining room is so good. I think it’s fine that you didn’t wallpaper delivering room because the paint colors really good and set off the dining room view perfectly. Also, you have a lot of things going on in the living room that… Read more »

Ashley
1 month ago

Depending on how the bathroom is laid out, maybe the big mirror would reflect the paper that’s elsewhere in the room so you’d still get to see lots of it? And if the mirror will be attached to the wall, maybe don’t “waste” the paper by papering behind?

But if the paper brings you joy and that’s the room where it will work, I say go for it. Depending on the pattern you could even wrap it onto the ceiling where there aren’t any mirrors (I assume 😉 ).

Loveley of HoneymoonVintage.com
1 month ago
Reply to  Ashley

Thanks Ashley! I actually painted the ceiling pink and the floor tile is a herringbone seafoam greenish color. So the wallpaper is not needed for color, but I love it so much and I think it would look really good with that floor and ceiling color. But I was thinking if I don’t use it in there behind the mirror area, I would do my powder room in this wallpaper. Hmmmmmm. But you’ve given me things to think of. 😀

Loveley of HoneymoonVintage.com
1 month ago

“Delivering room” was supposed to be “the living room”. Clearly my phone doesn’t understand me.

Ruth Allen
1 month ago

Twenty years ago I had a professional hang wallpaper in a bathroom -about 10’x12′, in Seattle.It was $400/roll, but I happened across it at a discount store and paid about that amount total for the whole room. It has some metallic geometric areas. It even covers around the top of the shower area. No sign of mold, no issues whatsoever. the fan does get run during showers. I still love it every time I walk in.

Reply to  Ruth Allen

that sounds great! thanks for the encouragement!

Ashley
1 month ago

Great guidance as wallpaper becomes more popular again, but I have to disagree a little. I think your living room color looks AMAZING with the dining room and each complements the other beautifully! It’s the pattern-on-pattern transition of dining to kitchen that I’m less sure about (even though I love both rooms individually). But then I’m definitely a “lots of visual rest” person, so I admire people who have the tolerance to go really bold and do more interesting things with their space. All your rooms are amazing.

Gabi
1 month ago
Reply to  Ashley

I do like the use of medium brown in the living and dining rooms. I think also adding brown wood above the stove in the kitchen would help connect the 3 rooms.

Emily
1 month ago
Reply to  Ashley

I agree I love the pink in the living room!!

Angela
1 month ago
Reply to  Ashley

I agree that the pink walls in the living room (with the green curtains) are perfect. If you want to add pattern in there, what about a patterned couch? I love love love the dining room wallpaper.

Donna J
1 month ago
Reply to  Angela

This whole issue of seeing color and pattern from one room to the next is called the enfilade BTW. I learned then when I painted my railroad flat pink, chocolate brown and yellow .. I was living that spumoni life and loving it ! Heres more ( not my blog) : https://adecorativeaffair.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/the-power-of-the-enfilade/

Beth
1 month ago

Love your posts! fun, frolicky and always an inspiring and informative read, Caitlin. I adore your bold style while also appreciating that the hallway creates a place for the eye to rest. To take a little breather before the encountering the visual splendor awaiting in the next space. So smart.

Sally
1 month ago

I’m so sad you don’t love your living room!! I think it’s so beautiful! I think you definitely need to know yourself when you decorate – one person’s calm and soothing is another person’s bland and bleak. I never understand why people think you get sick of colour before neutrals because I think neutrals are way more boring but I’m by no means a maximalist or a jungaliow type. But life is better in colour!! I couldn’t live in a world of beige or grey, not happily anyway although I like both those colours mixed with other colours and funnily enough, each other.
And for what it’s worth, I think the so-called timeless look will definitely date. It’s already very identifiable, a tiny bit stuffy and IMHO lacking in freshness. I look forward to seeing your living room updates!!!!! Thanks for the tips.

Lane
1 month ago
Reply to  Sally

I agree with everything. I’m already super tired of looking at the modern farmhouse and beige/dim/muddy esthetic.

R
1 month ago

I feel like walking into your living room would take my breath away every day — the subtle peachy pink walls, the green drapes, that sofa! Those are my favorite color combos. I love the risks you take.

Cheryl
1 month ago

I love all of your wallpaper but I also love the living room painted a solid color. I think the pink is fun but agree it isn’t punchy so maybe you just need a punchier paint color? If not a saturated pink maybe pull one of the brighter colors from the neighboring wallpaper to compliment?
I wallpapered our bedroom but just one wall with a big repeat of soft golden lotus flowers on a pink background. The lotus flowers have personal meaning which, like a tattoo means never tire of seeing them. The wallpaper is almost sentimental. That helped me to feel confident I’d always love it and I sure do!

Karen
1 month ago

If you are doing bold saturated paper in certain rooms and leaving others with just lighter paint, you have to compensate with bold art! Otherwise it’s like a visual roller coaster when walking through the house!

Jeanne
1 month ago

The wallpapers make your home very playful and colorful. One question, because it’s a rental, won’t you have to remove it all if you move out? That sounds daunting.

Sarah
1 month ago

For anyone considering wallpaper but afraid of the commitment, I have three words: PEEL AND STICK.

I used a bolder pattern from Chasing Paper in my laundry room, and a subtler grasscloth-look paper from Lowe’s in a bathroom. I still love them both and they have held up perfectly for several years, but should I ever want or need to change them, I can just peel them off without damaging the walls. My only regret is that I didn’t paper the entire laundry room (I just did one wall).

66A1505
Brenna
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah

Oooh… you might have just converted this wallpaper-fearing, white-walled lady!

Lauren
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah

Sameeee! I am surprised this is the first reference to it. There are so many good patterns now, and they hold up so well. I can’t even wrap my head around ever doing “real” wallpaper at this point. We put it up as a temporary backsplash in my kitchen, and more than a year later, I have yet to find anything I like half as much.

Crystal
1 month ago

May I please rent your apartment when you move out so we can keep everything the same?!? Thanks in advance. 🙂

Becca
1 month ago

Would love to know the pink paint color in the living room.

Hope
1 month ago
Reply to  Becca

Sherwin-Williams SW 7711 Pueblo

Jodie
1 month ago

Love the post and excited to see what changes to your living room you will make! I have removed OLD wallpaper and it was A LOT OF WORK! But I have also installed wallpaper in my current home. Apparently, there is this wonderful invention called wallpaper primer, which I used when I installed my wallpaper, per the manufacturer instructions. And it makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE when it’s time to remove said wallpaper. Meaning you can peel off entire panels and then scrub the dried glue off the walls – it was a glue the wall style of paper installation. And that is a different beast then scraping and getting tiny little bits of paper to come off only to then be left with the paper backing that you also had to strip off. All of which made you basically apoplectic at whoever the idiot was that thought wallpapering was a good idea.

Cris S.
1 month ago

I think all your spaces are so lovely and lively! I’d love to use your bathroom wallpaper, but I think my (20 year old) daughter would be so scandalized by it.
I appreciate you laying out your experiences here, especially with the site lines. I’m considering this right now with our long first floor hallway and everything that is open to it on the sides. Do I pick a predominantly blue wallpaper, which is the most used color in our house, in order to tie it all together or can I go with a green and then use a blue paint on the walls of the living room and library/dining room that matches the intensity? I’ve been looking at the Sandberg Raphael forever and was about to settle on it (though, I’m a little hesitant with so many others using it) when I saw they were releasing a new line of Chinoiserie next week – so now its all on hold while I see what that looks like and costs. While I know wallpaper is a pain to remove, its so much fun!

Kasia
1 month ago

As a lot of people have said, the work to remove wallpaper is incredible, and based on that horrible experience, I would never ever consider doing it again…with glued paper. I’ve since done a couple rooms in high end removable peel and stick and just a few weeks ago did a wall on my kitchen with fabric and starch. Hands down, that is going to be my only method in the future. The fabric looks incredible, it was super easy to do, it will be super easy to take down (especially in a kitchen, I do wonder how it will hold up with odors), but best of all, I can wash the fabric and either rehang it or use it again for another project! 

Kristi
1 month ago

Idea: what about just adding some F and B Red Earth trim-somewhere-maybe highlighting the door trim.
setting plaster paired with a dash of red earth will significantly up the saturation to better match the wall paper. Google for images where folks used both. If Red Earth doesn’t go with your wall color something similar.

Megan
1 month ago

Caitlin – who is your installer?

Faya
1 month ago
Reply to  Megan
Reanna
1 month ago

I like your attitude – you went for it, you love some parts, you learned some lessons. That sounds like success, to me!