Paper Chase

Wallpaper is trendy again and is having a moment. Done right, it’s a simple, relatively inexpensive way to make a big impression in just about any room. But as I learned, technique and planning go a long way when you’re installing it yourself.

When the lion’s share of your information about home projects comes from Pinterest and DIY television shows, it’s inevitable (for me, at least) that you will tackle the makeover projects that come up in your own home. Which is how I ended up straddling a toilet backwards during my first wallpaper undertaking. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s back up a bit.

Last year I made over my entire master bathroom, which included building and installing a frame around the large builder-grade mirror, upgrading the hardware and painting all cabinets—a painstaking, time-intensive, tedious process which, upon completion, I vowed never to do again. Funny how we forget those laborious details in just a matter of months when the urge for another makeover project strikes.

As pleased as I was with how the cabinets turned out, the highlight of that bathroom makeover is the accent wall behind the toilet, which I wallpapered with paper that so closely resembles reclaimed wood—you have to touch it to realize it’s not actual wood. I got the inspiration from Pinterest, bought the wallpaper on and picked up the few supplies I needed at Walmart. The result far surpassed the few hours and less than $100 invested in the project.

The beauty of today’s technology is that a reasonably handy person can learn how to do just about anything by studying enough online tutorials. (Oh, and reading the directions that came with the wallpaper and paste.)

Although every video I watched online had the wallpaper hung vertically, I wanted the look of horizontal boards, so I measured and cut my paper to fit the space by hanging each section horizontally. For my first wallpapering project, dealing with these much shorter pieces of paper was a lot easier than managing ceiling-to-floor length pieces. It worked beautifully and I got the exact look I was aiming for. The toughest moments were hanging the sections right behind the toilet tank, but at the end of the day, patience and perseverance paid off.

I was so happy with my accomplishments in the master bathroom that this past spring I found myself embarking on a makeover of the guest bathroom. There were far fewer cabinets to paint, but I had an idea I was eager to try for the corner behind the toilet.  On one of my favorite DIY shows, the flippers used old metal roofing panels for a bathroom accent wall. I loved the look and had a few pieces of perfectly weathered tin panels stashed out in the barn that I wanted to use.

Unfortunately, the toilet tank was so close to the wall there wasn’t enough clearance for the ribbed panels to fit behind it. So, recalling the success with my earlier bathroom wallpapering efforts, I opted for the next best thing: wallpaper that looks like antique metal ceiling tiles, complete with that distressed paint effect.

After tearing out the tacky wood paneling on that half wall behind the toilet, I washed the wall and let it dry before hanging the wallpaper. This time, I cut the sections and hung them vertically.

Once again, I found myself in the “riding backwards” position when it came to hanging the paper on the wall behind the tank. It was awkward and challenging to smooth out, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you decide to try your own wallpapering skills in a bathroom, it would be easier and faster without the toilet in place. My DIY skills, however, have not expanded to include plumbing-related issues and I didn’t feel like paying a handyman to remove the toilet just so I could more easily paper that wall. As I discovered, it’s certainly doable without removing it.

You could also just choose a different wall to accent—which, if I learned one thing from my experience—is what I’m going to do next time around!

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