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They Sprayed Their Way to Greatness

Photo by Helen Norman

"Not sure if we'll ever renovate on this scale again, but we love it." —Karl and Amy Gelles, Bedford, Virginia

Amy and Karl Gelles perfected the art of mixing luxe finishes and hard labor while restoring a parlor in their 1879 house. To get a look right out of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, they splurged on $700 worth of handprinted wallpaper—enough to establish the right tone—and finished the rest with paint, stencils, and elbow grease.

See more photos from this house remodel.

Before: Clean 1987 Parlor Slate

Photo by Courtesy of Karl and Amy Gelles

The couple began at the Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers website, which showed a Victorian-style room with a medley of five wall-papers. Beautiful, Amy says, but "just way too much for one room." So they bought border patterns to flank the crown molding, enough paneled paper to create a wainscot, and samples of two star-like patterns.

Working from a Template

Photo by Helen Norman

Next stop: Walmart, where they picked up custom-tinted latex paint for two base coats. Karl made plastic stencils by tracing the star-patterned papers, used them to create larger posterboard templates, and worked his way across the ceiling and walls, positioning the templates with quick-dry adhesive and spraying them with gold paint. "Cutting them out was tedious," he says, "but then the work flew."

Faux Wallpaper Project Tools

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Tools and materials included wallpaper samples, clear plastic, an X-Acto knife, and many cans of spray paint.