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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Decorating with Four Kinds of Wallpaper and Why Anyone Would Do This to a Rental

I haven't been doing much sewing in the last six months. We remodeled and sold our house and moved to an apartment and I have been busy doing some painting and wallpapering in our new place*. Wallpaper seemed to have gone out of fashion for many years and now it is back with some great new designs. I got the idea after watching Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis (available on Hulu and totally addictive even if you usually aren't into reality TV like me) and the amazing paper they used, I knew I wanted to decorate with it, too.

There are four different wallpapers that I worked with and I wanted to give an overview on what it was like to work with all of them. Hopefully, if you are looking at buying wallpaper, it will save you some research time. I used pre-pasted, paste the wall, self-stick removable, and lastly, used fabric as wall paper.

*see explanation below if you are curious about why anyone would to this to a rental.

1. Pre-pasted Wallpaper

The pre-pasted wall paper is the first one I tried.  As you can gather from the name, the paper has paste on it already and the idea is to dip it in water before putting it on the wall, kind of like licking a stamp before putting it on an envelope.   It wasn't my favorite method.   I had to get a shallow plastic container that was wide enough for the paper, fill it with water, dip it all quickly, drip all over the floor, then try and keep it from sticking to itself and everything else (including my hair and face) while trying to have it stick only to the wall. It was also difficult to keep the wet paper from folding over itself and making creases that marred the design.

The first strip was the hardest because I didn't know what to expect.  That is the one with some of the folding blemishes that showed up in the black part of the design.   Luckily, they were all in black areas, so I fixed those with some permanent black marker.  After that I learned to control it a little better and you really don't notice the spots that were blemished. 

I love how it looks. I got the paper at Amazon, but I can't find the exact paper any more. I see similar ones here and here.

Bottom line: a little tricky to install and messy.

2. Paste the Wall Paper

I love this wallpaper.  I can't say enough nice things about it. I also got it from Amazon and it looks like they still have the same paper in stock

As the name implies, this is not pre-pasted - you need to apply the paste to the wall, then apply the paper to it.  I was a little apprehensive about the process since it required extra tools and I didn't know what kind of paste to get.  Here is a link to some paste which you can get online, but I just went to Home Depot and got one they had in stock and it worked great and I avoided the shipping charges.  I also saw special wallpaper paste brushes which look like small brooms, but I bought a cheap paint roller and tray and they worked great - no special brushes needed. You can get the roller and tray at Home Depot or Lowe's for about the same price, which is handy if you are there for the paste, anyway.

I poured the paste in the paint tray, then rolled it on the wall in a generous layer with the roller as if it were paint.  Then, after measuring and cutting, I put the first paper strip on the wall.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much easier and less messy than the pre-pasted. 

Bottom line: This was relatively easy and mess-free.

On a side note, I see that the same wallpaper has been seen in Mad Men. I didn't know until after I installed it.  It is famous!

*And now a little back-story...

As I mentioned above, I live in a rented apartment.  And I feel like I need to give a little explanation about the fact that I am wallpapering a rental.  We sold our house in October and it was hard to find a place to rent.  There were plenty of apartments, but the choices were so corporate with no character.  When we saw this place, it  was the right price and location, but also it is the farthest thing from corporate cookie cutter as it gets.

The building was constructed in 1959 and many things haven't changed since it was built.  We have original cabinetry, counter tops, sinks, bathtubs (powder blue and pink!), tile work (with atomic designs) and gorgeous wood floors.  We also have no dishwasher and no washer/dryer in the apartment, so there are trade-offs.

We live in a hipster neighborhood with some seriously ironic facial hair everywhere.  Our neighbors are artists and yoga instructors with names like Giovanni and Skye.  They are pickers and thrift store resellers and wait staff at the local hip restaurants.  And they have done some serious renovations on their rental apartments beyond what is wise.  Far beyond.

The picture below is the art installation outside the window of one of my neighbor's apartment.  That is a mannequin with a TV for an upper body next to a pink lion and flamingo.  I am not sure of the message it is trying to convey, I just know I really, really like living near it.

Here is the inside one of my neighbor's places taken from the window. I was walking by his place and he had left the curtains open.  (I am aware that I have no shame, for the record.)  He has put in wood paneling and decorated everything like it is 1971.
I love the antique TV set and the lights. In the next photo you get a better view of the wood paneling  and the deer head and bear skins.  I could do without the dead animal menagerie, but, hey, it isn't my apartment.
Here you see his orange chiminea/fireplace hooked up to nothing.  I hope he doesn't use it, but you never know.

Other neighbors have done equally crazy things to their places, including installing custom wall book cases and putting in a four foot high sculpture made of broken mirror pieces where the guest bathtub is because they "don't take baths, anyway". One neighbor mentioned his next task was to take out the popcorn ceiling... on his rental.  These people are nuts.

I wondered how everyone could get away with these changes.  I even made a quick call to the owner of the building and asked before making any changes.  He just wants it to look "OK" after we move out, which seems scarily subjective to me, but apparently he has a wide range of what "OK" means.  I even talked to the maintenance guy who said, "yeah, we never hold anyone accountable for anything around here."  That was all I needed. They were beautiful words.

All this is to explain why painting and wallpapering our apartment did not seem so crazy.  I just wanted to make it a little more homey during the time when we do not own our own home.  My next post will be showing the removable self-stick wallpaper and how-to use fabric as wallpaper with pictures of the process.  If I am lucky I will also be able to snap a quick picture of the bust my downstairs neighbor made out of an old typewriter he found in alley behind our building.  He welded it together (in his apartment!) and didn't burn anything down which is always a plus.  But definitely more wallpaper.

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