How to update your living space with these wallpaper design ideas

The avatar of Rachel Polant

Rachel Polant

May 8

Wallpaper isn’t just for Granny’s house anymore

Bold and beautiful makes a statement!

Most homeowners don’t have wallpaper pop in their heads when it comes to thinking about ways to give a fresh look to a living space. But, that needs to change.

Wallpaper has actually been around about 5 centuries. It was a way for the well-off but not rich to embellish their homes when they couldn’t afford the expense of tapestries or commissioned oil paintings.

The rise and fall and rise again of wallpaper

With the surge of the middle class, wallpaper became a popular way for homeowners with some disposable income to make their living space unique and sophisticated — mirroring the decor of the more affluent.

Wallpaper became mass produced and went from premium materials of silk fabrics and other fibers to cheap plastic-like coverings. It got a bad rap for a while for looking tacky and cheap — like the weird brown roosters with cornucopias that lined the walls of your great aunt Barbara’s kitchen.

But, it’s different now, and wallpaper is back in vogue with its better materials and updated patterns. The options for adhering it to your walls has also improved.

How and where to use wallpaper in your home

It’s almost magical how you can completely transform the look of a room with color and patterns. Wallpaper is easier for a drastic change than obtaining a similar look with paint. Even when the wallpaper is a solid color, it adds interest to a room because of its rich color, texture, or sheen/matte qualities.

Using cool colors to make a room appear larger

Cool colored wallpaper makes a room look larger
Beautiful blues and other cool colors make a room appear more spacious

If you want to make a room look larger and the ceilings seem higher — use cool colors of greens, blues, and violets. Softer colors in the cooler tones will make a room feel tranquil, whereas intense cool colors will have a dramatic, bold effect.

Warm colors will make dark rooms feel cozy and inviting

Warm wallpaper colors make a room feel cozy
Warm colors make a room feel cozy and inviting

If you live in one of the Northern locals of the country, using warm colors of reds, yellow, and oranges will make a room feel cozy and toasty, especially during the long months of cold and snow. These warm tones are particularly great in rooms that face north.

Speaking of north-facing rooms, using a paper that reflects light, like metallics, make a room brighter and less dreary. This is also true for dark halls and windowless spaces. A very smooth paper with a nice sheen will also have this effect.

Textured wallpaper and metallic print wallpaper
Textures and metallics bring richness and dimension to a room

Textured prints with patterns hide wall imperfections and can distract from noticeable architectural eyesores. And, horizontal patterns will add width to a room, making it appear wider.

When choosing wallpaper, consider the use and design of the room

Formal rooms should choose large-scale patterns with dramatic colors. Stripes not only have a formal aesthetic, but they also emphasize height, making a smaller room look larger. And, not just stripes but vertical floral patterns will emphasize height as well.

Traditional stripes are always nice, lending a room an air of sophistication

Fun, informal rooms can use bright, open, and evenly spaced patterns like polka dots, or colorful patterns that go vertical. While these bold looks may look out of place in a traditional home, they will make a nondescript, bland room pop.

A pop of polka dots makes a room feel large and well-decorated without being too formal or fussy

Using scale to trick the mind into believing a room is larger or smaller than it really is

Large printed designs will make a room look intimate and inviting. This is also a great trick to make a room look well appointed and finished without using a lot of art or decorations, especially if the space is particularly bare and open.

Large print floral wallpaper

Large, dramatic wallpaper prints make a room look finished and inviting.

Small patterns will help make a small room feel more spacious. Open dimensional patterns, like a trellis or lattice look, will do a great job of achieving this.


Small, fun trellis designs keep a room looking cheery and open

How to mix & match wallpaper patterns

Mix & Match wallpaper patterns
Mix up wallpaper pattern with complementary colors and designs

Don’t overdo it. It’s fine to mix it up, but make sure the patterns and colors are complementary. You don’t want traditional floral on one wall and clashing bright geometric patterns on an adjacent wall.

How to calculate the amount of wallpaper you’ll need

Calculate the wall space to be covered in square feet —Measure a wall from ceiling to floor and horizontally from corner to corner. Multiply those two figures. Repeat for remaining walls. Add the totals.

If you’re covering a ceiling — calculate the square footage by multiplying the width of the floor by the length.

Divide each figure by 25 — the average square footage in a standard single roll of wallpaper.

Subtract from the total one-half single roll for each window and door — the resulting figure is the final number of single rolls needed. Always round fractions to the next highest whole number. If your wallpaper comes in double rolls, as most residential wallpapers do, divide this figure by 2.

Supplies needed to hang wallpaper

Unpasted Tools

Prepasted Wallpaper Tools

  • Water Tray
  • Knife or snap off blade
  • Level
  • Sponge & bucket of clean water
  • Smoothing brush or plastic smoother
  • Tape Measure
  • 6-in inch Putty knife or straight edge
  • A pencil
  • Step stool
  • Drop Cloth

Peel & Stick Wallpaper Tools

Hanging your wallpaper

Once you have picked out your paper, you’re going to need to get it up on the walls. If you’re not a DIYer, you can hire a handyman to hang it for you. If you’ve got some can-do attitude about simple home improvements, then this shouldn’t be too much of an undertaking, especially if it’s peel & stick.

It’s really a matter of following the manufactures directions and making careful measurements. Being patient is a big bonus too. For a handy video how-to tutorial on hanging wallpaper, check out this link.

Where to buy your wallpaper online

Now that you have an idea of what type of pattern you want and how to hang it, you’ll probably want to know where to buy it. There is probably no theme or print you can’t find between shopping these online stores.

Once it’s up, you can sit down, relax, and marvel at the amazing, relativity inexpensive transformation you made to your home with just some sheets of wallpaper!

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The avatar of Rachel Polant

Rachel Polant

May 8