dear d*s

dear d*s: faux-wallpaper + reader advice needed!

by Grace Bonney


question: what are some ways to create the look of wallpaper without actually wallpapering? -amanda

answer: hi kate! wallpapering without wallpaper is one of my favorite craft tricks. it’s cost effective, easier to apply (usually) and leaves you with a wide range of customizing options. here are some of my favorite:

  • stencils/stamps: one of my favorite ways to create a wallpaper look is to break out the old stencil or stamp kit. using a pre-made stencil, designing your own, or free-handing a pattern can be a great way to get the look but leave yourself the option to paint-over when you move. here are some great stencil books resources: lena corwin, lotta jansdotter, ed from stencil 101.
  • gift wrap: whether you mod podge this on or adhere it with clear contact paper (cut slightly longer than the gift wrap to stick to your surface) this is a really affordable way to get the impact of a bold wallpaper pattern without the sticker shock.
  • decals: i’m not a huge fan of decals, but there are so many to choose from these days you’re bound to find something you like- and can easily remove. here are some of my favs: domestic, blik, and elly nelly.

[have a design question you’d like answered? just shoot us an email right here with the title “dear d*s”. if you’re asking a specific interior design question please include a picture of the space in question and your budget for any new projects.]

CLICK HERE for 2 more reader questions – your advice is needed for a tricky bedroom layout and a bedroom makeover!

questions: we just purchased our first house and so far things are fitting into place but ran into a snag while transforming our attic into our master bedroom. the attic is not dormered out which means we have sloped ceilings and there is only one spot for our bed – butted up again a window in the center of the room. do you have any suggestions how to make this not look so odd? we have a high, wire framed bed (similar to this) but the headboard will go in front of the window. any ideas (images of our space and the bed are below)? -shawn


question: i have a paint / wallpaper / color problem! my bedroom is a mix of antique / modern and I designed a color scheme that contains browns, mauve/pinks, and purples. i have the this angela adams rug in the bedroom and this duvet cover from brocade home. my furniture is all a medium to dark wood. i am trying to find a paint color that will match my walls and a wallpaper to put in the bathroom but i have yet to be able to find any color matches. i’m also on a quest to find a bright accent color that would go with my color scheme. any ideas? -kate


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  • What about metallic silver to brighten the room and highlight that great antique furniture? Then in the bathroom you could pick a pattern that is smaller but similar to that cool rug.

  • I agree with Kayna — a wide swath of fabric behind the bed in question 2 would look dramatic and help hide the awkwardness. How about hanging the rods at the ceiling (outside the alcove) and tucking the curtains behind the headboard, giving it a tentlike canopy feel?

  • Kanya and Sara have got it right. By using drapes and high curtain rods you’re masking the architectural deficits of the room without having to sacrifice the hugely important natural light.

    Kanya’s picture also highlights another important aspect. Look how different patterns are combined. The added visual interest will take the spotlight off the window and onto the decor.

    Building out from the window, carving the sense of a planned space for the bed will make the room feel so luxurious.

  • Kate,

    Your bed reminds me of furniture I had growing up.

    I like the idea of a blue wall that matches the blue of your bedspread. Blue is a nice contrast to all of the browns in your room. This would highlight the stained glass windows, which I think are interesting features of the room. Painting the ceiling a similar but slightly lighter color would give the place a cozy but modern feel.

    As for accent colors, I think about brighter white (maybe even a cream) for pillows and shades (maybe roman shades?), and silver pieces for accessories.

    Graham and Brown makes some lovely wallpaper in your color scheme.

    If you have white or cream accents, this one might work:

    It looks like they have other nice choices too!

  • Kate,

    I think you should try out a nice, moody grey to really tie your antique vs. modern mood together. It really does make any room like stunningly Parisian.

    Also, (and this is totally unsolicited advice) you may want to pull that gorgeous rug up closer to your bed, maybe have it about 1/3 under the bed? I think the eye is getting a little too inundated with dark wood and missing out on the beautiful shape of your headboard as the floor underneath it is the same color. That rug could really make your bed pop beautifully.

    Happy decorating!

  • Having lived in the attic of a former convent for 13 years, I say don’t fight the sloping walls, beams, and odd angles–don’t hide them, embrace them! Even with high ceilings, the sloping walls are impossible for tall furniture. I learned to ditch tall furniture and go low–and the view of the architectural interest from a low platform bed is amazing, especially with the morning light streaming in and bouncing off all the odd walls. Just 2 cents from someone who’s been there! Good luck…

  • In a previous life, I painted funky designs in clients’ homes that looked like wallpaper. No stencils, no stamps. A lot of measuring, taping, and layering techniques. Repetition and symmetry are key.

  • After painting the walls… One quick fix would be to put a simple block-out or roller blind on the window behind the bed, then add a large sheer or light weight curtain, making it as wide & as long as you can to create the sense of space. You can still open the roller blind by day if you need to but I’d keep the sheer curtains down almost like a false wall. Also the tip about including metallic & silver will liven up the space, have fun.

  • I’ve tried the fabric with starch and it worked great. I used a bedspread from Urban Outfitters that I picked up on clearance and it was large enough to cover my whole wall.

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