Walls that wow

by Katie Herbert on 30 Mar 2020

In this competitive real estate market, cookie-cutter is out and unique is in. I’ve increasingly been using wallpaper as a way to help my properties stand out from the crowd.

Wallpaper is one of my favourite finishes. It can transform a room and add that all-important wow factor. There is great demand for homes that go the extra mile, which ultimately means more money in your pocket.

But how can you use wallpaper to bring a room to life without breaking the bank? Here are four concepts that I use to guide my own reno projects.

1. Question the space
I always start by answering four very important questions about the property I’m working on.

What rooms could benefit from a pop of colour or pattern? My go-to rooms for wallpaper are typically the master bedroom, powder room, basement rec rooms and laundry spaces. None of these would be considered the main or defining spaces in a property – all the more reason to seize the opportunity and add some unique, impactful touches.

What’s the overall style of the house, and who are you selling/renting to? The design you pick should subtly mimic the style of the home, and the paper you choose should appeal to your target buyers/renters. For example, an abstract print is more contemporary, while a small floral print might work better in a more eclectic or traditional home.

What are the dimensions/features of the room you’re going to decorate? If the room is short, consider large or vertical patterns to help retain a sense of height. Geometric prints give a greater impression of continuous space when applied to all the walls, so I love to use them in small powder rooms or closets.

How much are you going to cover?  I often include a feature wall in bedrooms because it adds a great backdrop to the bed (this also works in other spaces where there’s feature furniture) and helps with your budget. I love to see wallpaper at the back of closets or behind open shelves for an unexpected and whimsical surprise. Peel-and-stick is a great choice for this type of installation, but you can always go bold and cover the entire room, which is the best way to create a completely different world within your home.

2. Think impact
Now it’s time to decide just how much, or how little, impact you want your new wallpaper to have. Some investors want it to be the star of the room, while others use it as a complementary touch. Some go for colour, others for texture, some for both. Ask yourself: How do I want people in this room to feel?

Recently I’ve been using bold, colourful designs that are the main feature of the room because I want that wow factor, but simple neutral palates can work just as well. A paper with a subtle pattern can be a really effective way to add depth and interest to your design without detracting from the central theme.

3. Get shopping
With so many styles and suppliers to choose from, where do you start? Online. It’s the easiest way to filter your search to specific styles and colours (and hunt for sales!). Be sure to get a sample or at least check a store’s return policy. It’s hard to get a reliable read on colour, texture and quality without seeing the wallpaper in person.

Be careful with your measurements. Always order an extra and make sure you buy paper from the same lot number. (Word to the wise: a ‘double roll’ just means it’s double the length, not two rolls. I learned that the hard way.)

The price range of wallpaper is vast, but you can get a good basic product for between 60c and $1 per square foot. I’ve been able to purchase great rolls at $35 to $50 a roll by shopping at Wayfair, Beauclair and Homesense. The big-box stores are also upping their wallpaper game – even Walmart stocks some nice designs – but always check online because you’ll find greater choice.

If you’re catering to a luxury market, there’s no shortage of incredible high-end designer ranges: Farrow & Ball, Cole and Son, Laura Ashley, and Graham & Brown are just some of my favourites.

And remember to have fun when shopping. Wallpaper is about impact, personality, colour and texture, so pick something you love. It’ll often have the same effect on prospective buyers/renters.

4. Hang it
Installation can make or break your design. Badly hung wallpaper draws your eye for all the wrong reasons and can create doubt in the overall quality of the build, so make sure you hire a professional if you’re not adept yourself. Installation costs vary depending on various factors, but you can generally budget $250 to $800 per room.

To prepare for installation:

  • Invest in a good metal trim guide and a sharp knife.
  • Make sure the wall has been painted first – a satin or eggshell finish is ideal to give you some slip.
  • Plan your start and end points. You might want to have the end seam behind a door, for example, or the centre of the pattern in the centre of the room

During installation:

  • Always check the manufacturer’s instructions. Every paper is different. 
  • Work from multiple rolls to reduce waste.
  • Overlap the top and bottom edges by at least 1" to allow for walls that aren't straight, then cut the paper once installed.
  • Use clear glue. After installing, use a clean damp cloth to wipe away excess glue to avoid shiny seams.

It might be more expensive and time-consuming than painting a room, but wallpaper typically has a longer lifespan than paint, so the costs even out over time. While there’s not a reportable ROI, there is an intangible return on your investment when your buyers or tenants see you’ve gone the extra mile. This creates a sense of better quality and a more thoughtful renovation, which ultimately places a higher value on the property.


Katie Herbert owns and operates Herbert Homes, a home renovation company based in the GTA. She is also the host of Handmade Hotels, which airs on Makeful. She prides herself on thoughtful design and quality workmanship. Find her on Instagram @herbert_homes.

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