Three weeks ago, I stood before you and asked a simple question: “have I lost my actual mind?” At the time, I was talking about my newfound love of (read: borderline obsession with) vintage vegetable-shaped dinnerware, but I was thankful to find that most of you were like, “nah girl, you’re okay, you do you!” Today, though, I’m kind of worried that your opinions will shift a little bit…because guys, I installed permanent wallpaper in my apartment. A LOT OF IT. But my (temporary) loss (of sanity) is your gain because I learned a ton about the whys, hows, and how much-es of installing wallpaper that I’m eager to pass on.
The Quick Debrief
You’re probably familiar with all the different types of wallpaper applications (you know, since you’re on a design blog and everything), but I wanted to share some quick pros and cons for each. (You can scroll all the way down if you’re just like, “LADY, HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOU SPEND?”)
Peel & Stick Wallpaper
Think of this like a giant sticker, in both the good AND bad way. You can DIY an install and oftentimes it is removable and reusable…but if your walls aren’t properly primed, pulling it down can do some damage. Anecdotally, our pals at Pen & Napkin recommend their designers work with thinner, more affordable peel & stick options as they’ve found that the glue is a little more forgiving and the paper isn’t meaty enough to, you know, bring a chunk of a wall down with it upon removal. Getting bubbles out can also be kind of tricky, but you can’t beat the price and flexibility here (especially for renters).
This comes with glue already attached to the back, and you’ll activate it by hitting it with a spray bottle or dunking it in some warm water. This is a dream as you don’t need to spend money on separate tools (pasting tables, actual paste, etc.) and it’s a little more forgiving with application – you can slip and slide it around to match up seams – but the hanging process is therefore way more technical. You also need to hit this with some steam and water to bring it down, so you’ll need to plan a whole day for removal.
This is the preferred permanent wallpaper method for most DIYers since, well, you’re just throwing glue on the wall. Paste-the-wall paper is often constructed a bit different because it’s made of non-woven material that won’t expand when it gets wet, which means that hanging is a bit easier – what you see is what you get. That said, it’s super easy to go a little heavy with the glue which (you guessed it!) can make removal a pain.
All three wallpapers I selected were paste-the-paper, which is definitely the most involved and nuanced application method. I really, really, really recommend going to a professional for this type of wallpaper – they’ll have a full slew of tools to make sure that your paper is evenly covered in paste (it’s very Goldilocks – you want it to be just right) and they’ll be able to ensure that your wallpaper won’t shrink up or peel off as it dries. Coincidentally, this was hands-down the type preference of all the wallpaper installers I grabbed quotes from – their general consensus was that if prepped and installed correctly, this would be the easiest type of permanent paper to remove.
Make sure to always store your wallpaper horizontally - standing it upright can lead to creasing and subsequent headaches during install! (Learn from my above mistake, please.)
Let’s break down some frequently asked questions, yeah?
Why not just get peel and stick for a rental?
Peel and stick is GREAT for most renters and there are so many incredible options out there, but I after months of searching, I just couldn’t find anything that quite compared to the permanent options. And while there are ways to make regular wallpaper removable – this tutorial by Studio DIY that uses a grid of double-sided tape is awe-inspiring – I lack the DIY skills necessary. If I was going to go with some high-end wallpaper, it deserved the high-end installation treatment, you know?
Did you ask your landlord?
AH, YES. Zach, my landlord, came over to re-ignite my pilot light and saw a ton of wallpaper samples I had taped up to the walls. I was anticipating (and dreading) an emphatic “no” from him, but when I expressed interest in maaaybe hanging some wallpaper in a few rooms, he was just like, “cool, email me some pics to show my family when you’re done decorating, bye!”
I’m not sure if it’s always that easy or if he gave me extra leeway because I am a normal, quiet tenant who hands him a stack of rent checks every few months (pro tip: postdate your checks, send them all at once, and you’ll never be late again!) but either way, I am very grateful.
Is wallpapering a rental worth the investment?
Right now, my answer is a VERY emphatic “HECK YES.” It was not cheap (we’ll get there) but my mental gymnastics led me to three big points:
- I’ve paid $1,900 a month to live here since July of 2019. That’s almost $50,000 (OH GOSH, do not calculate how much you’ve spent on rent if you do not want to have a mini existential crisis)…so if I’m already dropping THAT much money, why not make my home a place that I really want to be, regardless of how long I’m here?
- Thanks to WFH, I’m now spending 8 STRAIGHT MONTHS PER YEAR inside these walls. I’m home for at least 16 hours per day – 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleeping, and you know all I wanna do on the weekend is lay on the ground and look at the internet – so when I did the math, it felt like a nice investment in myself to commit resources to my space, you know?
- I didn’t even consider the impact it’d have on my mental state and not to be dramatic, but BOY, it has made a huge difference in my mental state!!! I actually do my skincare routine every night because I love standing in the bathroom. I’ve lost 9 pounds (!!!) because now I actually like using my kitchen. I’m ready to hop on a Zoom 24/7 because sharing this dining room makes me so happy.
Weren’t you like, trying to buy a house or something?
YUP. And I’ll be back at the end of the year with an update. It’s very complicated (somehow more complicated than the dilapidated house/not house on the hill, if you can believe that), but this apartment will be my LA home base for a while. I can’t wait to share more with y’all!!! 🙂
So you’re considering taking the plunge – where do you even start? SAMPLES. I bought over 70 (maybe a little excessive, but I’m glad I did!) from Wallpaper Direct. The first two were free, but the rest were about $1 each and the shipping time was super fast.
I know that maybe this is pretty obvious, but I just remember being so surprised that samples don’t always come in slices that represent the whole strip. Case in point: the above sample of Cranes in Flight, which, uh, lacks the cranes. This is SUPER common no matter where you buy samples from (and some brands cut a set sample that they’ll send out, so buying more won’t help – learned that the tough way!), so it’s just important to manage your expectations – you may not be able to predict EXACTLY how every color will look in person. 🙂
Obviously, I now need to take a second to call out a few EHD tried-and-true favorites to fulfill any sourcing/dreaming/web-stalking desires:
- Wallpaper Direct: I mean, they have EVERYTHING. If you’re looking for something classic, it’s here. If you need something modern, it’s here. Their prices are unbeatable, too.
- Work & Sea: This is an LA-based studio and the place where I sourced my bathroom wallpaper. Their designs are so fun and special (plus, they can help you figure out how much you need to order…and they’re STILL very nice when you send them numbers that don’t make sense because you don’t understand how to measure your walls).
- Bien Fait: Remember Charlie’s nursery? That’s Bien Fait, baby. If you want bright, happy, and modern, this is your go-to spot.
- Hygge & West: I mean, they’re iconic for a reason. Their Back To The Future Toile (you read that right) makes my heart skip a beat.
- Rebel Walls: NO ONE can do a bold floral or a serene tree line quite like Rebel Walls. Case in point: Birdie’s first nursery, Birdie’s LA Tudor room, the LA “playroom”, this magical rainbow-colored little girl’s room…you get it, right? BEAUTIFUL.
- Minted: If you’re dreaming of a mural, STOP LOOKING. It’s here.
- Farrow & Ball: I’ll never get over that hand-painted paper in Em’s old LA powder bath, primary bath, and the kids’ Jack and Jill bathroom. Plus, you have coordinating paint options right at your fingertips – what else could you ask for?
- You can also grab wallpaper via a few other classic go-tos: Target, Lulu & Georgia, Rejuvenation, Serena & Lily, Wayfair, Chasing Paper, Tempaper, Sheila Bridges, and Juju Papers. (If you have any favorites, please drop them in the comments!)
So you’ve figured out your dream wallpaper, you’ve ordered a sample, and it looks stunning in your space. CONGRATULATIONS. Let’s break down what to do next in order, yeah?
How to Order
Time for the nitty-gritty stuff: figuring out how much wallpaper you actually need. I am going to EMPHATICALLY recommend this calculator with the caveat that you should order ONE more double roll than the number it suggests. And yeah, to make things even MORE fun, wallpaper is often bundled into “double rolls” (a fun turn of phrase, because they’re on the same tube!), so you need to buy 2 at a time.
My rooms were kind of complex – walls of windows, walls of cabinets, alcoves galore! – so figuring out how much paper I actually needed was TOUGH. At the end of the day, here’s where I ended up:
- The Dining Room – 15′ x 10′ with 2 doors to the kitchen and hallway, a wall of windows/doors to the balcony, and a 6’x7′ entrance to the room next door: 5 double rolls of Flamenco Fan (10 rolls total). The calculator suggested 8 (so 4 double rolls!) but Mark, my wallpaper installer, asked me to grab one more to allow for my weird, occasionally lopsided ceilings and for the doorbell cutout you saw earlier.
- The Kitchen: 15′ x 8′ with a 10′ wall of cabinets, a 6′ wall of cabinets, a built-in ironing board cabinet, and two windows. The wallpaper calculator suggested 8 rolls of Orange Blossom (which shocked me, because the cabinets take up SO MUCH real estate – I thought it was going to be much less!) but it’s because the paper I used wasn’t as wide. Upon giving his quote, Mark again just asked me to grab another double roll so we had a little more room for error. (If you find that you need to order more wallpaper, the batch number should be available somewhere on the packaging – you can request from the same batch so your colors match!).
- The Bathroom: Measuring this room is a freakin’ nightmare, but it’s about 9’x8′ at its widest point. The kind folks at Work & Sea did the math and sent over the right amount and I am forever indebted. Being able to ask for help when you need it is a real perk of sourcing directly from a small, local business!!
It’s also worth noting that a ton of the wallpaper installers I had out told *ME* how much paper to order, because they didn’t realize that I had already ordered my supplies. If you’re feeling totally lost, it’s VERY common to have someone out for a quote before you even have your materials – they can help you navigate the process and save you from some sticker shock on the backend (it’s coming, we’ll get there!!!).
How to Find an Installer
Yeah, sure, Yelp is great, but I’m about to go REAL gung-ho for word of mouth here. Now is the time to ask for a recommendation on Facebook or to post an Instagram story asking if anyone has any leads. The best installers are often too booked to need to worry about marketing themselves. Case in point: Mark, the installer I hired, is THE go-to guy in LA for those ~in the know~ (which now includes me and you – lucky us!!!).
You’ve seen a ton of his work on the blog before (he’s been Em’s favorite for years and he told me that they go all the way back to Design Star!) but he’s also worked with almost every LA-based design influencer (Oh Joy, Amber Interiors, etc.) and he’s constantly on-call for TV shows and celebs (whose names he did not disclose, because he is good at his job). The best part? When you google his name, NOTHING COMES UP. Emily mentions him in a 2014 blog post (!!!) and that’s pretty much it. Mark is #bookedandbusy, and I never would have found him without asking for someone’s recommendation. (If you want his email, drop a note and I’ll send it to you!) In any case, just put out a FEW feelers first. For what it’s worth, I also got nine quotes from installers I found on Yelp but nothing held a candle to Mark’s attention to detail – he was the only person to bring up priming and prepping the walls for smooth application and safe removal.
How to Prep
This is where we get VERY into DIY territory, which is NOT MY MINISTRY. I ended up hiring Mark to sand and prime the walls, and he paid special attention to the rooms that were coated in semi-gloss paint (read: the kitchen and dining room). I just wanted to be as cautious as possible, you know? He did say that I could save money by doing it myself, but I’m not playing games when it comes to drywall damage. If you ARE a DIYer, check your wallpaper retailer to see if they have any suggested primer available – it can vary depending on the type of paper you choose.
How Long It Takes
AH, okay. This was my big question: can you knock out all three rooms at once? How long does hanging paper actually take? In my case, Mark came over 3 different times, but installers who work as a team may be able to knock out a project a bit quicker. Budgeting a day per room feels like a safe bet, though. Here’s my timeline…
Day 1: Sanded and primed all the walls, hung all the bathroom wallpaper. He arrived around 7:30 AM and was all packed up and outta here by 1:30 PM. (I know that’s VERY specific, shoutout to timestamps on all my photos!)
Day 2: We decided to tackle the dining room and about 1/4 of the kitchen. Mark arrived at 7:30 AM and left at 2 PM. He decided to come back the next day and was gracious enough to trust me with his pasting table, which saved a ton of setup time the next morning!
Day 3: Mark finished the kitchen in a flash – he arrived at 7:30 AM and was outta here by 10 AM.
I also wanted to take a second to show y’all a pasting table, since I had never seen one before. It’s neat, right? Mark would measure, cut, and roll a bunch of pieces and store them all on the lower shelf. That blue portion up top is filled with wallpaper paste and when it was time for install, he’d run the paper through – kind of like how you’d run a sheet of lasagna through a pasta maker – and he’d get the whole thing evenly covered in paste. Then he’d fold it over onto itself and let it fall naturally – it’s hard to explain, but there’s a Boomerang of him doing it on Em’s stories this morning 🙂
The How Much
AH, YES. The moment you’ve been waiting for: the big number reveal. And guys, it’s PRICEY. (At least it was if you’re operating on my budget, which can best be described as “I only buy vintage home goods and anything over $400 starts making me anxious.”) A good rule of thumb that I found to be true, at least in our major city: wallpaper installation will cost you about $4 per square foot.
Every quote I received was between $1,900 (the lowest) and $2,500 (the highest). This is how my actual spend broke down:
- Sanding & Prep: $260
- The Bathroom: $550
- The Dining Room: $650
- The Kitchen: $700
- LABOR TOTAL: $2,160
In a very fortunate twist, Mark’s bid was tied for the lowest and I would have saved almost $300 had I prepped myself, but I do feel WAY more confident knowing that a professional took the reins. The normal range I got was $500-$750 for the bath, $500-$950 (!!!!) for the dining room (a few installers balked at some of the tiny spaces between the windows, which Mark handled like a dream!), and $600-$800 for the kitchen.
I ended up breaking it up into two installments – Mark did the prep and bath in July and the latter two rooms earlier this month – so I could save up over time. That still doesn’t include the wallpaper, though, which was SO GRACIOUSLY gifted by Wallpaper Direct and Work & Sea. (I asked them both for help after buying samples from each and am eternally grateful for their generosity – it’s because of them that I’ll be able to reveal these rooms this year!!!). Had I paid, here’s what the numbers would have looked like:
- The Dining Room – 5 Double Rolls @ $185: $925
- The Kitchen – 5 Double Rolls @ $154: $770
- The Bathroom: ?????? This was a custom amount and I’m not totally sure of the retail value, but it’s SO beautiful and special that I know it wouldn’t have been cheap, you know?
- OUR GRAND TOTAL VALUE: At least $3,855!!!!
Looking at that number is kind of scary, but it’s still absolutely worth it to me – I would have saved up either way (and revealed my rooms in, like, 2023, hah). I don’t spend on furniture (you can do it too – I wrote all about it here!!!) and only grab decor from the flea market, so I feel more comfortable investing in wallpaper – it’s my lone big splurge for this home.
I feel so lucky to live in an apartment with such beautiful bones (like, you saw my dining room moulding, right? PINCH ME!!!) and even luckier that I had the means to make it feel even more like home – I’m only young in LA once, you know? I wake up every day feeling SO jazzed to live in my own little movie set, even if it seems wild to invest in a temporary space. In a weird way, I almost feel like that makes me appreciate it even more – I know I won’t be living in this little 1930s deco dream forever, so I better get to enjoying it now!!
GEEZ. Got a little navel-gazey while thinking about how much this all means to me, but it’s super earnest. (Which may make it worse??? HAH. Just so lucky, you know?! :)) Signing off for today from my bathroom and anxiously awaiting your feedback: HAVE I LOST IT? Was this too much to spend on a rental, or would you have done the same thing? Anyone have any other specific questions that I could help answer or pro-tips for other wallpaper-ers out there? I’d love to see some of your spaces if you’re open to sharing, too 🙂 LET’S CONVENE, YEAH? xx