barb blairbefore & after basicswallpaperwindows and walls

before and after basics: wallpaper basics

by Barb

If you love wallpaper, raise your hand! I love the pure transformative power that wallpaper has, whether used for a whole room, an accent wall or a piece of furniture. Wallpaper has made a serious comeback, and my goodness, there are so many gorgeous patterns and prints available. Grace did a great wallpaper round up that highlights many different companies and papers you can choose from, and I second that list completely. Today on Before & After Basics, I’ll illustrate how to apply wallpaper, and the paper that I chose is this fantastic poppy pattern available through Cole & Son. Enjoy! — Barb

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • craft knife with perforated blades
  • wallpaper paste
  • paint tray
  • paintbrush
  • foam roller
  • rags (plenty of them)
  • smoothing tool
  • pliers


1. Prime your wall with wallpaper primer. This is a must if you ever want to remove the wallpaper or just be nice to those who own the home after you!

2. Do a rough measure for your first strip of wallpaper and cut it. You can use your craft knife for the final precision cuts on the wall, but it helps to have your first strip pre-measured.

3. Apply the wallpaper paste liberally to the area you are starting with, and make sure it is a bit wider than the strip of wallpaper. Even though you are applying liberally, make sure there are no large lumps or blobs, as these will cause air bubbles. You can apply with a large brush or a foam roller. I like applying with a roller, but you may hate it, so use what works best for you.

4. Starting at the top of the wall, apply your paper and smooth it as you go down. Work out any large air bubbles and lift the paper as needed to remove any “issues.” This is a great time to wet one of your rags and wipe down the entire surface. This helps to work out the air bubbles and remove excess wallpaper paste. Pay special attention to the edges, and make sure they are securely adhered to the wall.

5. Use a ruler or straight edge to trim the top and bottom of your paper. This is the same way you trim around any doors and windows on your wall. Just make sure your ruler is tight against the trim you are cutting against and that you use a fresh new blade with every cut. Also, when you are trimming around doors and windows, make sure that you are not pulling too hard and causing your seam to separate. That is an easy mistake to make, and you will end up with extra room around your trim. That is not a happy ending!

6. Start your second strip. This is where it gets tricky because you have to match your pattern. It will kill you to waste paper as you match your pattern, but it will be worth it in the end. Make sure to order extra paper to account for the waste you will have for patterned wallpaper. Be sure not to overlap your paper, but rather butt the seams right up next to each other.

Repeat the process steps until the whole area that you are wallpapering is complete. It is helpful to have plenty of rags on hand for wiping, smoothing and keeping your hands free from sticky wallpaper paste. Wallpapering takes time and planning, so make sure you enjoy the process and take breaks when necessary!

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  • I’m still a wallpaper skeptic but I am slowly coming around. I feel like it can run the risk of looking terribly tacky but when done right I have seen some stunning wallpaper. It looks best as an accent wall. Nothing feels more closed in than an all wallpapered room in my mind. Between this post and the wallpaper round-up you are surely helping me become more wallpaper accepting. :)

  • Just a note…

    There are many wallpapers that this method will not work well with. A lot of papers really do need to be “booked” first (glue applied to the paper and then folded on itself and allowed to sit for 5-10 minutes) in order to allow the moisture from the glue to permeate the fibers of the paper. Otherwise the paper could stretch or shrink in unpredictable ways as it dries on the wall, leaving you with gaps between the strips.

    It’s best to check the manufacturer’s specs for the type of paper you have to make sure it’s okay to apply the glue to the wall rather than to the paper. It’s definitely fine for some of the newer wallpapers, but not all!

    THANK YOU for including the tip about the wallpaper primer. It really does make a huge difference, and it’s well worth the extra time!

    • For all of you needing wallpaper courage……I say just go for it! You will be so happy you did….and maybe start with a plain accent wall where all of your cuts will be straight top and bottom….then you will have the power you need to take on the next challenge! Baby steps, but forward steps nonetheless!

      Anna, Once again, thank you for your expert tips added to this post. I have to admit to complete tunnel vision when I am explaining projects sometimes. I need to clarify that I am writing about the specific application that I did and then include “but be sure to follow all directions on the specific wallpaper that you choose”. Cole and Sons recommends this application for their papers, and they are the only ones I have used in a while…..and I might add because I don’t have to pre paste or book the paper in advance…..that is always going to be a plus for me!

      So everyone, please make sure to read the directions for the specific wallpaper that you choose…. but know that there are plenty of papers out there if you are looking for an easy process like this where you apply the paste to the wall directly…..so start there, and then move on to the more labor intensive papers!

      xo to all

  • Great How to! and great timing. I’m planning to wallpaper my clothes closet and I feel much more confident now.

  • I work in a wallpaper show room and the one thing i would say is, ask questions! Please ask the wallpaper showroom or store for advice. This technique will not work for papers that are flocked or have adornments (crystals, beads, etc). Every paper is a little different, so ask questions before you start!

  • Even though removed rooms full of wallpaper in our new/old house, (you can see on “renovations” on my blog) I’m still dying to put some back up! My husband thinks I’m nuts! Thanks for the round up and tips. Never hung wallpaper before.

  • @Anna:

    I was wondering about that.

    I bought a roll of some nice wallpaper for an accent wall, but the instructions said the glue should be applied to the paper first. That’s why it’s till sitting all rolled up in a corner until I can get an extra set of hands to help :(

    I might just go with a stencil for that wall after all.

  • I must agree with Anna… this method won’t work for all papers. I tried this method with Umbra’s tolla wallpaper a year ago and the result was horrible. Anywhere I got the front of the wallpaper wet, the pattern rubbed off completely. Make sure to do some test strips on a piece of plywood (or other experimental surface) before going at it on your final surface!

  • I so love wallpaper. I am also afraid to apply it because it seems it would be easy to go so terribly wrong. I need some wallpaper courage!

  • This is a spectacular wallpaper !
    Good post for installation prep, etc. I wrote a short post on “wallpaper revival ” several months ago and I am so happy
    that wallpaper appears to be popular again. Now back to see the wallpaper roundup.

  • Love the paper, but I am really bothered that in the main photo with the table, the wallpaper is railroaded (turned sideways). Clearly the flowers grow up, not sideways. Very pretty though.

  • Anna –

    I recently put up wallpaper using this method. Overall it looks great, however while the paper is not overlapping, there are many spots where I can still see the other side of the white paper. I think this is particularly noticeable because the paper is a deep purple.

    Is there anything that can be done to hide the white seams?

    • Megan, this happens sometimes, especially with the deeper colored papers….in the instructions it will sometimes talk about coloring the seams so that this does not happen. I would call the company and see what they suggest you do now that the paper is up.

  • Wow. What beautiful wall paper. Thank you so much for sharing. I just became a follower of your site. Looking forward to going through all of your past posts and seeing what else is to come.

  • I’d like to wallpaper a room that has beautiful oak trim, which I want to leave uncovered. The room already has wallpaper on it, which I’ll be covering. Can I get the new wallpaper to get under the trim adequately, or do I have to remove the trim, apply the paper, and put it back on?