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Why Wallpaper When You Can Use Fabric?

I loved the colors and the sheen of this silk floral. It's going up on one wall of my bedroom.

I love home decor projects, but as a renter, I must refrain from doing anything expensive or permanent. I have to remind myself that the landlord and the next tenant may not appreciate my taste!

My new apartment though, is entirely off-white: walls, ceilings, carpet – even the bathroom tiles and the kitchen cabinets. It appealed to me when I looked at it, but three months later that clean, blank slate is looking pretty boring.

I started to look for temporary projects that were quick, and simple and I came across one that I think will be fun and make a big difference: Using fabric as temporary wallpaper.

home decorMore on home decoration:

• Video: How to Make Reversible Chair Covers
• How to Make an Abstract Pillow Top
• How to Make a Faux-Foliage Rug

I wanted an accent wall in the bedroom. I found a how-to article, “The Quick Fix Fabric on Walls” at RentalDecorating.com. I’d like to know if anyone has tried this technique and if the results were successful.

When you need to remove the fabric, it peels off the wall – no harm done

The instructions are simple: Wash the wall, then use push pins to fasten fabric along the wall’s top edge. Apply fabric starch to the wall (with a paint roller or from a spray can), starting at the top and smoothing the hanging fabric over it until you reach the floor. Hang another panel, matching the pattern and repeat the starch and fabric application down the wall. After the wall is covered, you trim the fabric.

You don’t have to do an entire wall, either. You can cover any portion of a wall, or just a section and “frame” it with fancy trim.

I picked out my fabric, a giant silk floral with a pretty sheen (a white bed headboard and a bookcase will go against the wall, so that will cut the print’s impact). I pinned it up in the living room in two panels, just to get practice matching the panels. I lucked out in that the 2 2/3 yards I needed for each piece came within a few inches of the pattern repeat.

Test run with laundry starch

I tried several craft and home supply stores, but couldn’t find fabric starch. So I went to the grocery store and got a spray can of Niagara starch – and it worked!

I washed a section of wall, then sprayed it with the Niagara starch. I used a piece of fabric left over from lining a bag – it’s about the same weight and texture as the silk. The next morning, it was still there. No bubbles or peeling and even the tiny frayed threads were still splayed out on the wall.

When I peeled it off, it came away from the wall easily. I think that you could even wash and use fabric from this project in something else later. I am going to keep looking for a plastic-based starch before I complete this project in earnest – I am concerned that a corn-based starch could draw insects. The Niagara Starch didn’t list ingredients on the label, and I haven’t found it online yet either. 

Please share if you’ve ever tried this technique. I’m also looking for more temporary and/or inexpensive decorating tips, so please fill me in if you have ideas!


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  1. cloudyhn | | #1

    I like your idea. Yes... why Wallpaper. I'm going to have my own sewing room as soon as my basement finished. I will have the main wall decorated by fabric as you said.
    Thanks for sharing ...

  2. DKate | | #2

    Did several similar things in the 80s.
    Great idea for covering less-than-perfect walls.

    Pushpins, thumbtacks, or staple gun work great all around, no need for starch if fabric is taut.

    Be sure to use fabric that will not fade in daylight/sunlight.
    Drapery yardage (54" wide) works well, dressy synthetic fabrics, quilt backing (72-108" wide), even vinyl tablecloth yardage or oilcloth for a nursery or utility room.

    Line up selvedge with a corner, same as with wallpaper.
    Starting with top edge, turn under and press at least 1/2in. to stabilize; tack fabric at about 4in. intervals for a smooth look.
    Stretch lengths of fabric tautly and fasten lower edge the same way.
    You can overlap widths of fabric without tacking them if they are taut.
    Don't forget to match patterns.
    Finish by trimming, turning, and pressing fabric at the second corner. A few tackings will keep the vertical edges in place.

    Another idea?
    Use stabilized quilt batting or thermofleece behind solid color fabric and you have an instant "bulletin board" wall. In this case, you use the starch to attach the batting to the wall.
    Sewing pins with large ball-heads work to pin items to the "bulletin board."
    Used this in a child's room and it was still looking good when we moved out three years later.
    Disassembled all the walls in an hour.

  3. DKate | | #3

    AND you can use bedsheets!
    Great patterns and colors.
    King size is 108x102, sometimes big enough for a whole wall!

  4. decoratrice | | #4

    Oh, when you move out, be sure to leave no forwarding address--here's why: The starch remaining on the wall, while not visible to you, or probably to the painters, may cause the next coat of paint to crackle. You may want to try to wash it off, or just quietly disappear. In my apartment days, I attached fabric with push pins, or made a rod pocket and hung it from a rod mounted close to the wall. This is especially good if you want to gather the material for a sumptuous look. you can add extra support by installing additional hooks along the length--they hardly distort the gathered fabric, just keep the long rods level.

  5. PenelopeB | | #5

    Rather than have things attached directly to the wall, I attach fabric to FoamCore panels - available in a variety of sizes at art stores. It's rigid plastic foam on the inside and slick paper on the outside. Can be cut with an X-acto knife or blade. Use glue, paste, staples or tape to tack down the batting, fabric, wallpaper, even aluminum foil (terribly experimental!), and attach to the wall at top and bottom with small nails or brads. Fabric is easily removed and replaced.

  6. bethatply | | #6

    Many years ago I hung fabric on the walls using small flat boards on top and bottom secured with finishing nails. Looked like flowers blowing in the wind. After I moved out I used the fabric to create a cover for my sofa. After I got a new sofa I used the fabric ... which was showing some wear by then to make rag rugs ... still using them today!

  7. User avater
    MissLou | | #7

    I have a wall in my dining room that has old wall paper that doesn't fit my decor that is now screaming for fabric covering. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. lsimms6576 | | #8

    I'm a retired union trained Wallpaper hanger with 34 years experience. use the cellulose wallpaper paste that you mix yourself. roll on the material and hang as usual. Also you can take paper or material and put on windows or cars and it will stick till it rains and come off easy. red construction paper scared me though. bleeding never saw a problem with painting over dried paste as it is the main ingredient of sizing. vinager strips it fast if you need it

  9. User avater
    KatyBrush | | #9

    I used this technique in military housing back in the 1980's. I a gallon of starch on hand to press my husbands uniforms and dipped the fabric in a wallpaper paste tray of the starch, smoothed it over the concrete block walls and let it dry. It was easy to remove when we were reassigned. I just sprayed it down with water and peeled if off the walls. The walls all had to be washed anyway for the white glove inspection before moving out of housing. Glad to see it's coming back.

  10. Kiras_Mom | | #10

    I used the starch method for my daghter's college apartment bedroom. It was quite easy to do and came off very easily. It also was very durable.

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