Many homeowners understand that wallpaper lends a splash of color, texture, and pattern to empty walls that need a lift. But if you peel back the layers (sorry!), you’ll find that this workaday material can offer a clever surprise in other locations too.
“Wallpaper is one of the easiest ways to get rid of ‘blah,’ because a fun print can make any drawer, closet, or cabinet in your home chic and unique,” explains Anna Brockway, co-founder of Chairish. When paper is hung in unexpected spots, for example on the back of a bookcase or inside the pantry, it can bring extra flair to otherwise utilitarian places.
But as with many decor details, you can overdo wallpaper, notes Justin Riordan of Spade and Archer Design Agency. “Keep in mind that we live in a world where trends are in and out rapidly, and wallpaper is typically expensive and laborious to apply,” he says. Yes, you can take that as a warning.
But done correctly, creative use of wallpaper can add a lot. Money-conscious homeowners will note that these ideas actually use just a small amount of paper, which saves on the cost. And you can upcycle leftover pieces from past projects. Ready to boost the wow factor in your home? Here are nine unusual wallpaper ideas.
1. Paper the ceiling
A wild print might be too much for four walls in a bedroom, so papering just the ceiling is the perfect compromise. Your room gains some color and whimsy without full sensory overload. But be careful with dark paper. “It can cause a ceiling to look oppressively low,” cautions Riordan.
2. Cover a door
The quickest way to erase closet lines and create a streamlined appearance is to paper over a set of doors, say the pros. Riordan had a client who even covered her washer/dryer (with automotive wrap) so it matched the laundry room walls. “The effect left the room feeling much larger, because the machines literally blended into the background,” he says.
3. Brighten bookshelves
Pump up your book collection and found objects with wallpaper placed on the backs of each book bay. This hit of color and pattern enhances an otherwise staid, traditional living room.
4. Color your cabinets
Open shelving and glass-front cabinets still lead the pack when it comes to kitchen decor trends, so look to these areas for unusual spots for wallpaper. You can also improve the look of your china cabinet (or hide the imperfections in a used one) by papering over the inside wall. Jamie Novak, author of “Keep This Toss That” also suggests using wallpaper on a kitchen or home bar backsplash (durable, wipe-clean vinyl is best here).
5. Frame the bed
No headboard? No problem. A bit of wallpaper cut to mimic a headboard’s shape is a fun stand-in. Or attach a large piece of paper to the wall behind the bed, accenting the area where a headboard would normally rest. This paper trick draws the eye upward if you take the design to the ceiling, notes Karen Gray Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP, which makes your room appear bigger.
If you don’t have enough paper for a headboard, frame a small remnant as “art.” Or frame a mirror, according to Novak. “Apply a piece of wallpaper 1 or 2 inches wider and taller than the mirror, and then hang it over the paper,” she says.
6. Adorn the stairs
Wallpaper on stair risers or toe kicks makes a unique statement and can be quite a conversation starter. Plus, it’s easier to clean wallpaper on stairs—rather than try and remove scuff marks or repaint repeatedly.
7. Tuck it in the pantry
You’ll never be thrilled to reach into your pantry to hunt for chicken stock, but you can make a mundane food closet a bit more playful by adding wallpaper. “If your pantry is looking a little worse for wear, some striped wallpaper on the back wall can help organize and brighten it,” notes Sarah Hollenbeck of Offers.com. Other closets that can be wallpapered include ones that hold clothes, linens, and coats.
8. Bring it outside
Yup, you can bring wallpaper to a loggia, screen porch, or covered deck. “Wall & Decò makes wallpaper that can be applied to the exterior of a home, which can add texture to a flat facade or interest to a patio space,” says Riordan.
9. Cover the fireplace
Exposed brick? Let it shine. But other fireplace surrounds aren’t so pretty, and can benefit from a layer of wallpaper (choose one that’s wipeable, so you can easily clean soot). As with an accent wall, you’ll be creating a focal point that draws attention to the fireplace. You can also cover the walls that flank the spot and leave the facing of the fireplace neutral.
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