Over the years, I have written a lot about wallpaper since it’s one of my favorite items in my “toolbox” for transforming rental spaces. In general, I have had very positive wallpaper experiences. I’m usually game to give anything a try, and have had success in a wide variety of situations (e.g., textured walls, closets, backsplashes, bathrooms, furniture etc). However, there is one wallpaper product I did experiment with…and didn’t like one bit: paintable wallpaper. I frequently get questions about paintable wallpaper (since it’s inexpensive and widely available off-the-shelf at home improvement stores), so I wanted to pull this information out of some scattered blog posts into one (hopefully) helpful resource. Let me show you what happened when I used paintable wallpaper and explain why it is one product I’ll never use again!
Years ago, I decided to update an inexpensive IKEA dresser with some paintable wallpaper. At the time, I thought it would be a quick and easy way to add both texture and custom color to an otherwise plain piece of furniture. However, adding the paintable wallpaper to my dresser…much less painting it…turned into quite the DIY debacle! Although the following experiences involve applying paintable wallpaper to raw wood, I had a friend attempt to apply the same paper to her walls and had identical results. If you’re tempted to give paintable wallpaper a try, read my cautionary tales before opening up your roll!
A Tale of Painting Paintable Wallpaper
One of the most appealing aspects of paintable wallpaper is that it’s…paintable. Meaning, you can paint it any color that works for your space. If that sounds too good to be true…it is. Take a look at the paintable wallpaper after you paint it. What starts as a smooth, thick wallpaper almost immediately warps and wrinkles.
The wrinkling above is not just due to the paper being loose (i.e., not adhered to anything). The wrinkling was even WORSE on panels I so diligently adhered to raw wood drawer fronts. Below is the paper, freshly applied to the drawers. Smooth and wrinkle free:
Below are the exact same panels after applying paint:
As the paint fully cured, the wrinkles did release a bit and I was able to smooth most of them back down with a lot of pressure on a craft brayer. However, after 24 hours, the paper curled up and off the dresser along every edge.
My three-color dresser indeed turned out darling, but the paintable wallpaper was not the quick or easy solution I thought it would be. Instead of applying the wallpaper and then painting it (as the instructions state), I ended up cutting and painting the wallpaper panels first. After they fully dried, I smoothed out all the wrinkles with an iron along the non-painted back sides and then applied the perfectly smooth panels to the drawer fronts with strong spray adhesive. If I had this much trouble getting small panels to lay smooth and wrinkle free on small drawers, just imagine the results with a large strip on the wall!
(You can see full details of this dresser makeover HERE!)
What You MOST Need To Know
To summarize, here are a few things to consider about paintable wallpaper should you want to try it in your own home:
- I could not get the paper to stick using water (remember, it comes pre-pasted, so water should have been enough). This might have been because I was applying it to raw wood, but I have worked with SO many different wallpapers and have never run into this issue. No matter what I did, after the paper fully dried, the corners and edges peeled up.
- The paper will shrivel and wrinkle when you paint it. Although these results occurred on a wooden dresser, I watched the same thing happen on my neighbor’s wall.
- It is difficult to get good color coverage on the paper because of the texture. Additionally, the paper also has a “spongy” feel, so I had to use a lot of paint to fill in all the nooks and crannies.
- Paintable wallpaper tears very, very easily. I’ve worked with a lot of wallpaper, and I am usually so impressed with how durable it is. I was shocked by how quickly and easily this paper tore and dented. It is NOT to be used in a high traffic area!
Here are a few other things to consider before applying pre-pasted paintable wallpaper to furniture…
- Test the paper and the application method to see 1) if it sticks and/or 2) if it damages your furniture. Using water with the pre-pasted paper did not hold on my fully sanded, plain pine dresser. The re-positionable spray adhesive was removable, but didn’t hold the paper to the dresser as tight as I wanted it, so I resorted to permanent spray adhesive.
- Does your dresser have flat surfaces? I originally tried wrapping the paper around the edges of the drawer fronts and it tore so easily I had to switch to the concept of panels. This paper would be very difficult to use on rounded edges or pieces with lots of details or beveling.
- Since paintable wallpaper can be a bit finicky and you might need to resort to strong adhesives to get it to stick perfectly, I wouldn’t try it on Grandma’s antique dresser or even your rental walls!
I suspect it’s hardly a coincidence you don’t see a lot of bloggers or designers using paintable wallpaper in their homes or on their projects. At least in this little experiment, it proved quite an exasperating product. I personally was so thankful to be learning these hard lessons on a small, easily-fixable dresser rather than a big, expensive wall installation. If you really want to add wallpaper to your walls or a piece of furniture, I suggest trying to find a non-paintable version (thankfully, there are now so many wallpaper brands and companies that offer a vast selection!), and I highly recommend using peel-and-stick for furniture makeovers like I did here. If you want to give paintable wallpaper a try, I encourage you to conduct several tests on your walls/surfaces (both painted and non-painted) to make sure you like the results before proceeding with a full installation!
So tell me…have you tried paintable wallpaper? What was your experience like?