Q&A: wallpapering your home

Read our Q&A for expert advice, practical tips and design ideas when wallpapering your home.

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Industry professionals share their creative ideas and practical solutions for getting the best results when using wallpaper.

Gallery image: Mirror mirror wallpaper in 1957-912, £48 per roll, from the In The Picture collection at Prestigious Textiles.

What is the difference between paste-the-wall and traditional wallpaper?

‘Paste-the-wall’ is becoming standard. You paste the wall then apply the paper. It is faster than pasting the wallpaper as there is no waiting for the paper to soak, and you can hang it straight from the roll with a little practice. Paste an area slightly wider than the paper width, so that you never have to paste up to the last length. Let the paper make contact with the wall, keeping the rest of the roll away. As you unroll the paper, aligning it to the plumb line or last length, smooth it from left to right and up and down.

The traditional method is to paste the wallpaper, which can only be done on the paste table. Its good points are that the paper becomes softer to handle and creases less. However, it has to soak for the time specified, and be cut to a length that can be trimmed on the wall.

Wayne de Wet, award-winning decorator and member of Checkatrade


What’s the best method for applying paste to wallpaper?

Before decorating the wall, it’s important to get rid of wallpaper paste already there, as any paste residue will cause mould growth through the wallpaper or paint you’re about to put on the wall. Go for a paste containing fungicide, too – especially for thick vinyl wallpaper – as it prevents mould growth. Then, when applying paste to the paper, brush down the middle first, and then off to the edge furthest away from you, before moving to the edge on your near side – this avoids getting paste on the table, and consequently on to the front of the wallpaper. As wallpaper paste expands, it’s important to wait once you’ve applied it and abide by the manufacturer’s instructions before hanging the paper.

Peggy Shaw, assistant wallpaper buyer at Homebase


There are dents in my walls caused by my door handles – how do I repair them before starting to wallpaper?

A quick-drying wall filler is the best solution. Before starting to fill, ensure that the area to be filled is clean and free from loose material. Then press the filler well into the damage, smoothing off with a wet filling knife. If you leave the filler slightly proud, it will be easier to sand off when dry for a completely even finish. Allow it to dry for about 10 minutes, then lightly sand if required, and you can start decorating.

Matt Gray, decorating expert at Polycell


I want to make my home feel more welcoming and spacious but I don’t want to use white or cream wallpaper. What colours should I choose?

For an alternative to the traditional magnolia and white shades, try slightly deeper colours, such as putty or olive green – both are timeless, warm and can open up a small room, such as a hallway, while being inviting to visitors. Calming pastel tones are also great for setting a mood. Mixed together they look great, and they add interest to walls as you are not restricted to one tone – try green, pink, yellow and blue.

Melanie Adams, wallpaper expert at Wallpaper Direct


How can I use wallpaper to make my space feel bigger and brighter?

Using vertical, pearlescent striped wallpaper is a good way to create height and light in rooms with low ceilings. Using the same wallpaper but horizontally achieves length for short rooms with high ceilings. The pearlescent properties of the paper reflect light around the room for a more opulent, bright feel.

Cathryn Archer, head of the design service at Laura Ashley.


How can I make an impact in my dining room using wallpaper?

A feature wall is a quick and easy way to change the mood of your dining room. It injects personality without overpowering the rest of the space. Use a metallic or pearlescent finish wallpaper, to create a warm ambience under low-level lighting or candlelight. Most dining rooms have one big wall with no windows, which is a great opportunity for a bold wallpaper statement. The new beaded Ladder Stripe wallpaper by Kelly Hoppen, £26 per roll, would create a glamorous look.

Nina Taylor, head of the design studio at Graham & Brown


How do I choose a feature wall?

A It may seem obvious, but choosing the wall itself is key. Pick a wall without doors or windows and, if possible, with interesting architectural features or a fireplace. It’s best to choose the wall with the largest area, but you need to take into account the shape of the room. If the space you’re planning to redecorate is narrow, adding a feature wall to the longest side will only accentuate this. Although your feature wall should be a focal point, it should not dominate the room. One trick is to include a few upholstered pieces or curtains in the accent colour. It’s also essential to choose the right design. When it comes to feature walls, bold is better, so pick paper with a large, striking or textured pattern. Use feature walls sparingly, however. The word ‘feature’ is key and it’s best that this decorating style is not adopted in every room in the house.

Drew Hutchinson, DIY and decorating expert at Wilko


How important is paste to hanging wallpaper?

A Using the right paste for any wallpaper is vital to success, so read the instructions carefully before you start. Many wallpaper manufacturers recommend their own paste, and although it may cost a bit more, it will have been designed to make your life easier. A ready-mixed paste for all wallpapers is easy to use and often worth the extra expense, especially if you are only doing a feature wall. However, new plaster walls have to be ‘sized’ with a thinned coat of wallpaper paste to seal them and it’s best to do this with a paste that you mix up yourself, so that you can control the thickness.

Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux


Do I need to prepare painted and papered walls differently before adding new wallpaper?

A The basic rule is to make sure that the surface is dry, even and firm. Before you start to prepare, remove the cover plates on outlets and switches and write on the back where they come from to make it easier when you put them back. Then, remove hooks and anything else from the walls. Now determine what the wall is like. For a wallpapered surface, make sure that all loose paper is scraped off, especially in corners and along skirting boards. When stripping textured and paper-backed vinyl wallpaper, pull off the whole top layer. Sand down or cut away old seams where the paper overlapped and fill any cracks, holes or uneven areas, then lightly sand these when dry. Dust the walls then apply thinned paste to the filled areas, following the instructions. Wash painted walls with a paint cleaner, or similar, and rinse. Scrape off any flakes and loose plaster. Finally, fill any cracks and sand smooth.

Fredrik Larsson, production manager at Eco Boråstapeter