How to Shop for Wallcoverings

A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Room Together with Wallpaper

The rug came from grandma's house after she retired. The sofa was a hand-me-down from your in-laws. You're stuck with your spouse's collection of "whimsical" frogs playing musical instruments. Can this room be saved?

It's wallpaper to the rescue. No other decorating product gives you more impact in a single application and no other decorating product has the capability to bring it all together "like you planned it that way."

Wallpaper companies are making it easier than ever to shop for and find the perfect wallpaper to complement your furnishings. Even sample books are an easy read now thanks to consumer research.

"Wallpaper manufacturers are determined to make buying wallpaper easier and more fun," explains Ron Pietrzak, executive director for the Wallcoverings Association. "Right now, many consumers view wallcoverings selection as hard work. We actually had one woman in a focus group tell us that she spent more time selecting wallpaper than in buying her home!"

With comments like this in mind, members of the Wallcoverings Association offered these steps to pulling your room together with wallpaper.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Room

Take a good look around your room. Decide what you want your room to convey. Do you want it to be light and airy with eclectic, arty touches or would you like it to be rich and dark with exquisite accent pieces?

Once you decide what you want your room to become, evaluate the furnishings currently in the room. Decide what you want to keep and what has to go. Then evaluate your collection of "keepers." What ties them together? Do they share a similar color scheme? Do they have a common style?

Wallpaper is the final unifying element you need to pull your furnishings together and give your room a "planned" appearance.

Step 2: Make a Plan

If you're shopping right, you walk in with a plan - a pillow, a sample of something they want to keep and blend to, but not necessarily match. Most consumers are looking to enhance what they already have.

Get a file going. Even trained professionals can't carry color in their head. Take samples with you, gathered in an organized binder that guides you room by room. With the plan in hand, you are ready to hit the stores.

Add to your file a detailed floor plan of your room noting windows, doors and other permanent fixtures in the room such as fireplaces.

Measure from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling so you will be able to give the retail salesperson as accurate a picture of your room as possible. This will help them estimate how much wallpaper you will need.

Step 3: Ready to Shop

What to do when you are suddenly faced with a wall of wallpaper sample books at your local retail store?

Return to your plan and consult the retail staff about your shopping needs. Referring to your plan helps keep you focused and prevents you from making the dread impulse purchase. Consulting with helpful, experienced staff in the wallpaper department saves you time. If you are able to describe what you are looking for, the salesperson can guide you to the right collections.

The wallpaper industry also is making this step easier all the time by creating sample books that really sell.

According to consumer research, consumers buy by color and by what's on the spine of the book. Wallpaper manufacturers have addressed both issues directly - showing dominant collection colors on the covers, grouping designs by color inside and putting real information on book contents right on the spine.

At this point, get the salesperson to help you narrow your selection down to three to five books. Spread out samples from your binder right next to the wallpapers you like best. Take a friend who knows you and your tastes and get their input. If you are torn between a couple of collections, don't panic. Most retailers can get you a sample swatch or will allow you to check out the book for an evening.

Step 4: Getting It Home and on the Wall

When you find just the right selection, take the sample book home. You will want to see how the light in your room affects the paper you choose, how it blends with the actual furnishings, etc. Put it right up against the wall and leave it there. Watch what it does for the room as you enter. Look at it different times of day in different lighting conditions. Do you still love it? Now you know you've made a successful choice and are ready to decorate.

Remember these tips for ensuring a successful wallpaper shopping:

  • If you are decorating the house for a special occasion like the holidays, remember that a lot of other shoppers have the same plan in mind. Start early and allow plenty of time for shopping for your wallpaper. Be sure to let the retailer know your decorating deadline!
  • While each roll of wallpaper comes with hanging instructions enclosed, there's nothing like watching an installation first hand. Ask your local retailer if they are hosting any wallpaper hanging clinics or if they rent out video tapes on the subject. Ask for their advice on the type of product you are buying.
  • Remember, too, to discuss wall surface preparation with your retailer. When you buy your wallpaper let them know what kind of wall your are hanging on - plaster, dry wall, new dry wall. This way they can specify exactly what you will need to do to the wall before hanging over it.
  • Set aside a day or an entire weekend for the installation so you won't be rushed, or contact a professional paperhanger to do the job for you if your schedule is tight.

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