DIY Fail:: How To NOT “Wallpaper” Your Walls With Fabric

This past Saturday, I finally decided to get down to business and work on the closet in my office.  I finally had vision for it, and was ready to see some progress.

So equipped with wallpaper paste, a big paint brush, fabric, a ladder, and my staple gun, I was ready to go.  And the wall was already primed with two coats of primer, so it was ready to be “wallpapered”, or so I thought.

Getting the fabric on the wall wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be, but once it was up, I was thrilled.  It was still very wet, and the edges of the fabric hadn’t been trimmed, but I was so excited about the progress that I took a picture and posted it on the A2D Facebook page.

closet office wall progress 1

I was so anxious for it to dry completely so that I could move on to the next steps…trimming the fabric and painting the side walls.

So what’s the problem?

Well, I’ve shown you before how incredibly textured my walls are.  If you’ll remember, it really gave me problems when I painted the office walls black.

closet office wall progress 2

Isn’t that awful?!  That was with a satin sheen paint, so I ended up using a flat black paint which hid the texture a bit.  Here’s a comparison, with the satin finish on the top, and the flat finish on the bottom.

black wall before and after

Naturally, the closet walls are textured in exactly the same way.  But for some reason, I didn’t even consider that the heavy texture would affect the outcome of fabric-covered wall.  So imagine how my heart sank when I returned about three hours later to see the fully dry wall, expecting greatness, and instead saw this…

closet office wall progress 5

It doesn’t show up in pictures very well, but if you’ll look on the white parts of the fabric, you can see how the fabric looks dimpled and bumpy.  As the fabric dried, it settled into all of the divots and ridges of the wall texture, which makes the fabric look very wrinkled and creates thousands of little shadows all over the fabric.

closet office wall progress 3

It looks very subtle in the pictures, but in person, there’s nothing subtle about it.  It looks at least ten times worse in person.

closet office wall progress 4

Sooo, we’ll consider this the practice run.  The good thing is that wallpaper paste is water-based, so it should come off easily if I spray it lightly with water.

The bad news?  The whole wall has to have a skim coat of drywall mud, and then has to be sanded completely smooth, and then has to be re-primed before I can re-apply the fabric.

Yep, my “quick and easy” project of wallpapering with fabric has turned into a frustrating, labor-intensive pain in the neck.  But I refuse to be defeated by wall texture!!  And I really think the end result will be worth the extra effort.  I hope.




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  1. Instead of using wallpaper paste, I used liquid starch and a tiny bit of water. I washed and dried the fabric first for shrinkage. Pressed it and trimmed the edges. Next day I poured the starch in a tray that is used for prepasted wallpaper and accoridian folded the fabric into it. Mushed it around a little and then put it on the wall. It took about 2 days to dry completely because of the humidity here in NJ. Four years later I wanted to change it and it just peeled right off. I washed down the wall a little and rehung new fabric. I like it a lot better than wallpaper!

  2. I've heard of using liquid starch, but I've never tried it.  Seems like that would be a great idea for renters…and for homeowners who change their minds often.  🙂  I already had the wallpaper paste on hand, so I decided to use it.  I guess I'm about to find out how easy it is to remove.

  3. You may want to try some wallpaper liner instead of drywall mud. They make a heavy duty kind that is thick enough to cover cement blocks and paneling so it may cover the heavy texture of your walls. It would be much simpler than drywall mud! And not as messy!

  4. I'm wondering if it would be easier to use velcro all around the border of the fabric and then on all 4 borders of the wall and stick up the fabric? I know they make sticky-back velcro and I believe there's one you can iron on as well.

    The fabric would no longer lie right against the wall (if it's pulled taut on all edges) plus it could come down if it needed to be washed.

    Just an idea. Sorry you went through all that trouble, but the fabric is gorgeous, so whatever you end up doing, it's going to look A-MAZ-ING!!!

  5. How about buying a sheet or two of foam core (it's light, comes in sheets sized 48"x72") and then wrapping it in the fabric and fitting it into the space?  Just a thought…

  6. Along the lines of some other posters, instead of attaching the fabric to the wall, maybe a sheet of thin luon or something similar instead.  Wrap the fabric around that, then just put a few small finish nails around the border to attach to the wall.  From someone who had their ceiling skim coated and sanded, it's a big pain and the dust is everywhere, so I would avoid that if I could.

  7. High-end interior designer, Brian J. McCarthy, gives us the scoop on his approach to interiors, what inspires him and a glance into his portfolio in Clos-ette Too's "Clos-ette Case." Check it out!! http://bit.ly/nUDCK8

  8. Wow, that's a bummer.  🙁  But I understand what you're going through.  All of my wall are masonry, so I'm constantly dealing with textured walls. Lots of good suggestions posted, so I'm sure something will work out for you.  The best thing about us DIYer's is WE NEVER GIVE UP.  🙂  Let us know your resolution.

  9. I see that other people have given you the same advice that I thought of.. using starch instead of wallpaper paste, and attaching it to a thin board rather than mudding the walls.  Isn't blogging great?  It is like having another set of eyes 10 fold when you are doing a project.

  10. I have a good friend who hung fabric on the walls in her entry hall. She used tiny pins to adhere the fabric to the wall without having to use glue. Since your fabric has a pattern, you would easily be able to place the pins where they would not been seen. Also, what about spray adhesive? They fabric would not be "wet" so the texture might now show. Just some thoughts!

  11. Just like RB already said, I was going to suggest you use wallpaper liner to smoothe things out.  But a word of caution, it may not just be the walls that are causing the problem, I glued fabric to some VERY SMOOTHE roller blinds and it bubbled up, so (from what I've read online) going the liquid starch route might be your best bet when dealing with fabric.  Good luck!  And I can't wait to see the finished result 🙂

  12. I actually tell people to let a pro do fabric on walls. If doing a large wall, it is extremely tricky, and as you know, every little thing on the wall behind the fabric shows!

  13. Have you thought of maybe adhering it to plywood cut to fit the wall and then it is easier, cheaper and you can take it with you!

  14. I second the comment about using fabric-covered foamcore. I've used it multiple times in my apartment to add color and pattern to walls I cannot paint. I either nail the foam to the wall or use velcro sticky squares.

  15. Great fabric!  Don't let it go to waste.  I used wallpaper liner in the past on my heavily textured walls.  It worked very well.  Texture on the walls is insanely popular here in AZ.  I want to try stenciling, so I am going to pick a pattern that is less geometric- more wavy like a damask to try.  My hubs refuses wallpapering since I change my mind so much!  I didn't think of fabric- maybe I will do this instead!

  16. I fabric wallpapered two large dollhouses approx. 20 years ago with tiny patterns I found at fabric stores. Used starch and thought the project was simple even having to work in a small space. Fast forward, it all looks like it was done yesterday!!! NO coming loose or shrinkage. Really want to revive this project to my daughter’s dining room. Will I convince her?