DIY: How to Hang Vintage Wallpaper March 21 2018

Never fear! Hanging vintage wallpaper is fun! We've gathered helpful tips from vintage decorating books, trusted paperhangers, and our own experience to put together these instructions for hanging vintage wallpaper. Here's what you do: 

What You Will Need (Main Items)

vintage wallpaper // wheat paste // paste brush // wallpaper smoothing brush // seam roller // 6 ft. work table // 6 ft. straight edge // plumb bob and chalk line or laser level // rotary cutter // scissors // 2 ft. ruler // ladder

Hanging Your Vintage Wallpaper

(Make sure walls are clean and properly prepped before proceeding.)

1.) Size your Walls

Follow the instructions for making wall size on the back your wheat paste container. Wall size is a much thinner, more watery variation of the paste you will make for hanging the paper.

Prepare the size ahead of time using hot water, and give it enough time to cool. Apply a thin coat all over your walls with a brush or a roller.

2.) Prepare the Paste

For vintage paper (not vinyl) always use a traditional wheat paste that is labeled "for hanging paper". Mix the paste according to package directions. Prepare it ahead of time with hot water and let it cool. 

The paste should be a thick liquid, but not lumpy. Keep in mind the thickness of your paper: the thicker the paper, the thicker the paste, and vice versa.

3.) Set a Vertical Plump Line

Measure a distance about 1/2 inch less than the width of your pattern away form the corner where you want to start (for example, measure 17.5 inches if your pattern is 18 inches wide). a vertical line that reaches from the floor to the ceiling. 

You will eventually hang your first strip of wallpaper on the far side of this line (leaving almost a full pattern's width gap between the corner and the wallpaper). You should not start the first strip exactly in the corner because corners are often not straight. It will be better to wrap around the corner in the end than use it as your starting point. 

4.) Cut the First Strip

Measure a length of wallpaper that is 6 inches longer than the height of your wall. This will give you an extra 3 inches at the ceiling and 3 inches at the floor to work with as you adjust the pattern. 

Using the short straight edge, cut across the wallpaper to create your first strip. 

 5.) Apply the Paste

Turn the strip of wallpaper print-side-down on the table, aligning the bottom "floor end" with the edge of the table nearest you and letting the top "ceiling end" of the paper drape over the opposite edge of the table. 

Using the pasting brush, spread paste evenly over the paper. Cover the paper edge to edge.

Once you've applied the paste to this first section of the paper, you will fold this pasted section in upon itself. Take the pasted end and fold it in half over the rest of the pasted portion on the table. Carefully align the selvage edges on the left and right. Gently press the paper together just enough so that it stays, but do not crease it.

Pull the remaining unpasted portion of the wallpaper onto the table so that it is now in the working area. Paste the rest of the paper. Fold this strip in on itself as well, overlapping the already folded piece by an inch or so. Make sure the edges are aligned and the selvage edges match.

6.) Trim Selvage Edges 

Align your 6 ft. straightedge with the left selvage edge. Using a rotary cutter, cut along the length of your straightedge and trim off the selvage edge on one side. If you lined up the paper correctly when folding it, the edge should trim straight.

The lapping method (where you trim only one selvage edge and overlap the other) is the most common method for hanging vintage wallpaper. Most people naturally work from left to right, in which case trimming the left selvage edge makes the most sense. Always trim the same selvage edge, but keep in mind that the last piece you hang will need both selvage edges trimmed. 

7.) Hang the Wallpaper

Take your vintage wallpaper strip in hand by holding the "ceiling end", which should be the smaller of the folded portions. Climb the ladder and carefully separate the top folded section. Apply the paper to the wall (to the right of the plumb line) with an extra 3 inches of wallpaper sticking out beyond the ceiling. 

Align the left edge of the paper with the vertical plumb line. Press the paper to the wall and gently smooth with the smoothing brush. Gently brush the paper from the center to the outer edges to get rid of air bubbles.

Once the top portion is in place, reach behind the hanging paper to separate the remaining folded section. Align this section with the plumb line, press it to the wall, and brush smooth. You should have approximately 3 inches of paper hanging below the baseboard.

If you need to adjust the paper, gently remove a few feet of wallpaper and realign. You may also carefully shift it into place by pushing and maneuvering the paper slowly with your hands. If in the process the paper starts to lose its stickiness, apply a small amount of fresh paste to the back of the paper or onto the wall.

8.) Trim Paper along Ceiling and Baseboard

Lightly run the back of the scissors along the ceiling edge to crease the paper for trimming. Pull a few inches of the paper away from the wall and cut along the marked line with your scissors. Smooth the paper back into place. Do the same to the bottom.

9.) Hang the Following Strips

Cut the next strip of paper. Take note of where the pattern begins on the first strip and where you need the pattern on next strip to begin in order to match them together. Measure out enough paper to cover the length of the wall, find the proper point to match the pattern beyond that measurement, and then cut another 3 inches past that proper starting point. If you have a large drop pattern, you will lose a significant amount of paper between pieces for matching. This piece will be notably longer than the first, so you may want to trim some of the excess from the bottom end before pasting and hanging. 

Paste and trim the next strip. Hang it to the right of the previous piece, overlapping the trimmed side over the previous piece's selvage edge. You will be overlapping approximately 1/4 to 3/4 inch. Use a seam roller to gently press the seam flat.

10. ) Continue Papering Around the Room

As you work, gently brush away or wipe off any paste that gets on the front of the wallpaper. 

When you reach a corner, you must bisect the width of the wallpaper piece and hang it in two separate parts. Before hanging the piece that hits the corner, measure the distance from the last hung wallpaper strip to the corner. Trim your corner piece so that its width is only one inch greater than that distance. Hang this piece, gently pressing the paper into the corner. Mark a new vertical plum line to the right of the corner, and hang the second half of the corner piece, butting it into the corner and aligning it with the vertical plumb line. 

For expanded instructions and assisting photos, please visit our blog on How to Hang Vintage Wallpaper.