How to wallpaper with fabric using starch

Putting fabric on a wall with starch has been around for a long, long time.  I used this technique in my kitchen pantry a couple of years ago and I was shocked on how easy it went up and how easy it is to take down {I still have mine up, but I have pulled back a piece to see how hard it would be to take down, and it just peeled right off like butter}

Last weekend I used the fabric with starch on a bigger area at our river house guest bedroom.  This time I did a whole wall and I am so pleased on how well it turned out. Of course I didn’t think before I left the house to bring my good camera.  Then once I started the process, it dawned on me that some of you might like to know I how I did it, so iPhone pictures is all I got.

This is how the room looked before

Before picture

 

But after 6 years of this, I was ready for a change.   I wanted to add a more modern look to the room and use a pop of color and a pattern on the headboard wall.   I knew wallpaper was too permanent, and the thought of taking it down when I tire of it was not appealing. And so I came up with the idea of using a bold fabric instead of wallpaper as the alternative.  This whole concept is great for renters, or a designer like me who is constantly wanting to re-design a room.

Here this is how it turned out

A whole wall done with fabric using starch

What a difference right? The room itself is still a work in progress.  I wanted to get the fabric up on the wall so I could get a feel for the whole room before I finished everything else.   It was a pretty painless and easy project that took me about 3 hours to complete.  I had a helper, my sister, but it is doable with one person.

I purchased the fabric from Home Fabrics for $8.99 a yard.  The type of fabric I used was a home decorator fabric, 100% cotton, which is about the weight of a duck cloth.  Most of Joann’s home decorator fabrics would work.  But you can not use velvets, the fabric would be too heavy for the starch to hold,  or silks, because when they get wet from the starch it will leave water marks.

How to put fabric on the wall using starch

First you need to calculate how much fabric you will need. It is the same calculation as if you were to use wallpaper.  I could try and explain how I figured out how much fabric I needed for my room, but I think this article on Home Made Design explains it much better than I could.

The wall I wanted to do was 11′ wide x 8′ tall.  I calculated that I would need 10 yards, but I bought 13 just in case {which in the end came in handy when I accidentally cut one of my panels 12″ too short}

Then I got these supplies ready

Tools for fabric walls using starch

Liquid starch, a paint tray, a sponge roller and an exacto knife.  It took one full bottle of liquid stach to do my wall.  So if you area is bigger, you will need more than one bottle of starch. It helps have a broad knife or a wallpaper brush to smooth out the fabric and press it into corners, but since I didn’t have either of these, I used a stiff piece of cardboard, and it worked just fine.

To make your job as easier, set up a large work area where you can lay the fabric out for cutting and applying the starch to the fabric.  I improvised and cleared an area on the floor in another room lol.  Your walls should be somewhat smooth, a heavy textured wall will not work for this application. You could lightly sand your wall to knock down the drywall mud areas for a smoother look.  Luckily I didn’t have to do this.  No need to prime the walls, but do wipe down the area to make sure you have a clean surface.  My wall had a satin paint finish, and the starch adhered just fine.

Now that you’ve prepared your work area and prepped your surface, your ready to start hanging the fabric.  The first thing I did was a dry fit.  {no picture sorry} I examined the design of the fabric and determined where I wanted the pattern to meet the ceiling. Then I measured out the length of the wall adding 2″ for overlapping at the ceiling and floor.  I didn’t have the confidence in myself to pre-cut each piece before I started, instead I choose to hang and cut each piece as I put them up.  But you could use the first sheet of fabric as a template for cutting the next ones.

The wall and the back of the fabric both get starch.  Note: I do not soak the fabric in the starch, which other people have done. I feel that soaking the fabric is overkill.  And  soaking the fabric means that you have to allow for shrinkage and potential wrinkles from stuffing it into a bucket, which I do not want to deal with.  It works just as well my way, so I figure why add another step. 

Once you have your first panel cut, use your sponge roller and roll starch on the area of the wall where the panel will go.  Then lay your fabric panel, unfinished side up, on your work surface and roll starch on to the fabric.  Use the “Book” methed by folding both ends of the fabric towards the middle, paste side in.

Since the fabric is 54″ wide, I lined my fabric up to the ceiling and tacked a nail in each corner to help hold the fabric while I positioned it and smoothed it.

Putting fabric on the wall with starch

I started in the far corner, overlapping the edge against the wall and made sure as I went along that my pattern was straight.  I worked my way across from the inside wall side to the outer edge of the fabric, then side to side, smoothing the fabric down with my hands as I went. Don’t worry if you have minor wrinkles in the fabric, they will disappear as you smooth them down.

fabric with starch on a wall

The great thing about using starch, is that if it dries by the time you get to an area, {which mine was doing because of the ceiling lights were putting out some heat} you can reapply the starch to either the wall or the inside of the fabric {or both} and it will re-adhere perfectly.  I also noticed I had some small areas that I missed in the middle where the starch had dried after I had the whole panel up. So I rolled my foam roller on top of the fabric in those spots and the starch absorbed through the fabric.

Here is a picture of the first panel up {man these are grainy pictures!}

Using fabric with starch on a wall

If you have switches or outlets make sure you take the face plates off before you put your fabric panel up. Lay the fabric right over the outlet and switches when you are putting up your panel as if they are part of the wall.  When you are 100% sure your fabric panel is perfect, then take an exacto knife and cut around the switch or plate.

For the next fabric panel, I debated as to whether to butt the seams up {which means cutting a straight line, which I am terrible at} or overlap them.  So I had my sister look it up on the internet, “how to do seams with wallpaper”.  And this is what she read to me “if you want perfect seams hire a professional”  We both laughed and I made the easy choice of overlapping the edges of the fabric panels, cause I’m no professional!

Overlapping seams on hanging fabric on a wall

See the arrow?  That is my seams over lapping.  Honestly you can hardly notice the overlapping once it is all up.

Trimming fabric put on a wall

On the areas where the fabric meets the baseboards and ceilings, make sure you take your broad knife {or in my case a piece of cardboard} and run it along the edge.  It helps to seal the edges and give you a straight line for trimming. When the fabric is dry, do your trimming of all the edges using your exacto knife.

This tutorial turned out much longer than I had antcipated.  It really is not a difficult project to do, hopefully my long post doesn’t discourage you from trying this method yourself.

Fabric wall with nest chair

Besides the fabric on the wall, I think my second most favorite thing in this bedroom are the Nest chairs.   I put one in each corner of the room.  Aren’t  they fun?  I found them at a consignment shop in La Jolla.

If there is something I didn’t explain clearly, feel free to contact me or leave a comment, and I will do my best to answer it.  And if you put fabric up on a wall in your own home I’d love to see pictures!

Linking up to

Creating With the Stars, hosted by East Coast Creative.

Gail’s Catch as Catch Can at My Repurposed Life

Craftberry Bush Inspiration Gallery Link Party

Create & Inspire Party

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Love it! You did a great job, and explained it perfectly!

    Ohhh how I wish we could have a girls weekend at the river house….you , me, Cindy–that would be so much fun!

    gail

    • Awe thanks Gail! Writing tutorials is hard, I never know if I write too much or too little. {most of the time I think it is too much lol} Book the flight and let’s go! I am ready when ever you are :)

  2. Very nice. I never would have thought it would be easy to take down. That is awesome. Thanks for sharing =) I love that gold side table ;)

    • Thanks Kelly! It is so darn easy to take down yet stays up so well, its amazing how it works. The table is from World’s Away, love their furniture!

  3. Hi! Looks great! How do you take it down? Does it damage the wall? Thanks

    • Lynette, it just peels off! No damage to the walls what so ever. There might be residue from the starch left on the wall which can be wiped down with a wet cloth.

  4. That looks awesome! You did an absolutely amazing job!

  5. What a great idea! I’m scared of wallpaper but I might just have to try this! I would love for you to come link up to That’s Fresh! Friday and share :)

  6. love this idea! i may have to try this!

  7. Erika guerrero says:

    Is the starch a type if glue ?

  8. Rebecca says:

    I am planning on doing this on the door to my 2nd grade classroom.

  9. That is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I want the look, but don’t want to commit to wallpaper. I can’t wait to do this!

  10. I am trying to talk my husband into doing this in our dining room. Your room is lovely! One thing that has us confused…..fabric has a band/edge/salvage on each side that will need to be dealt with. Did you cut it off & if so, how did you overcome the fabric fraying?

    • Amy, I did have to cut the sides of the fabric {the salvaged edges} there was very little fraying. I just trimmed the strings with the razor once it was up on the wall. I am sure it depends on the type of fabric you use as to how much fraying you might get. I used a home dec fabric which is a little more thicker than a cotton. The starch also binds the fabric so once it is on the walls it does not fray. You should try a small piece on a board to see how you like it if you are unsure of how it will work with your fabric. Good luck!

  11. Stephanie your article is a godsend! For months now I have searched for the perfect chinoiserie wallpaper to use in my sunroom. There are some beautiful wallpapers out there, but I can not justify paying $200 for a roll of wallpaper. Would 100% Cotton Twill be too heavy to work with?

    Have you ever thought about scotch guarding the fabric a couple of days after it’s hung? One would have to consider what the effects might be, if any, combining liquid starch and scotch guard.

  12. marie fry says:

    Could you do this on the inset of wood cabinets? Does it stick to wood? what about the unfinished edges of material, does it fray?

    • Marie, you could absolutely use this technique for cabinet insets. I have seen a lot of people use this method on the backside of curio cabinets or built-ins. As long as your fabric edges are trimmed of any fraying, the starch kind of bonds the fabric so it doesn’t fray. If it does, once your starch is dry, you can easily snip the frays with a razor blade or scissors. Hope that helps!

  13. Can you starch fabric on a wall that is already wallpapered?

    • That’s a good question Angela. My guess is that it would stick. I would use the starch on a scrap piece of fabric first to see if it works. Let me know what you find out!

  14. You are an excellent teacher! I bought some patterned fabric this past Friday with doing this in mind. I am excited to follow your exact step by step instructions. You are the best, and your room looks beautiful! Thank you so much.

  15. Do you think it would hold up well in a laundry room that gets quite a bit steam/moisture?

  16. What if the textured wall is a smooth-ish texture? I would love to try this in my rental but the walls do have a slight smooth texture on them.

  17. Do u think this would adhere to glass?

  18. Hi, did you dilute the starch or use it “neat”? And where can I find it? Thanks.

  19. I’m excited to try the fabric wallpaper in the home we are renting. The walls are painted by a professional, using a decorative design. Can I ruin the paint job? It would be worth it, if it can damage it.

  20. Hi there! I happened to have stumbled upon your site just looking at how to upholster my daughter (who’s 18) old Wooden headboard as I couldn’t find myself letting it go (it was a LOT of $$ back then) I found that GORGEOUS headboard you had made with the velvet then of course I was drooling so, I ended up looking at more projects.. THANK YOU for showing all of your tips. Some designers wouldn’t dare be so friendly with projects but I live in Chicago.. purchased a Victorian and I couldn’t afford to hire anyone right now. Thank you so much for all of your info! you are my Favorite Designer!

  21. Hi! I need to cover up an ugly wallpaper border in the house I am renting. Do you think I could just use this method for a border to cover up the old one? And I am wondering if it will stay in the old wallpaper, and not ruin it. Thanks!! Courtney

  22. Hello! I featured your tutorial in a my blog series, Living in a White Box. My series features tips and ideas for how to decorate rental homes. Your fabric wall is a lovely way to jazz up a wall when you can’t paint, so I had to highlight it!

    Feel free to grab a featured button and check out my post at Living in a White Box: White Wall Syndrome. Thanks for sharing your amazing creativity!

  23. This is the best tutorial I have seen yet on doing this. I am going out today to find fabric for the inside walls of a curio I have. Once I get my confidence up dong that, I am going to tackle a wall in my kitchen. Will let you know how it turns out! Thanks for this post

  24. Was thinking about doing this to my apartment. Since the walls are white I want to make an accent wall with a splash of color. Will the fabric bleed on to the walls and how ready is removing it?

    • Hi Sarah, I have never had a problem with the starch bleeding fabric, but I would do a test with a small piece of fabric before you put it all up on your wall.

  25. Yeah! I’m definitely doing this. I’m so sick of not being able to do any bold decor projects because we are renting – so this is perfect!

  26. Gorgeous! I pinned it for later – when I move, I want to have some ideas on how to change a place and make it my own. Also – I’m in love with that black chair that looks like a birdcage!

    • Thanks for the compliments! It really is a great way to add color or pattern to a room without damaging walls. That birdcage chair is my favorite! And it is so comfy to sit in. Like a cocoon.

      • Crystal wiggins says:

        So beautiful! Your old bedding…where did you get it? That is what I want for my bedding! :) please please please reply!!!

        • Hi Crystal, the old bedding was purchased from Horchow.com many years ago. It was by Waverly I think. They still carry similar styles on their site. Or you might want to do a search for floral Waverly bedding.

  27. Cathy McWhirter says:

    Hi, I am wondering how much “wear and tear” it will take. I don’t have a headboard and was thinking of doing a piece of fabric on the wall. It is between 2 windows so I already have the trim, and I could add another piece of trim between the rosettes to be a faux headboard. I know, I know, I should just cover one! This seems easier!

  28. that looks amazing! love the pattern you chose! stopping by from CWTS.

  29. Could this methed work for a bathroom? Or would the humidity from hot water make the fabric fall right off? By the way love this idea!

    • I probably wouldn’t recommend using it in a bathroom, the humidity might loosen the fabric.But you could try it and see if it does, I have never tried it in a bathroom, so I can’t really say for sure.

  30. Natalie Palermo says:

    Stephanie,
    Thanks for your turtorial!! About how much did you spend in total on all the supplies? Also, how long would you suggest to wait to do this on fresh paint? My apartment was painted about a week ago. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Natalie, I am no expert, but I would think that after a week the paint should be cured enough to use this application. I would love to see pictures if you try it!

  31. Colleen says:

    Great explanation! Can’t wait to get started in the morning! Thank you!

    Colleen

  32. Where do I purchase starch? Is there a way to make my own?

    • You can purchase starch relatively inexpensively at Wal-mart or Target. I don’t know if you could make your own, you might have to google that one :)

  33. Ok, I did a 60″ x 45″ piece on a bathroom wall yesterday, and today I have all kinds of bubbles. Can I just pierce little holes and reapply starch, or do I take it off and start over?

  34. Can you use this technique over wallpaper or will it damage the wall paper. I’m looking to spruce up my kitchen!

  35. I NEVER post… rarely. … BUT the step by step instructions you gave are THE BEST.. thank you.

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