Who Doesn't Love Pretty Wallpaper?


I love fabric but I also can't keep my hands off wallpaper. Every week at FabMo we collect wallpaper remnants and samples from the SF design center that would otherwise end up in the landfill and every week some of that goes home with me.

I mean who can resist a pretty piece of bright red beaded wallpaper or a small roll of outrageously colored butterflies on a black ground, or dainty grasses? Maybe people with more willpower can, I can't, I am weak.

After the first large plastic bin was filled with wallpaper in all shades, different materials and designs from elegant to "I-would-never-in-a-million-years-put-this-on-a-wall-but-it-is-awesome" I saw myself faced with a tough question: What's a girl to do with all that wallpaper?

But before I attempt to answer that question let's have a quick look at the environmental impact of wallpapers.

Wallpaper and the Environment

As luck would have it somebody else has already done the work for me, at least on a high level. A company called Tapeto has a blog about the environmental impact of different types of wallpapers. I would normally never recommend reading what a wallpaper seller says about the environmental impact of the product they are selling but this seems a reasonable albeit not in depth overview and the company is German, a country with much more tradition in green living and environmental protection that the US. So I am "borrowing" their summary and am adding a few notes. For those who want to read the whole thing (in English) you can find the blog here.

  • Paper wallpaper: Make sure paper material wallpapers are FSC certified (the Forest Stewardship Council certifies that the paper is coming from a responsibly managed forest).

  • Non-woven is a method, not a material; in the case of wallpaper, it usually does include some sort of plastics which require petroleum to produce (a non-renewable resource). The term ‘non-woven’ is not quite enough to decide whether it is actually a sustainable material or not. Recent innovations have allowed the leaves of pineapples to be stainability used as non-woven material, but more often than not, non-wovens refer to a pressed product made from a mix of cellulose fibers with polyester or vinyl fibers, i.e. plastic.

  • Vinyl wallpaper requires petroleum to make and emits small amounts of VOC’s throughout its lifetime. However, Vinyl is the most widely used plastic on the planet and also uses less petroleum than any other plastic. Vinyl also has the advantage of being incredibly sturdy so it is a good option for a wall you don't want to redo soon.

  • Water based inks are solvent-free but also use much more energy and water to produce

  • Try using a homemade wallpaper adhesive!

  • Find creative ways to use your leftover wallpaper – waste not!

And with that last point we are back to the original question:

What's a girl to do with all that wallpaper?

Pretty but not an easy project and I don’t have any spare dressers around.

Pretty but not an easy project and I don’t have any spare dressers around.

I love the idea of using wallpaper to upcycle an old dresser or other piece of furniture but there are two problems: how many old dressers do I have around and how many upcycled dressers do I need?  The answer in both cases is: zero. So unless I want to go into the selling upcycled furniture business there are no wallpapered drawers in my immediate future.

I also like the idea of spiffing up stair risers with wallpaper - only our single story home does not have stairs.

So that's out, too.

That leaves the following ideas most of which I have tried out in one form or another over the years.

  • bookmarks - easy fast but less and less used, also any glue you use with the wallpaper bookmark has the risk of gluing pages together - so be careful

  • book covers - pretty but then you don't know which book is which anymore

  • mats for frames, or wallpaper-covered frames - need to coordinate well to look pretty, but if done properly frames and mats can look very pretty

  • wallpaper used as wrapping paper - ok, easy enough. Not all wallpaper works, though, the thick and sturdy ones are less suited

  • scrapbooking - one of the few things I don't do so no comments

  • drawer liners - vinyl can work nicely

  • upcycled lamp shades  - I would worry about a) enough light and b) fire danger so I have never tried it. I have seen pics of very pretty upcycled lamp shades, though.

  • covering light switch plates - tried that, it's fun and easy but doesn't go with my overall design at home

  • framing pretty wallpaper and using it as art - done, got tired of it after a while but a good option and with the right frame you can switch the wallpaper out frequently

  • backing a shelf - done, like it, easy to change when you get tired of a particular pattern/color

  • adding wallpaper to one side of blinds - too much hassle

  • cutting out pretty motifs and sticking them to anything from votive candle holders to closet doors and table tops - I have done a bit of that, the trick is in finding the right color, size and pattern of wallpaper - but that's what the stash in the plastic bin is for!

It also leaves envelops for cards, gift cards or money. These things have the advantage that one only needs small pieces of wallpaper and also that they are quickly made and one always needs some around.

So here is what I have been doing with wallpaper remnants:

Gift card holders from vinyl or other sturdy wallpaper


Simple Version - ideal for gift cards

  • Take a fun piece of wallpaper, vinyl is ideal, paper works, but skip the grasscloth for this project.

  • Measure your gift card. Let's say it is 2" x 3 1/2"

  • Cut a piece that is twice as big as a gift card plus about 1/2" on (what will be) the long side and 1/4" on (what will be) the short side, in this case 4 1/2" by 3 3/4"

  • Fold in half so you have a doubled up piece of 2 1/4" x 3 3/4"

  • Clip together

  • If you want to be able to hang the holder, e.g. from a twig, cut a length of coordinating ribbon about 6" long

  • Sew bottom and open side close with a scant 1/8" seam allowance, sew slowly with a stitch length of ca. 2. If using ribbons, sew this in at the upper edge.