Any loyal This Old House fan knows that putting sweat equity into a powder room has a generous payoff. The well-used room is often seen by visitors to your home and offers a prime opportunity for a little design experimentation. If you fall in love with a wallpaper pattern but aren’t sold on using it on a large scale, Gina Shaw, vice president of product development for York Wallcoverings, bets it would look fantastic in your small bathroom. “Wallpaper offers perhaps the single most dramatic statement you can make in a small space, and many patterns are perfect for the bathroom. Large or small-scale geometrics and florals or novelty patterns are all fair game,” says Shaw. It may be just the budget-conscious alternative to tile that you’ve been searching for.
A bathroom’s humidity is no longer a reason to dismiss this upgrade idea. Manufacturers are producing designs with technology that make wall coverings better suited for bath application. York carries prepasted designs with its Sure Strip adhesive, which lets air pass through the surface and makes for easier removal if you grow tired of your chosen design. Of course, Shaw recommends installing wallpaper according to the manufacturer’s instructions for a lasting look.
Find the perfect wallpaper design for your bath by taking color cues from your hard surfaces. For a striking look, pair neutral hard surfaces with a contrasting color; similar tones will create a soothing environment. She points out that blues, green, and lilac—especially in pearlized finishes—are popular choices that brighten a room. Black and white tile provides a good background for a pop of bright teal or red. Whether your print is animal, 3D, or something more traditional, follow these York-approved steps for enlivening your small bath.
Choose the color and pattern. Select something that will work with your hard surfaces to create an impactful or calming space in your home. Keep in mind that this wallpaper doesn’t have to match the rest of your house. Shaw encourages going over-the-top for a statement that guests will remember.
Carefully read and follow manufacturer instructions during wallpaper installation. They will vary based on wallpaper type, prepasted or unpasted. Keep in mind that many papers are prepasted, which is more convenient for DIY-ers. High-end designer papers are often unpasted because they’re usually installed by pros. See more: All About Wallpaper
Follow the old adage of “measure twice, cut once.” Check out York’s roll estimator for predicting how many wallpaper rolls you’ll require.
Apply “universal” wall-covering primer for easier installation and a lasting look. Primer helps wallpaper grip onto slick surfaces and prevents paste from absorbing into porous surfaces. Sizing gives additional grip and makes sliding pieces into position on the wall easier. Sealer makes it easier to remove wallpaper. Look for combo sealer/sizer, “universal” products that are designed to work on different surfaces under varying conditions.
Locate your starting point in the least visible corner of the room. Where the beginning and end of your project meet is the only spot where your wallpaper design won’t match. Shaw suggests choosing the corner closest to the room’s entryway. See more: How to Strip Wallpaper (video)
Understand the match and pattern repeat of your wallpaper. Lining up your design’s pattern correctly will affect the quality and impact of your installation. It will also affect the amount of wallpaper scraps you’ll have after you’re done. Large-scale patterns create more project waste if precisely lined up; however, you can reduce that waste by “dropping” (staggering) the pattern so it doesn’t match exactly.
Prep the paper for installation by “booking” it. Wallpaper can expand its width on a wall by as much as ¼inch. Avoid this expansion—which can cause unsightly wrinkles and bubbling—with booking. This process means folding the wallpaper like a book cover, pasted side in for several minutes, allowing it to expand and relax its curl from roll packaging. Watch as TOH TV host Kevin O’Connor hangs wallpaper to see this process in action.
Cut in around tough spots like corners, doors, and windows. Resist the urge to pre cut pieces for these tricky spots. Hang a strip as usual, and then cut all but an inch of the extra paper all the way around the obstruction. Make small diagonal cuts on the corners to prevent tearing, and use the edge of a scraper to trim excess paper. Check out this York video for help on wallpapering around windows and doors.