How to Hang Wallpaper

I love wallpaper. Always have. The bolder the better. In every house we have owned, and we are serial movers, there has always been at least one wall of the stuff. From big splashy flowers to flock or metallic and monochrome, wallpaper is the way to bring a room to life.

It’s not for everyone though. My mother-in-law once referred to one of my choices as “just heinous” and insisted on always sitting with her back to it. It was this:

I still really love it, although in the end we had to replace it because Number two son, at the age of about two, kept peeling it off the wall. I painted over it a couple of times but in the end it started to look rather tatty and we changed it.

Anyway, to paraphrase Henry Ford, I think you can decorate your walls any way you want as long as you use wallpaper. It’s so fashionable, it doesn’t even matter which design you choose. Even though, just like fashion, new collections are launched every season.

In fact, we’re so used to celebrities designing clothes that now the designers have moved onto wallpaper – Julien MacDonald, Roland Mouret, Matthew Williamson and Orla Keily are all at it. And where they go, others are sure to follow.

As Michelle Owen, of Cole & Son (, says: “There is no particular trend on colour or style as long as it’s wallpaper.”

So, if we’re all clear that we are in favour, here is a simple guide to the rules on hanging wallpaper.


The wallpaper above is designed by Young & Battaglia. It covers my son’s bedroom door and he is thrilled that it makes his room, well almost, invisible. I am quite thrilled that when closed it hides the orange carpet he insisted on having.

1 Don’t try and hang wallpaper with your spouse

This will almost certainly lead to divorce. I know this because I have tried it. It was the bright pink wallpaper at the top. Fortunately it was a small wall and we managed to finish before the lawyers actually turned up (just) but we didn’t put it up very well which meant there were a few unstuck edges for little hands to play with.

So, if you are a novice then choose a vinyl wallcovering as it will be easier to hang. “They are more forgiving if you oversoak them or handle them too much,” says Melanie Adams, of Wallpaperdirect, the internet arm of Brewers, the largest independent wallpaper retailer in the UK.

“Alternatively look for a paper on a non-woven backing. This means you put the glue directly onto the wall and then stick the paper on to that, which makes it much easier to get it in the right place and saves you having to buy a trestle table for pasting. But if in doubt, get a quote from a professional. You may be surprised how reasonable it is, especially if you do the preparation yourself.”

2 Do get a range of samples

You will need to check the colour against the rest of your furniture. Many retailers will only send out small samples as wallpaper comes in 10m rolls and they often have to pay for the samples they send out themselves. If you have matched the colours but still can’t imagine the finished look, visit which has 2,000 samples online. Click on the one you like and an image of a room decorated in your choice will come up, which should give you a better idea.

3 Don’t be a slave to fashion

Currently one of the most popular looks is flock. And before you start talking about 1970s curry houses, that’s black flock. “It’s incredibly popular,” says Adams. “If you paint the rest of the walls in a soft cream it isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds.” The Designers Guild also confirms that flock is one of their strongest lines but if you don’t like that, there are thousands of others to choose from. Barbara Hulanicki, she of Biba fame, does a fantastic line of geometric prints for Graham and Brown ( .


Purple Flock in our bedroom. This is Persian Tulip by Zoffany (

4 Do use it to change the shape of a room.

Papering the narrow alcoves on either side of a fireplace will give a hint of boldness without being overwhelming, and will also make a room look bigger. Horizontal stripes will have the same effect, making the room look wider.

And you don’t have to stick to the sitting room or bedroom. It’s perfectly possible to have paper in a bathroom or kitchen. Adams says: “If your bathroom is well ventilated and doesn’t get too steamy, then there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t use paper in there.”

5 Don’t be afraid of pattern

Those big splashy flowers in metallic colours have been a theme for a while now and that shows no signs of changing. Both the Designers Guild and Neisha Crosland are known for that and it will certainly be a talking point. Crosland, as queen of pattern, says there’s nothing wrong with doing all four walls, but the rest of us might feel a little faint at the thought of that. Adams has a more gentle suggestion:

“Wallpaper does look great when you do the whole room but if you think it might be too much then choose the same design in two different shades. Then you can do one wall in the really bright colour and the rest in the same pattern but in a paler toning shade.

Nina Taylor, design manager at Graham & Brown, says: “Consider mixing your patterns. You can do one wall in a bold flock and the others in stripes.”

6 Do start with one wall

This is a good idea if you are hanging it yourself as you can choose a flat square wall with no alcoves or windows to cut round. It will also make the most impact. But more importantly, says Michelle Owen, of Cole & Son: “You can go for something really outrageous if you are only doing one wall. We have a collection from the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti, which is a series of faces and features in big circles. It’s really different and you’d be surprised how popular it is.

“The point of that is that you can change it in a year’s time if you are only doing one wall because you won’t have a spent a fortune decorating the whole room and you can change that wall for another pattern in colours that still go with the rest of the furniture.”

Family by Lisa Bengsston from Bodie and Fou. I used it in my son’s bedroom on the chimney breast and he stuck his pictures in the frames

7 Don’t worry about turning your house into a Granny flat.

There are plenty of designs with little flowers that are still around for the traditionalists but you might want something a little more contemporary. Cath Kidston has done wonders for the sprigged floral look, but she uses strong colours which keep it modern. There is no reason at all why wallpaper will make your room look old fashioned. Colours that are definitely modern and very popular include chocolate brown and duck egg blue. Together. Metallics are also strong either on flowers or even as a background. Crosland has produced both gold and silver papers.

8 Do use wallpaper to cover problem areas

If your walls are all lumpy and bumpy wallpaper will hide this and save you having to pay a plasterer for a skim. If you don’t really fancy bold coverings, consider the paintable whites range from Graham & Brown. “These will add texture to your room but you can paint them in any colour you choose, so it’s great for anyone who might want a little more than paint but doesn’t want to go the whole way with pattern,” says Taylor. Another solution for those unfortunate enough to be faced with the prospect of stripping woodchip is to look for papers that can go straight over the top. Check out Graham & Brown’s Wall Doctor range.

Tags : wallpaper
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.