The Master Bedroom Wallpaper
I’ve got a story for you. It’s not exactly ‘The Jinx’. The ending isn’t totally UNHAPPY, nobody dies, but it’s not my happiest story I’ve ever told.
Let’s recap to what the master bedroom looked like when we bought the house.
There was potential, certainly, but gross carpeting, dark ceiling, tinted windows, etc.
So before we moved in we skim coated the walls, painted the walls and ceiling a bright white (Benjamin Moore Ultra bright white) and put down new flooring. It was instantly a pretty room.
All white, super simple with the basics – a couple of pieces of storage a bed, some lighting and a couple nightstands. And of course the box that tells me my nightly stories. It wasn’t a design masterpiece certainly and no one commented on how pretty it was, but I loved being in there and spent so much time the first few months of Charlie’s life nursing him.
If I didn’t have a design blog I might have just left it like this. No bells and whistles – just nice pieces with pretty light reflecting off of them. My life is full of chaos and so having this room empty seemed just fine.
But expectations are high in my world to have every room be Pinterest worthy. Often I’m SOOOOO grateful for it because it forces me to do things like the built-in bookcase or the string art. But then it’s also encouraged me to make mistakes like the guest room ‘Easter Bunny Vomited on the Walls’ disaster.
It’s kinda part of the job and generally it’s good to have creative pressure, but sometimes I’m like – can’t I just put up cheap nice subway tile in my bathroom and call it a day?
The answer is ‘no’. I know that. Back to the room …. you see where this is going.
As I started thinking about what I wanted the room to feel like I thought – bright, airy, clean but with an element of design that sets it apart from just a blank white room. So putting a texture on the walls seemed like the best idea – something super simple and soft that might even read as a solid from a distance, but just added a layer of depth and texture. I love grasscloth, but the seams can be really strong (oh the irony … keep reading). I found white metallic grasscloth which I LOVED but honestly it wouldn’t show up in photos so it kinda defeated the purpose. And since we already had enough blue in the room I didn’t want to do a blue grasscloth, so I thought – what if we designed a paper that had a weave like fabric or grasscloth without the fragility or seams of grasscloth? And then what if we chose a color (blush) that made me happy, would still be calm and keep the room feeling bright, but would add some fun and play on a big trend right now. And then if the blush were to be metallic? Forget about it …
So we started designing. We found this fabric that had a printed weave on it and sent it to our wallpaper company that helps us with custom designs.
We told them to try it in gold and rose gold. The first step was solidifying the pattern/weave. They sent back some options:
It was way too dense and dark. Not airy and loose enough.
This was the second option but again the lines were too thick and compacted.
This was the winner. The weave looks big here, but this is not to scale – its much smaller.
Then it was time to pick the metallic so they printed a few different options and sent to us:
We liked all three in different ways, but the yellow gold on the right did go a bit yellow and a bit, well, GOLD – like Liberace gold. The rose gold was softer and prettier and just more me. I liked the first one, too, but in person it was too subtle. So we chose the middle/rose gold option. Great. All good so far.
So then there was the question of where/how much to install. And this was kinda my mistake (or was it? keep reading). Because this wallpaper was custom it was VERY expensive. That one wall you see below was $750 (for the paper, not including the installation) and to do the whole room would have been an additional $2350. So $3k for the whole room – NOT including installation which probably would have been $800 – $1k.
We were in a hurry to meet the shoot deadline and I had just spent so much money that I was nauseous. So I went against my instinct and decided to only wallpaper the headboard wall.
My thoughts on wallpapering 1 wall are this: if its crazy bold then yeah, consider a ‘feature’ wall. Or if there is an architecturally separate wall then that can be an accent wall – like a niche or some sort of jut out then that’s a perfect ‘accent wall’. But this wallpaper was too subtle to be just on one wall. It looked like I just couldn’t afford to do the whole room WHICH WAS THE TRUTH.
But the shoot went on and in the photo it looks very pretty. Its soft and subtle and feminine without being girly, and reflective without being too glam. I actually really love this wallpaper.
That was the shot in Domino magazine. Back when wallpaper life was wonderful.
But then two months later it looked like this:
Yes, those are the seams. They lifted up over a hot weekend that we were out-of-town and didn’t leave the air conditioner on or the shades closed. Whoops. They didn’t just peel up though, they peeled up layers and layers of paint. It was CRAZY THICK. Like matte board.
That’s a good shot (above) of the wallpaper close up though. So pretty besides that massive ravine every 2 feet.
Slowly over the last year the seams have gotten worse and worse to the point that it was like a sheet of cardboard coming up – below:
So I called Mark, my installer and he came out to take a look at it. Here’s the boring part. I asked him what happened and he said it was a combination of two things:
1. Your paper is only as good as your weakest layer of paint. He thinks that after they skim coated they didn’t wash the wall of all the dust before they painted the three layers of primer and paint. So there was a weakness there and the paper just peeled it up.
2. This paper is really, really strong. Which of course is a good thing in general – its hard to peel up with your fingers (normally). But it also will peel up week layers of paint if you have them. This is unavoidable because you don’t really know what kind of paper you are going to get. It’s not like you can call the company and say ‘do you carry weak or strong paper?’. They’ll all say ‘strong’. But some papers are easy to remove and some aren’t. This one isn’t – it sticks really tight and becomes one with the wall. In this case that is a really big bummer.
Then there became the ‘WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS????’ or ‘HOW DO I MOVE FORWARD IN LIFE??’ conversation. And here they are:
1. Peel it off, repair the wall by RE-skim coating it, then repaint it and then wallpaper it or all of them – or not. The thing is that skim coating is a massive monster of a task. It involves plastering and sanding and plastering and sanding. We would have to move out of the room and it would cost probably $1200, its crazy messy. PLUS WE ALREADY DID THAT AND SPENT THAT MONEY BEFORE WE MOVED IN!!!!!
2. Use cement to glue the seams down/together. This would cost $300 and could be done in one day. This is not ideal either because it is going to really suck to remove someday (but it would suck right now, too) and the seams would not completely disappear – just get better.
Neither of those options are wonderful. I suppose the first one is the more permanent solution and if I were more mature maybe that’s what I’d do, but an easy $300 bandaid just seemed easier than us moving out of that room for a couple of days.
And a real bummer is that now that I really want to wallpaper the whole room and am ready to pull the trigger on the paper expense we can’t for fear that the rest of the walls will pop the seams, too.
Our solution: To paste down the seams with cement. Mark basically just painted them underneath with this really non-toxic organic glue (opposite) and then taped the seams in place with paper tape. It worked pretty well.
The question I ask myself is ‘what would I have done differently’ and my answer is I have no idea. This was not my fault, or my painters fault (he claims they washed all walls and I believe them) nor the papers fault nor Mark’s fault. Can I blame the heat? Sure, but Mark said that a good wallpaper with good installation should handle a 90 degree room.
Do I wish I had just left the pretty white walls? Eh. Kinda, but not really. I love this paper I just wish it could be on all four walls.
So here we are now that its fixed:
It’s better. So much better. I still wish it were on all four walls, but not having those seams halfway ripped up is, you know, way less offensive on a daily basis.
The full reveal of the bedroom on Monday (sorry). But for now, I want you to ponder this situation and ask yourself: What would you have done?
1. Not have done wallpaper at all?
2. Wallpapered the whole room in the first place for $3k + $1k labor = $4k?
3. Once seam opened would you have ripped off the split-seamed paper and re-skim and paint?
4. Or do what I did: Glued the seams back down and moved on with your life ….? And then write a blog post about it publicly shaming yourself?
It’s not an easy decision and you know it … But I am curious … What would you have done?
*Before photos by me, Domino photo by , white wall photo by and after photo by