Top tips for transforming a feature wall with wallpaper

Richard Burr wallpapering a feature wall [PA Photo/Handout]

Richard Burr wallpapering a feature wall [PA Photo/Handout] - Credit: PA

Builder (and Great British Bake Off runner-up) Richard Burr reveals his top five tips for transforming a feature wall...

Richard Burr's daughter Genevieve, sitting in front of their map feature wall [PA Photo/Handout]

Richard Burr's daughter Genevieve, sitting in front of their map feature wall [PA Photo/Handout] - Credit: PA

Wallpapering is one of those jobs that I’ve grown up doing. Whether it was picking up the scraps (a surprisingly important job) behind my grandad as a nipper, or matching 5m drops of hand-printed paper down flights of stairs, it’s a skill that’s relatively easy to master if you follow a few simple rules.

Here are my five tips for papering a feature wall - a great way to add interest to a room, without overwhelming a space or making the room seem smaller...

Big impact: The 'Chart of London City' Mural from the National Maritime Museum Collection is ideal f

Big impact: The 'Chart of London City' Mural from the National Maritime Museum Collection is ideal for a feature wall [PA Photo/Handout] - Credit: PA

Tip 1: Invest in the best

Rooms usually have four walls and if you’re only doing one of them, you can afford to spend a few quid on a decent bit of wallpaper. The idea of a roll costing upwards of £80 can be a bit intimidating, but see it as being art for your walls. Don’t be afraid of choosing something quite vibrant and in-your-face, as it’s only one wall. I like to get a number of different samples from and tape them to the proposed feature wall to get used to them for a couple of weeks, before making a decision.

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If you fancy something a little more dramatic, you can order a bespoke mural to fit your wall from Surface View. They have an incredible collection to choose from and take feature walls to the next level. We have a map wall at home and the kids love it.

Tip 2: Do your maths

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You can’t just measure the area of your wall and buy the exact quantity of paper to match, because it’s really important to check your pattern drops. Wallpaper is usually 52cm wide and typically about 10m long, but it will always tell you the repeat length of the pattern. So, for example, you may have a wall that’s 2.5m high and 3m wide, and a wallpaper with a pattern repeat of 0.5m. Take 0.5 from 10 and then see how many times 2.6 goes into this - adding 0.1m on to the wall’s length to allow for cutting-in the paper. This tells us we’ll get three drops from the roll, so two rolls will be sufficient to paper the whole wall. It’s always best to err on the side of caution with estimating quantities, especially if you’re less experienced with wallpapering.

Tip 3: Get the right kit

You do need a trestle table, so borrow one if you need to, as the floor is too dusty to lay the paper on, and you’ll end up with fluff or grit in your paste (and lumpy walls). You can buy a wallpapering kit for about £10 (try Screwfix or B&Q), including a pasting brush, hanging brush, long scissors, paper scraper, seam roller, plumb bob, etc. Wallpaper paste is pretty self explanatory - you’ll also need a bucket - and your wallpaper will come with instructions on whether to paste the paper (most likely) or the wall. You’ll also need a sharp Stanley knife, preferably with a new blade.

Tip 4: Level and straighten

Nine times out of 10, walls are not level or straight, so you can’t guarantee that your wall’s corners are going to be even. Use a large spirit level to identify where any dips or contours are in your wall. Measure out from the furthest point into the corner you identify and draw a straight line down the wall using a plumb line - this is a piece of string tacked to the wall or picture rail with the plumb bob as a weight on the bottom of it. Paper to this line and use your Stanley knife to cut the paper into the corner. Match the rest of the paper to this first drop and, if you’re using a patterned wallpaper, match the pattern at your eyeline.

Tip 5: Unscrew sockets and switches

If your feature wall includes sockets and/or light switches, unscrew these carefully from the wall and don’t touch any of the wiring. Hang your paper down to the switch pattress (the cavity that your switch/socket sits in). Use your fingers to feel the shape of the pattress through the paper. Identify the corners of the pattress and use your Stanley knife to cut a cross-shape diagonally from corner to corner. Use your scissors to cut away some of this paper in the middle and you will be able to put your switch plate back onto this without tearing the paper. Screw this back on once the paper has dried.

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