How To's & Quick Tips

DIY Faux Finish Wall Covering

Detail of burlap wall covering

While it's not uncommon for a hallway to be the 'problem child' of a home decor scheme, most people never encounter one as ugly as ours used to be. The walls were covered in burlap-rough, scratchy, feed-sack-style burlap. And the dark and dingy effect was only compounded by the trim and ceiling color-dark beige.

After years of averting our eyes from the awful sight, we decided to transform the space. Our goal was to make it much lighter and brighter; the first step was removing the dreadful burlap. Because the previous owners had used some kind of glue (instead of wallpaper paste), taking down the burlap proved difficult.

I resorted to trying a rather unconventional tool for the job, a clothes steamer. Working in sections, I used the steamer to thoroughly dampen the walls before removing the burlap with a scraper. It was a time-consuming process, but I successfully removed all of the burlap without damaging the walls.

The next step was painting the ceiling and trim. I chose a brilliant shade of white paint in a semi-gloss finish to add some luminescence to the area. Then I went shopping for a new wall covering.

Since I wanted to attempt a torn-paper faux finish, I set my sights on a suitably non-directional wallpaper. Ultimately I found a marbleized, pre-pasted wall covering in soft shades of blue and white-a so-called “non-solid solid” that would be perfect for my needs.

I had measured the walls and knew approximately how much wallpaper I would need to cover the area. On top of that, I added another 10% of material to account for the fact that I would be tearing and overlapping the pieces. I started with the straight edges first, tearing the pieces into irregular shapes measuring about a foot wide.

Pieces of torn wallpaper pre-application

The straight edges went along the ceiling, wall trim, and doorway mouldings. I did all of the edges first, then came back and tore more irregular pieces, roughly a foot square each, to fill in towards the center. Each piece overlapped 1/2 to 3/4 inches. I worked with three pieces at a time, moistening each piece and applying it to the wall before smoothing with the blunt edge of a scraper for firm adhesion.

Applying torn piece of wallpaper with scraper

The corners required some trial-and-error. At first I tried using the straight edges, but it didn't look nice. Instead, I chose to wrap an irregular piece from one wall onto the other wall, running the blunt edge of the scraper into the corner to form a tight seal. The end result is a hallway that looks much more pleasant, and much larger, than what we had before.

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