What NOT to do when choosing wallpaper – 10 expert tips

Don't make the decision lightly – let these expert tips guide you
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  • Wallpaper can transform any room, even bathrooms and kitchens, believe it or not. It has the power to change the look and feel of a room by adding pattern, colour and texture to walls.

    Don’t feel restricted by the size of the room, either, as wallpaper isn’t just for large open spaces. The right paper can really bring smaller rooms to life.

    More top tips: How to wallpaper a chimney breast

    Although papering can look fantastic it can be expensive, and not the sort of task you want to get wrong. We’ve spoken to Alex Whitecroft, Head of Design at I Want Wallpaper, to gain his top tips for what to consider when using wallpaper in your home.

    What not to do when using wallpaper

    Image credit: David Giles

    1. Buy before you try

    Sounds obviously but how many of us would overlook this process for wallpaper, even though we test paints?! ‘As you would with paint, it’s a good idea to sample wallpaper options before purchasing a whole roll’ explains Alex. ‘Test wallpaper samples on the walls you’re looking to decorate, to get a feel for the texture and colour in the natural light.’

    Most good retailers offer samples of their wallpapers, for you to try out.

    2. Think pattern is the only option

    what not to do when choosing wallpaper only choose patterns

    Image credit: Arthouse Fossil Textured Stripe Wallpaper, I Want Wallpaper

    Wallpaper doesn’t have to patterned to be powerful. You can buy a simple, plain wallpaper to add colour and texture in any room. Alex says ‘Plain wallpaper is a great alternative to paint – which can tend to show the dirt more easily than wallpaper.’

    ‘A top tip is to pin samples of the designs you’ve shortlisted on the wall or walls you’re planning to paper to see if it works for you’.

    3. Paper over the cracks

    Before your take the leap and get stuck in to decorating, it’s important to know what lies beneath. Alex advises on how to do. This best, ‘Use a scraper to test how many layers of paper there are under the surface wall covering. If there are more than two layers, then it’s important to allow extra time to remove any unwanted wall coverings.’

    He goes on to explain, ‘it can take hours and lots of elbow-grease to remove wallpaper with the old-fashioned ‘score, soak, steam, and scrape’ method. I Want Wallpaper have a secret weapon in the fight to eliminate stubborn wallpaper – fabric softener.

    Image credit: Simon Whitmore

    Mix equal parts of softener and hot water in a spray bottle, spray a section of wallpaper so that it is fully saturated then wait approximately 15 minutes (this is very important and allows the solution to work its magic), then peel away paper and use a paint scraper on the more stubborn areas.’

    Once you’ve filled in any holes or cracks and sanded the surface, ‘size’ the wall by covering it in a mixture of half PVA glue and half water applied with a paint roller – it’s not essential but this will create a slightly glossy finish to the wall and make it easier to slide paper into position and help it stick.

    4. Miss out lining paper

    Expert advise is always line the walls for best results. ‘It may not be the most glamorous of papers, but lining paper is a sensible investment if you want to create the perfect canvas for your wallpaper, ‘says Alex. ‘For best results, apply onto bare walls to cover small imperfections or hide previous colours, before papering.’

    5. Be tempted by taste over practicality

    what not to do when choosing wallpaper

    Image credit: Grandeco Botanical Tropical Leaves Wallpaper, I Want Wallpaper

    Choosing a design and sticking to it can prove overwhelming, dues to the sheer the amount of choice.

    ‘There’s a wallpaper to suit every taste. Consider which design complements the style of your house – bright geometric patterns, for example, may suit a contemporary new build, whilst a rustic farmhouse may be more suited to soft florals.’

    ‘When choosing a patterned paper think about the size of the room in relation to the scale of the design. An oversized print can overpower smaller room, whereas intricate designs can get lost in larger spaces.’ While our heart’s may so go big, our homes may not agree. Be realistic when choosing a wallpaper to suit the space.

    6. Apply the wrong paste

    When shopping for wallpaper, it’s important to look at the way in which the paper will stick to your wall. Generally, there are three different wallpaper applications: pre-pasted, paste the wall and paste the wallpaper.
    Pre-pasted paper is coated in a pre-applied paste, which just needs to be moistened to activate, before hanging (if you’re looking for as little hassle as possible, this is probably the option for you). Paste the wall application requires you to brush paste onto the wall before application. Paste the wallpaper application, refers to the more traditional method of applying paste to the back of the paper, using a pasting table.

    7. Run into a mis-match

    Alex advises, ‘when shopping for wallpaper look at the ‘match type’ i.e. the way in which the design matches up when hanging different strips of wallpaper. Different match types will require different amount of preparation and some will require additional roles of paper.’ The last thing you want to do is mis match and have to redo your wallpapering, especially if the paper is an expensive one.

    Free match wallpapers have a design which is not intended to match when hanging, straight match wallpaper must be matched at the same height each time and offset match offsets the pattern on each strip by half the pattern’s height each time.

    8. Think you can’t hang it in humid rooms

    what not to do when choosing wallpaper avoid bathrooms and kitchens

    Image credit: Rasch Chevron Stripe Wallpaper, I Want Wallpaper

    Wallpaper in kitchens and bathrooms can add an instant style update. But we often fear wallpaper is not suitable for environments that are prone to humidity. It’s all about choosing a wallpaper designed specifically for use in damp and steamy conditions. Alex advises, ‘Look for papers with hard-wearing vinyl finishes, wipe clean surfaces and embossed detailing for looks that will last.’
    Wallpaper makes for a far cheaper alternative to tiling in both of these functional rooms.

    9. Overlook the wipe-ability factor

    Consider wipeable Wallpaper for a happier home. As with all household items, wallpaper can attract dust and dirt, therefore it may require a quick clean from occasionally. It’s worth factoring in the cleaning factor before you make your choice, especially if used in a high traffic areas such as the stairs and hallway, or any rooms where children are likely to be touching surfaces.

    ‘Most wallpapers come with a ‘washability’ rating, which goes from ‘spongeable’ to ‘highly scrubbable’,’ explains Alex. ‘Although most marks are easily wiped, it’s essential to check the rating before attempting to clean any blemishes.’

    10. Fear the fifth wall

    what not to do when choosing wallpaper forget the fifth wall

    Image credit: Muriva Eton Geometric Wallpaper, I Want Wallpaper

    It may sound like an off-the-wall idea, but wallpapered ceilings can look amazing! So much so that wallpapered ceilings is a hot new interior trend for 2020. The use of patterned designs on ceilings is increasingly growing in popularity. Grab that extra roll!

    ‘The key to choosing the perfect ceiling wallpaper is to be bold,’ says Alex. ‘An abstract pattern on the ceiling can transform a room from ordinary to outstanding.’

    Related: John Lewis & Partners predict the big trends for 2020 – including wallpapered ceilings

    ‘Be expressive with your colour choices and look at shades you wouldn’t usually go for. Whether cobalt blue, citric yellow or hot pink, bright colours shouldn’t just be reserved for the kid’s bedroom; bold shades can have a home in any room of the house – especially on the ceiling!’

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