House Tours: Chic Apartment, DIY Wallpaper Projects

See how this San Francisco homeowner adds style to her small space with wallpaper and lots of do-it-yourself projects.


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Living room with gray sofa
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Scrap Happy

    This Victorian Era apartment gets a modern makeover thanks to graphic wallpaper used throughout the space. Homeowner Christina Coop saves good-size wallpaper scraps and remnants and uses them on every surface in her small space. To keep the apartment interesting and cohesive, she uses different wallpapers in each room but keeps the design and colors fairly consistent.

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Service Tray

    In the living room, wallpaper dresses up plain accents. Coop covered a dingy brown breakfast tray to create a portable desktop. By papering both sides of the tray with an organic pattern, she gave it the graphic punch it needed.

    DIY Tip: Wallpaper with narrow repeats and crisp patterns work best for covering small objects. The paper will stick better if you prime your piece before paste and paper go on.

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Hidden Details

    "I like to use wallpaper in unexpected places, like inside drawers or inside lampshades so the pattern can be 'discovered,'" Coop says. This black-and-white lamp gets a subtle touch from wallpaper applied to the inside of the lampshade. Sticking with neutral colors allows the lamp to brighten the living room without distracting from the other elements.

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Accent Wall

    Bold wallpaper patterns naturally draw attention, so they tend to work well for accent walls. In the living room, a backdrop of wallpaper highlights a book collection and storage cabinet. Covering just one wall is a smart choice because it creates a big impact and requires less paper.

    Follow these wallpapering tips for the best results:

    • Buy clear, premixed wallpaper adhesive
    • Resist the urge to overpaste. A thin layer is best.
    • Snug your seams together tightly but don't overlap. Getting the seams right is key to a professional-looking job.
    • Use a sharp crafts knife to cut the paper. Change the blades often so you get a crisp cut.
    • Make sure the paper is dry before you cut to avoid tears.
    • Save your scraps for future projects.

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Paint and Paper

    Avoid pattern overload by resisting the urge to cover every wall of a room in wallpaper. Instead paint the adjoining walls a coordinating color. For the best result, paint the adjoining walls first, then paper to prevent paint drips on the wallpaper.

    Editor's Tip: Pull the paint color from the wallpaper when you want a seamless transition. Or use a contrast color to pull your eye to an accent wall.

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Touch of Glamour

    Choosing paper with a metallic sheen adds glamour to the dining room. "Wallpaper is much easier to hang and remove than it used t o be," Coop says. "It isn't intimidating and shouldn't be viewed as something too permanent. I change my wallpapers now and then just to refresh a room and change the vibe. It's the perfect way to reinvent a living space."

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Bright Atmosphere

    Wallpaper can establish the mood in a room. For the kitchen and breakfast nook area, homeowner Christina Coop chose a bright, graphic design and papered the longest wall in the space. The orange background offers clear, rich color, and the bird and cloud pattern bring a fun element to the space. Simple furnishings in the room allow the wallpaper to stand out.

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Accents on Display

    Push a backless bookcase against a patterned wall to create an artful visual effect. If you can't find a backless bookcase, hang simple shelves. Keep the display monochromatic to add even more drama to the room.

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Wallpaper Projects

    A basic acrylic tray is easy to embellish with wallpaper. Simply cut a piece of paper to fit the bottom of the tray using a sharp crafts knife. Spread a thin layer of clear wallpaper paste on the interior bottom of the tray, position the paper on top, then smooth the paper using a brayer. To make the tray waterproof, top with decoupage medium.

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Dreamy Retreat

    In the bedroom, wallpaper is used sparingly for subtle flair. Above the bed, photos are matted with graphic wallpaper with a purple background that coordinates with the bedding. Next to the bed, side tables store books and other nighttime essentials. Lamps get a pop of color from wallpaper: The same used for the living room accent wall wraps lampshades.

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Photo Update

    Spotlight framed black-and-white photography in an artful way by covering plain mats with leftover wallpaper. Cut the paper to fit the mat and apply with double-stick tape.

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Dressing Area

    An acrylic dressing table rests against one wall in the bedroom. Above the table, Coop created a fun three-dimensional effect by wallpapering simple display cubes. The rest of the space is left pattern-free so the cubes stand out.

    Editor's Tip: Clear furniture is a great choice for small spaces because its functional yet doesn't make the room appear crowded with furniture.

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Cube Display Project

    Buy plain cubes at crafts store and give them a splash of pattern with wallpaper scraps. First, trace the box onto the wallpaper, or download the pattern below. Make a cross pattern on the paper, using five squares to cover every side but the back. Using a paintbrush, spread a thin layer of wallpaper paste on all but the backside of the box. Adhere paper, using your hand and a brayer to smooth. Before hanging cubes, tape paper templates on your wall to determine the best placement. Use a tape measure and a level to create consistent spacing between the boxes. Hang cubes.

    DIY Tip: Download the box pattern. Photocopy the diagram to the desired size and trace onto wallpaper or art paper. Fold all flaps, marked in gray, inward and glue to the other side.

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