Fabric Walls

Creating a new wall in fabric can add another dimension of warmth and texture to a room.


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For a standard, 36-inch wainscoting, choose a fabric pattern that can be installed in vertical sections. Though this requires seaming (as with wallpaper) every 54 inches (the standard width of decorator fabrics), it creates less waste than a pattern that is printed horizontally, or railroaded. The floral pattern shown in Photo 1 works well because it has no obvious direction.

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Repair flaws in walls. Trim fabric selvage. Measure wall segments and cut fabric slightly longer than needed, matching patterns where fabric butts together. To secure fabric to wall, roll or brush clear, nonstaining vinyl adhesive or cellulose paste onto an area slightly larger than the width of the fabric (see Photo 2). Apply fabric to pasted wall, using a dry wallpaper brush to smooth air bubbles and wrinkles. (Use more glue on raw edges if needed to prevent raveling.) To cover large sections of wall easily, roll fabric back onto bolt after trimming, then roll it out directly onto the wall. Trim top edge with a razor and broad knife. Attach decorative chair rail, slightly overlapping top edge.

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Create a room divider without major renovation. Ready-made curtains and wooden rods form an easy entryway and cozy reading niche, as shown in Photo 1. In addition to privacy, this project provides a shelter from chilly drafts. To cozy up a living room in which the exterior door opens into the space, suspend a couple of rods from the ceiling using light chain and drapery rings (see Photo 2).

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Hang the first rod over the window using wooden brackets attached to the wall. Using plant hangers, light chain, and drapery rings, suspend a second rod from the ceiling at the same height and roughly perpendicular to the first. Fasten curtains to the rods.

Ready-made curtains with tabs or ties are widely available and easier to get on and off for cleaning. For variety and an added sense of dimension, pick two coordinating fabric patterns -- such as a darker solid framing the window and a lighter colored check for the new "wall."

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Romantic wall draperies add eye interest and hide a multitude of sins, such as bad plaster. A simple peg rail is the starting point; ready-made curtains are the finishing touch.

Purchase ready-made Shaker-style peg rails, or make your own using 2-inch decorative molding and miniature pegs spaced 6 inches apart (see Photo 2).

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For visual balance, position the peg rail roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of the way up the wall and at least 6 inches lower than window height. Attach rail to the wall with nails or screws.

Hang ready-made curtains from the peg rail using clip rings or fabric tabs or ties. Or choose bed sheets that coordinate with other fabrics in the room. Allow the top edge of the fabric to drape and the bottom edge to puddle on the floor for extra fluidity and softness. The curtains can be easily changed for a shift in mood or season. Or, occasionally leave the walls bare and hang dried herbs or flowers from the pegs.

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Upholstered wall panels add luxurious softness to a plain wall. They also smooth wall surfaces and muffle sound.

Remove crown and baseboard moldings for best results. (Or use ribbon trim at the ceiling and floor to cover raw edges and staples.) Nail 1-inch wood lath around the perimeter of the wall to be covered, leaving enough room so that, when reassembled, the moldings butt against the lathe. Nail lathe to define boundaries of interior panels as well (to be determined by the width of the decorator fabric you choose). Cut cotton batting to fit inside lathe sections and staple to wall.

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Cut fabric to fit panels, leaving enough for a slight overlap at the ceiling and floor. Overlap lathe and staple fabric directly to the wall at top and bottom. Staple fabric to lath on vertical sections and finish raw edges. To finish, use a hot-glue gun to attach grosgrain ribbon to cover any staples and raw fabric edges (see Photo 2), and/or replace moldings, covering raw edges.

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