Want to hide an ugly stain on the wall? Want to spruce-up for your apartment wall while making sure you can take it down anytime? Just need a change of scene? The possibilities are endless. Try this ultra chic, DIY and maintenance free effect for your wall.
One of the walls in my new home faces a power line. My husband’s colleague, who is an anti EMF crusader convinced us to cover the wall up with an “Argon mesh” fabric which blocks EMF radiation from entering the house. With all the talk about potentially harmful effects of long term exposure to EMF radiation, we decided to go ahead and install one.
Yes, it served a good purpose, but the dark gray fabric just hung over the wall and made the room look really dull. I kept thinking about various things I could do to mask that ugly fabric. I spoke to a few guys who install traditional wallpaper who said they couldn’t do it with a fabric underneath. It turns out traditional wallpapers need to be stuck to wall, which needs to be prepped by scraping and leveling. Phew! Also, these weren’t removable. We needed a solution which could be reversed with minimum damage.
Then came google to the rescue, where I came across these awesome bloggers who’d used this technique of using ‘fabric starch’ to create fabric wallpapers. The best part about using starch was that, in case you were unhappy with the result, you could very easily tear away the fabric from the wall, leaving the wall intact. You can even reuse the fabric for some other project after giving it a quick wash to get all the starch off. How cool is that! I knew which way to proceed now.
ps: I did this project a few months before I considered blogging. I don’t have the best pictures available :(, but I’ll try my best to add as many pics as I can.
Before and After pics of my wall.
Supplies that you need for this
- Liquid Starch
- Paint tray and roller (Roller sizes may vary depending on how big an area you want to cover)
- Paint brushes
- A rotary cutter (Some websites ask to use an exacto knife, which did no work well for me)
- Old newspapers (to lay on the floor esp. if your is carpeted because starch sticks to everything)
How I went about this.
- Measuring the wall and buying enough fabric. Go to the fabric store and select your fabric. It’s a good idea to bring home a small piece of the fabric and test if the fabric holds to your wall. Your best bet would be 100% cotton home decor fabrics as they would be thick enough to not show water marks and light enough for the starch to hold it up. Also, we all know they soak-in starch the best. As far I have seen, this technique works good on walls with any type of paint- flat, eggshell or gloss.
- Cutting the fabric. This could be the trickiest part of the whole process. Ensure that you cut the fabric to fit as perfectly as possible. This is where the rotary cutter comes into play. It makes the job a breeze (It is a great investment, whether or not you’re into sewing/quilting). You might have to cut multiple panels if your wall is wider than the fabric width. While cutting away the fabric leave a margin of about half an inch for overlap between panels. Overlapping panels will give your wallpaper a cleaner, more professional look. The added thickness is almost negligible and not visible on the walls as you can see in the pic. When you use multiple panels, keep in mind you need to make sure the prints match.
- Prepping the wall. Make sure the wall surface is clean and leveled. Unscrew the electrical plates around outlets and switches. You can put them back in later after the wall is dry.
- Positioning the fabric on the wall. Start from one end of the wall. Let us assume that you start from the leftmost panel. Pour a generous amount of starch on your paint tray. Soak your roller in paint and roll a thick layer of starch on the topmost section of your panel along the width of the panel. Now, place your fabric on top of the starch and press it against the wall. The fabric should start adhering to the wall to some extent, if not strongly. This job gets a lot easier if there is another pair of hands for help. Because the fabric is heavy and the starch is not yet strong enough to hold the fabric, your fabric will keep falling off. Using pins for support is one of the ways to deal with this. (For additional support, I used double sided poster tape on a few places. Scroll down to see how I came to think of that) Reposition as required and re-pin. Now start applying more starch underneath and over the fabric and start to smoothen and reposition as you go along. It helps if two sides are steady. So, start pinning the leftmost side of the panel as well. Once you have 2 sides covered, you can pull the fabric gently, roughly smoothen it and pin the other ends as well to keep off one end.
- Putting up the first panel. This is the fun part where you get to see your vision come to light. Starting from the top, start applying starch on the wall and over the fabric. As the fabric soaks in the starch and gets wet,it’ll get pretty flexible and gives you enough room and time to position and smoothen. Starch is pretty forgiving that way. You get enough time to make your adjustments( In case you need to do any repositioning after it dries, you can always use more starch to wet it and redo the process) I used the roller on my right hand and used my left to smoothen out the air bubbles. Also, once you reach a few inches around the electrical outlets, use a vanishing marker/chalk to mark the section you need to cut around the outlet. You could use a pair of scissors/exacto knife/rotary cutter for this. I used a plain pair of scissors. It might not do a perfect job, but the ends are going to be hidden anyway :).
- Drying the panel. Give it about a day to completely dry . You could let it air dry or use a blow dryer if in hurry.
- Putting up subsequent panels. After the first one has dried, (and you’ve learnt all your basic lessons:)) you can move on to the other panels. Again, If you opt to overlap panels, keep in mind you need to make sure the prints match.
As I told you in the beginning, I had an ugly piece of (argon/utility) fabric which I needed to hide. So, all I had to do was do the above process twice. I sandwiched the argon fabric layer between my wall and home decor fabric. I was pleasantly surprised how well Argon took to the starch too. The treatment didn’t make it look any prettier though ;). Because, I was putting up two layers of wallpaper(Argon and home decor), I wasn’t sure starch was strong enough to hold both fabrics against the wall I stuck double sided poster tapes on all four sides of the fabric. The thickness that this added was almost negligible.
And Viola, There you go! The wallpaper has been holding up really well for almost 6 months now and that too maintenance free. It has even withstood my toddler trying to pluck the flowers on the fabric and climbing on the wall :).
Let me know how it worked for you. Would love to see your pictures.
Tips & Lessons learnt:
- You could use this technique not just on walls, but on doors or even the insides of cabinets. All you need is a surface that’ll take the starch.
- It is wise to wash a little piece of the fabric you intend to use to see if the color runs before you start applying starch on it.
- Be careful around electrical outlets. You don’t want to get them too wet.
- This technique might not work well in Bathrooms/places where humidity is high.