I have had a passionate affair with vintage wallpaper for quite a number of years. I began feeding my addiction in my first house just after Ulrikke, my youngest daughter was born. I had a nursery with the most amazing Graziela wallpaper and a green retro floral wallpaper in the living room. In the kitchen I put up a bold contemporary floral wallpaper. At my studio I had a vintage wallpaper in delicate pastels. I have had wallpaper in every home I have lived in since.

"Homespun style" by Selina Lake and Debi Treloar

Today I stumbled upon a blog post on Poppytalk. It was a fun weekend project – an easy way to vamp a room with vintage wallpaper. Jan had pulled the images from the beautiful book Homespun Style by Selina Lake.

I was in that book. And the wallpaper patchworks she was referring to were mine! It’s great to see that styling details from my home can inspire others to go do something.

Here is my take on the how-tos of vintage wallpaper patchwork.

Colourful and bold vintage wallpaper patchwork

How to create a patchwork accent wall:

This is a fun weekend project. It’ll take anywhere from 3 hours and up, depending on the scale of your project. It’s fun to do with kids; they can help arrange the squares, put glue on them and hand you the tools you need. Remember to keep knives out of children’s reach.

You’ll need:

  • vintage wallpaper, at least 3 different designs
  • wallpaper paste
  • scissors
  • x-acto knife
  • metal ruler
  • measuring stick and level OR laser-level

Start by calculating the dimensions of your wallpaper patchwork. A standard roll of wallpaper is about 53 cm wide. You’ll need to figure out how many squares you need. Mine was 3×4.

Cut the squares and make sure to cut roughly the same number of squares of each design. That’ll give you a good balance on the accent wall.

Mix the squares well to keep it casual and free flowing. Paste the back of the wallpaper squares and let it rest for a few minutes. Remember that vintage wallpaper can get very soft if you wait to long before putting it up. It is safer to paste 1 or two squares at a time.

Work your way from the bottom and up. I began in the lower left corner because I wanted a straight line where the wallpaper ended. In old houses the wall usually aren’t completely straight so you’ll want to cut in the corner to make it perfect. That means if you have 212 cm worth of wallpaper all in all, you’ll want to have an allowance for cutting of about 4 cm, therefore you measure out 208 cm from the corner. Mark a vertical line to mark the end of your design. Measure 50 cm from the bottom edge and mark a horizontal line as a guide when you put up the wallpaper. This is where the laser level is handy. The light will serve as a guide and you don’t have to draw actual lines.

Put up the first row of squares using the lines as guides. Cut of excess paper at the bottom and in the corner. Use a metal ruler as a cutting guide by pushing it into the corner and cutting along the edge. This will help prevent ripping the wallpaper. Vintage wallpaper can get very soggy and difficult to cut. Another technique is to lightly mark the cutting line with a pencil, then carefully peel back the wallpaper a bit and cutting it with scissors.

Once the first row is done, the rest is easy-peasy. Work from the straight edge inwards and make sure to align the squares neatly. If it turns out that they don’t fit exactly you can overlap a bit – no-one will ever notice. To make it even more easy set up the laser level to make a horizontal line to guide you setting up the second and third row.

Leave to dry. Don’t worry if the paper has small creases and bumps. Wet paper expands and when dry it will contract and sit perfectly and smooth on your wall.

Have fun with it!

Three ways to twist it:

Go bonkers! Freestyle like crazy and pick a colour palette with contrasting colours instead of neighbouring colours. Pick patterns that contrast and bounce off of each other.

Go subtle! Pick a monochrome colour  scheme (ex. light yellow tones or soft pink)and make your wall elegantly understated.

Go easy! Enough with the level, the measuring and the accuracy. Hand-crafted is the new black. Straight lines  are a crime towards humanity as stated by the artist and architect Hundertwasser. Hand cut and use your eye to determine the lines. You’ll need to accept overlaps and small gaps but this  technique will make for a fun vivid impression. You can even use different sizes of wallpaper scraps to make it even more handmade.