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Wallpaper design rules

Melanie Whitehouse / 13 January 2016

Read our tips for choosing, buying and hanging the right wallpaper for the room.

Wallpaper in an alcove
Wallpaper can be used to highlight an area, such as an alcove or chimneybreast

Choose the right wallpaper for the room

Generally, wallpaper with small print and light colours works best in tight spaces and large patterns in stronger shades work best in bigger areas.

Clever use of wallpaper can make a room feel more spacious. Vertical stripes make a room seem taller, making them ideal for rooms with low ceilings, while horizontal stripes broaden a space, creating the illusion of a wider room.

Think about the feel you are going for in the room. Designs featuring flora and fauna give a country feel, for example.

If you’re on a budget or avoiding pattern overload, keep wallpaper to below the dado rail.

Use wallpaper to highlight an area or give a room a focal point – on a chimneybreast, in alcoves or as a backdrop for a statement piece of furniture. Graphic designs and geomerics work well in alcoves and feature walls.

Find out how to make a room feel brighter

Know your papers

Vinyl is thicker and more durable than other papers, and easy to hang.

Flock has a soft, velvety finish and comes in modern designs in dynamic colours.

Metallics reflect light around the room, but you need light to make them do that. Don’t hang on bumpy walls as they show up every lump.

Faux papers are an easy and instant way to replicate finishes such as brickwork, wood panelling, tiles and marble. You can even create a fake library.

‘Paste the wall’ wallpapers mean you don’t need a pasting table or have to soak the paper - you just paste the wall and apply.

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How to hang

It’s all in the preparation, so remove old wallpaper, rub down flaky paint and ensure the wall is dry and clean.

If in doubt, get a professional in – badly hung wallpaper looks awful and costs time and money.

Heavier papers are easier to hang but can be more expensive and need a stronger adhesive.

Check you’re hanging the paper the right way up – it’s easy to make this mistake.

When pasting, start from the top and work down and out towards the edges to spread it evenly.

Start all-over patterns at a window, then work from the window in both directions to the darkest corner of the room.

With a bold design, always cut the first length so that when it is hung and trimmed top and bottom there will be a complete motif at the top of the wall.

Essential buying tips

Wallpaper samples - take them home and view in the surroundings where you intend to paper.

Quality - you get what you pay for and some is very thin. Machine-made papers are usually cheaper and thinner than handmade.

How many rolls – use an online wallpaper calculator such as Homebase’s.

Check for pattern repeats and allow for extra, especially if it’s a large design. Buy more rolls than you need - you can always return them if unopened.

Batch numbers/colour matching – make sure all rolls come from the same batch to avoid colour variation.

Paper widths – wider wallpapers cost more but you’ll get a seamless finish.

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What you will need

Step ladder
Tape measure
Wallpaper adhesive & wallpaper stripper
Stripping knife
Pasting table
Pasting brush
Plumbline (to ensure your lines are straight as a die)
Trimming knife
Wallpaper scissors
Paper hanging brush

Read our tips for choosing the right paint for the job

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.