Hidden Gem #6 – Wallpaper

Welcome back friends!  It’s been an eventful week for me – working on projects, hauling kids from one practice to another (WHY do they have to be on the same day at opposite ends of the earth?!?!) and today we’re celebrating my oldest son’s 15th birthday!  So, in addition to the other hats I wear, today I get to add Pastry Chef to the list and try to whip up a delicious cake in between writing this, going to the gym, working on two different client projects and, hopefully, sanding down my desk so that I can finally stop working from my kitchen counter.  I hope everyone is having a great, full week too!  

In last week’s blog, we focused on one dated wall in my office space –  turning “charming” 1970’s wood paneling into a more modern version by simply adding paint.  I referred to another wall in my office as a hot mess that I wanted to save others from having to deal with – well, I couldn’t avoid it forever so we’re highlighting it as our Hidden Gem of the week.  If you didn’t catch last week’s blog, you can check out it out here and you’ll see the wall I refer to.  It’s a small wall with the main door to the space and it was thoroughly damaged in the removal of the paneling that used to grace it’s surface.  When we were in the demo phase, we stupidly ripped the paneling off and when we replaced the drywall on other walls, perhaps even more stupidly, we thought we could “save” this little wall and not deal with the expense and effort of re-drywalling it.   Fast forward several months to finally getting around to finishing it and we are strongly questioning our decision.  

The removal process left a multitude of problems in its wake.  There were high points where the 40+ year old glue was still holding on with an unexpected fervor.  There were also layers of the wall missing where the glue decided to stick to the removed paneling, taking several souvenirs on its way out.  The result was bumpy and no amount of additional wall texture could really save it (we tried).  

So, we threw around several ideas – including trying to find the same paneling from 40 years ago and reinstalling it!- but ultimately landed on wallpaper to hopefully hide its many sins.  Having just done our first wallpaper project for a client, we thought it would be an easy, relatively inexpensive solution.  Turns out, there’s a significant difference between brand new walls and the monstrosity we were trying to cover.  Here’s what happened:

Step One – Wall Prep 

  • We knew that we had to SOMETHING to the wall to even it out a bit or the wallpaper wouldn’t adhere properly and we’d have a different kind of disaster on our hands.  In our naivety, we hoped that by merely sanding the wall down with our orbital sander, we would even out the peaks and valleys and the wallpaper would play nice.  So we sanded it with a 220 grit and then wiped it down and made sure it was dry.


Step Two – Hanging Wallpaper

  • I ordered what I assumed to be an easy enough pattern – simple marks in a linear fashion that could be easily lined up – or so I thought. While the paper quality was not the top of the line,  it wasn’t horrible. We went with a peel and stick paper so that we could reposition it as needed (I can’t even imagine how “old school” pasted paper installation even happened!) and got right to it.  We cut the length we needed and hung our first strip.  


  • What we didn’t do was follow the included instructions.  We should have looked for the pattern prior to hanging the first strip to cut and measure the second strip (and subsequent strips).  Instead we were left trying to do so while it was on the wall – it was frustratingly annoying and difficult.  Learn from us –or rather from the professionals that are selling you the product – follow the provided instructions for a less stressful experience and do it on the floor prior to hanging.   


  • Our first strip went up with relative ease, if you don’t count our constant trying to smooth out bumps and bubbles and adjust for the fact that our walls aren’t perfectly plumb and square.  Okay, it wasn’t a breeze but we figured we only had a few more panels to go and could suffer through it.  


  • The second strip turned out to be a complete dumpster fire – there were far more peaks and valleys in this section of the drywall and no amount of careful positioning and prayers could disguise it.  There were moon-size craters and Everest like hills and the wallpaper just wasn’t having it.  We ended up with a crease in one place that we just couldn’t smooth out.  


  • By the third strip, we were pretty sure that this wasn’t going to be a viable solution but we’re not quitters, so up it went —until about two thirds of the way down the wall, we noticed a print defect in the paper.  There were tiny “X’s” running across it and they were definitely noticeable.  


  • With no other options, we declared it a disaster and tore it all down. (Oddly, we had to return the paper in order to get a refund/replacement, so the nice Amazon folks received balls of wadded up paper infused with our sweat (Mike) and tears (me).  Sorry peeps!) 

Step Three – Decide Again

  • After a full day’s work and at least a week’s worth of frustration, we were back where we started – a bumpy, ugly mess of a wall.  We REALLY didn’t want to go through the hassle and expense of replacing the drywall (although, in retrospect, it probably would have been cheaper and easier. SMH), so we decided to spend some more time trying to “fix” the existing wall and reordered the same wallpaper, much to Mike’s dismay.   

Step Four – Wall Prep…Again

  • We knew the wall still wasn’t smooth enough for the wallpaper, so we decided to try re-mudding it.  Mike artfully pulled mud across the entire wall trying to fill in the craters and even out the hills.  I then took the sander to it one more, dusty, messy time.  Thankfully, the process seemed to smooth out the wall much more significantly. 

Step Five – Hanging Wallpaper…Again

  • Learning from our previous mistakes, we followed the provided instructions and laid out the paper on the floor, lined up the second and third runs in line with the pattern and cut accordingly.  


  • Using our trusty laser level this time, we took our time ensuring that the paper lined up on the line exactly and we didn’t pull or pucker the paper to make it work.  


  • We used a plastic putty knife and a credit card to SLOWLY work out all the bubbles and creases and approximately 3 hours later, we had the three strips of wallpaper up.  


Step 6 – Step Back, Enjoy and Reflect

  • While we both agree that we won’t be wallpapering anything for some time (at least long enough for Mike to forget the debacle that this was), it did solve our initial problem and provided visual interest and pattern to the room.  If you decide to tackle wallpapering a wall, please consider these hard-earned tips:
    • When they say, “make sure your surface is smooth” – make sure your surface is actually, really, perfectly smooth.
    • Follow the provided instructions.  
    • For your first project, make sure that you don’t have to wallpaper around a frameless window or an interior or exterior corner.  You’ll question every decision you have ever made and possibly die of frustration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s lesson, a.k.a. Hidden Gem! (Don’t mind the horrible door knob in the pictures – it’s getting replaced when we update the doors like we did here.) Feel free to drop a comment or reach out if you decide to move forward with wallpapering – we’d love to hear from you!  

Thanks for checking in,