Wallpapering a Whole Room Versus an Accent Wall | What I Learned
Across our nine different rental homes, I’ve wallpapered a lot of walls! But interestingly, I’ve almost always done a single wall and not a full room…until now! Today, I’m chatting about the main differences between wallpapering a whole room versus an accent wall, how to choose what’s right for your space, and some things you really need to know before getting started!
Why I Love a Wallpapered Accent Wall
The main reason I continually choose to wallpaper accent walls (versus painting an accent color or wallpapering the entire room) is that you get a lot of bang for relatively little buck. A wallpapered accent wall provides a stunning and impactful transformation, yet it only costs slightly more than a gallon of paint.
(As a rule, I try to keep my wallpapered accent walls to around $100. To learn how to save money on wallpaper, see here:Where to Buy Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper At Affordable Prices)
Why I Chose to Wallpaper Our Entire Dining Room
When I first laid eyes on our current dining room, I instantly knew it was the perfect space for bold wallpaper because:
- The historical, traditional style of the house would be complimented (and even amplified) by the right pattern on the walls.
- The (huge) size of the room (including 9 foot ceilings) felt like a big, white box. I knew it would take a significant amount of wall color, artwork, and draperies to make it feel stylish and intimate.
- The chair rail creates two distinct areas, and paint on the bottom with wallpaper on the top is a fairly common design choice to play up this natural separation.
- With three doorways, a huge set of windows, and a bump-out, there really was no option for a focal wall in this room that visually made sense.
Having wallpapered so many different spaces, including the tall apex wall in our previous master bedroom, I wasn’t at all daunted by this project. But in hindsight, perhaps I should have been. I was quite surprised how different wallpapering a whole room actually was!
The Main Differences Between Wallpapering a Whole Room Versus an Accent Wall
Okay, let’s get this one out of the way because it’s a biggie. Without a doubt, wallpapering an entire room requires a lot more wallpaper than a single accent wall, which (obviously) involves more money. This may seem obvious, but until you start calculating how many rolls you need and see it tally up in your cart, the added cost may not quite hit home.
Let’s do a really basic comparison.
In this example, I’ll use 8′ x 10′ walls and standard 24″ x 16′ long wallpaper. At these dimensions, you’d typically need about 5 lengths (or 3 rolls) per wall.
- At $6/roll (super cheap wallpaper)
- Accent wall = ~$18
- Whole room = $72
- At $100/roll (high-end wallpaper)
- Accent wall = ~$300
- Whole room = $1200
- At $30/roll (average cost of peel-and-stick wallpaper)
- Accent wall = ~$90
- Whole room = $270
You might want a certain room look, but you will need to determine if the added cost for the entire room is within your budget.
The Time Commitment
Once you get the hang of installing wallpaper, doing a feature wall is very much an afternoon project. Perhaps even a 1-hour project depending on the size of the wall.
That is NOT the case when wallpapering a whole room. Again, somewhat obviously, a full room wallpaper installation will simply require more hours, shifting this project from an afternoon DIY to a significant home improvement undertaking.
Admittedly, our dining room is large, with very tall ceilings; but it took me about a week to wallpaper the entire room, working for a few hours at a time (before I either just needed a break or the kids became too squirely underfoot!)
By the time I was done, I didn’t have that “Look what I just did, and it was so easy!” attitude. Rather, I was totally spent and just happy to have it over with!
When wallpapering a feature wall, the wall is typically pretty “blank.” There might be an outlet or a single window; but usually, feature walls are solid, plain walls with nothing overly complex to work around.
Conversely, when every wall within a room needs to be covered in wallpaper, you will undoubtedly have to navigate corners, outlets, windows, door frames, bump outs, light switches, and other room features…all while matching up wallpaper patterns and seams. These room features make the installation tedious and complex, and quite honestly: downright difficult (hello, turning corners to adjacent walls of a room!)
When you wallpaper an accent wall, you will likely be left with 4-5 “leftover” sections of wallpaper, created by having to line up the pattern (horizontally across the wall). Although this amount can changed based on the scale of the pattern and the paper’s repeat, typically this can result in about 120-150″ of wallpaper scraps…which for the average roll of peel-and-stick wallpaper equates to about $25 of wasted product (almost a full roll!)
Because a full room installation requires so many more vertical panels, you end up with considerably more paper waste (especially when you take into account all those doorways and windows). A sizable room can easily require a minimum of 20-30 vertical panels, resulting in approximately ~900″ of wasted paper, which equates to $150ish of paper that you can’t really use.
Up until now, you might feel as though I’m trying to convince you NOT to wallpaper your entire room. And to be clear: if you’re trying to save time and money and/or you just want a quick afternoon project, opting for an accent wall over the whole room is definitely the way to go.
But I have to admit, there is one main reason to go for the entire room: the design impact. When you pick just the right paper, wallpapering the entire room will create an entirely different style statement. It will be wholly transformative, aesthetically impactful, and honestly: quite jaw-dropping.
Should You Wallpaper a Whole Room?
I can’t answer that for you, but here are some questions that can help you make the best choice for your home:
- Can you “get away” with wallpapering just one wall of the room? Is there a natural focal point of the room or is a full-room installation really necessary for the pattern/layout to make sense?
- Can you afford it? Considering the cost of the wallpaper you like, figure out how much you will need for a single wall versus the entire room. Is it in your budget?
- Are you up for the work? An accent wall is very much a beginner project, but wallpapering a whole room will be challenging for people who have never hung wallpaper before.
- How big is your room? The cost and time investment required is directly determined by the size of room you are tackling. Small room, like a bathroom? Smaller investment. Large room, like a living room? Larger investment.
- How long do you plan to live in your home? Do you change your design preferences quickly? The cost and time may or may not be worth it.
- Is wallpaper your only option? Can you use paint, stencils, or vinyl decals to get the look you want instead?
How I REALLY Feel About Our Wallpapered Dining Room
Alright, let’s get really real here!
From an aesthetic perspective, I could not love our wallpapered dining room MORE! Wallpaper was absolutely the right style choice for this home and this room, and an accent wall simply was not an option because of how the room is laid out.
The traditional-yet-modern Serena and Lily Priano Wallpaper on top with the bright blue paint color (Denim by Sherwin Williams) on the bottom is a complete stunner, and you better bet I have aaaaaaall the heart eyes every single time I walk in. If I’ve ever nailed my personal design preferences in a single room, this is it.
But wallpapering this room was a ton of work. The ceilings are high, the pattern matching was a pain, and there were (what felt like) a million doors, outlets, and corners to work around.
And as gorgeous as this wallpaper choice is, this installation was much more expensive than I typically go in our rental homes (even purchasing the paper on sale and with points).
Truth be told, I really pride myself on “quick, easy, and budget-friendly updates that anyone can tackle,” and this particular wallpaper project just doesn’t fall into that category.
So while I absolutely consider a wallpapered accent wall to be that easy decor update ideal for renters, short timers, or anyone who changes their mind frequently, this whole-room installation feels a smidge too ambitious and expensive for the average renter looking to improve their digs.
Do I regret it? Not really.
Yes…we are renters and we are very short-timers. Yes…it was expensive and a lot of work. But remember: I do and figure these big, crazy projects out out so you don’t have to. Or at the very least, so you can know and better understand exactly what you are getting into before you start.
And my reward? I get to enjoy one glorious, fully wallpapered room in the meantime!