If, like me, you live in an old, historic home you have to deal with many challenges not found in modern construction. One of the most common problems is damaged walls. Often, old plaster has been badly patched or walls are layered with difficult to strip wallpaper. One solution is to knock down the old plaster walls and replace them with drywall. Having done this once myself however, I can say that this is not a solution that I recommend. Although not an expensive project, old plaster is part of the history of a structure and removing it changes the vintage feel of the house which is often why you bought it in the first place. Plaster is extremely heavy and dirty. Knocking down a single wall amounts to pounds of rubble plus a thick layer of dust that permeates the rest of the house. Taking down four walls would make an unbelievable mess.
A less messy option is one that homeowners have been choosing for years — wallpaper. Wallpaper will hide a myriad of damaged wall sins, especially if you use a liner underneath it. Wallpaper can be expensive though. You’ll likely need a number of rolls to complete a whole room.
The patchwork wall is wallpaper done “on the cheap.” You may not want an entire room of it (or maybe you do!) but a single patchwork wall can save some money while making a nice accent or, as in my case, serve as an inexpensive solution in an out of the way area of the home where you might not be willing to spend the big bucks for wallpaper that no one except you and the cat will ever see. My patchwork wall runs down my basement stairs. No one ever sees it except my husband and me but I still wanted it to be both finished and “cheerful.” The patchwork wall accomplished both of those goals.
Papering a Patchwork Wall
My project began with my collection of wallpaper odds and ends —leftovers from other projects around the house. I’ve also bought single rolls at thrift stores or wallpaper store clearance bins, often for little more than $1. From these rolls, I cut 12″ squares and 6″ squares. I cut other sizes too but I wanted most of my squares to be around 12″.
Since there was no rule saying that I couldn’t, I used lots of 12″ scrapbooking cardstock and papers as well. I chose only the colors and patterns that I love so that I would be sure to love the result. I can also imagine using posters, postcards, or even old vintage sheet music.
I started by applying a thin coat of wallpaper paste to a large square which I then positioned onto the upper corner of my wall. I applied squares side by side, overlapping some. At this beginning stage, I worked only with the larger squares.
The wallpaper squares were sturdy and easy to apply. The scrapbook paper took more care. Because it is so thin I had to be careful not to tear it when applying it to the wall. Rubbing too hard would also remove the color from the paper. I quickly discovered that the best way to smooth it out and remove air bubbles was to use a second, dry sheet of paper placed over my square. I then used a dry cloth to rub the dry paper, which smoothed out the air bubbles in the paper underneath and sealed the square to the wall. I also discovered that it wasn’t necessary to remove all of the bubbles. Once the paper dried, it seemed to “shrink up” a bit and air bubbles disappeared.
Here are some projects done by others that I found on Pinterest.
After I’d papered the entire wall with larger squares, I went back and applied smaller squares in all the gaps and where large squares joined up in an awkward way that I didn’t particularly like.
Keep in mind that most papers are not going to be washable. Of course if I do get a smudge at some point, there’s no reason I can’t cover it up with a new square!
My finished project:
And now, with one basement stairway wall complete, it’s time to get busy and do the opposite wall too!