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How to use peel-and-stick wallpaper to completely transform your space

(CNN) —  

While peel-and-stick wallpaper tiptoed into the marketplace more than a decade ago, today the concept is omnipresent, available everywhere from bespoke artisans to mega-retailers. Why? Well, for one, there’s the obvious fact that the wallpaper is temporary, infusing us all with the peace of mind that this decor decision doesn’t come with live-with-it-forever repercussions. And in the time of Covid, when Americans have been home more than ever, finding a quick, easy and affordable way to completely reinvigorate a space has resonated with pretty much everyone.

“The number of requests I’ve received lately for wallpapered rooms has skyrocketed,” interior designer and Society6 brand ambassador Anne Sage told us. “Not surprisingly, people are looking to inject more joy into their homes — and adding color or pattern to the walls enables them to do exactly that. Unlike traditional wallpaper, removable wallpaper is low-commitment and mess-free to install, making it the perfect weekend DIY.”

Adds Toronto-based wallpaper installer Katie Hunt, “Temporary wallpaper is perfect for so many applications, from nurseries and kids’ rooms, where you are planning to update the wallpaper in a few years, to rental properties. Or really any wall where you may want to change it up in a couple years.”

More good news: Given the paper’s sticky nature, it doesn’t require any pastes or glues to adhere to walls, making it super easy for even novices to install and virtually mess-free to remove. Did we mention you can wipe most of them down too? One last reason to cheer: Peel-and-stick wallpaper is much (much!) cheaper than its traditional, permanent counterpart, making it a feel-good decor decision we can all readily get behind.

Picking the right wallpaper for you

Given that the market is currently flooded with gorgeous peel-and-stick options — from bold patterns and colors to muted textures and designs — confidently choosing the right option for your space is no easy feat. First up: patterns! “Pops of color and pattern energize and refresh any room instantly, which is easier to consider knowing that it can be removed at any time,” advise sisters Jennifer Matthews and Julie Au, co-founders of peel-and-stick wallpaper brand Tempaper. “That said, we tend to stay away from smaller-scale patterns on oversized walls.” (For a full Tempaper wallpaper guide, go here.)

At Wayfair, shoppers are going big. “When it comes to styles, floral and botanical patterns are the most popular among our customers right now, followed by geometric prints,” Caitlin Tappan, senior category manager of wall coverings at Wayfair, tells us, adding, “[They] tend to gravitate toward blues and neutral colors like grays, whites and black tones.”

More to consider: The condition of the walls you’re working with — and how the paper will look on them. “If the walls are uneven or have a slight imperfection, I would recommend a lighter wallpaper that is less likely to show bumps, with a more dynamic pattern,” Tappan says. “Selecting a random or more organic pattern is also good to consider if the walls are uneven — and they are easier to install!”

Rest assured, though, the temporary nature of peel-and-stick wallpaper means that there really are no “mistakes” to be made in the wallpaper sector right now. “Today, design is so individualistic that it’s difficult to have a hard-and-fast rule about anything,” DecoratorsBest president and interior designer Barbara Karpf tells us. “Years ago I would have advised clients to use light colors in a small room, but black tiny rooms can make for a fabulous, intimate statement nowadays.”

Measure, measure, measure!

While there may be no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to picking a wallpaper design, the opposite is true when it comes to ordering the paper. All of the designers we spoke to agreed that measuring your space is incredibly important. “Be sure to know the width and length of a roll, and the repeat — a repeat refers to the number of inches it takes before a wallpaper’s pattern starts all over again,” Karpf explains. “Patterns need to match up so that there is a cohesive look to the installation. Calculating a repeat ensures enough wallpaper will be ordered.”

Fear not: Most sites give shoppers very specific measurement equations to determine how many rolls to order. Things to keep in mind include the height of your ceilings, the space’s total square footage and, of course, the length and width of each paper roll. Matthews and Au advise, “We always recommend that our customers round up when measuring to account for waste when aligning the pattern from panel to panel. You can always use any excess paper on an adjacent wall or on a small project, like covering a bookcase or inside drawers.”

How to prepare your space for peel-and-stick paper

Once you’ve picked your dream wallpaper, measured your space to the nth degree and clicked “order now,” it’s time to start prepping your walls. “Painting and trim work should be completed in advance of the wallpaper,” says Hunt, adding, “I recommend a neutral paint color, such as white.” Adds Matthews and Au, “We recommend a smooth surface that has been recently primed and painted with an eggshell, satin or semigloss finish.”

The key word here, folks, is smooth! Any patching and sanding should be done at least a few days prior to wallpaper installation, allowing the walls and trim (including crown molding and baseboards) to fully cure before applying the sticky paper. Also, be sure to remove any outlet or light switch covers that exist within your wallpaper landscape.

Tools to have handy on installation day include a squeegee to remove any bubbles and smooth the paper to the surface, a utility knife to cut each panel to size ahead of time and then trim excess paper, a level and a tape measure. One more thing: a step stool for the shorties out there who can’t reach the top of the ceiling!

Once the paper arrives, you’ll want to lay your wallpaper on a flat surface (ideally a floor or large tabletop) where you’ll measure and cut each panel to fit your surface. Next, use painter’s tape to attach each panel to your wall, lining up patterns as needed. And then it’s time to start sticking! If you want to avoid air bubbles, Hunt recommends to start squeegeeing from the top center, gradually smoothing downward and outward. Use your wallpaper smoothing tool to erase any bubbles, then trim excess paper at the outlet areas, moldings and baseboards with your utility knife. Lastly, take a step back and admire your DIY masterpiece!

To help revitalize your space, we’ve rounded up some of the bestselling and top-rated temporary wallpapers on the market right now, from statement-making geometric and animal-patterned designs to simple prints that will add subtle style to any room. Oh, and fear not, we’ve included the tools you’ll need on installation day too.

Scalamandre Zebras Removable Denim Wallpaper ($60.25; decoratorsbest.com)

Scalamandre Zebras Removable Denim Wallpaper
Decorator’s Best
Scalamandre Zebras Removable Denim Wallpaper

Some big news coming out of the design world late last year was that textile brand Scalamandre was collaborating with peel-and-stick company NuWallpaper. Read: Its iconic zebra print is now available for your walls in a slew of colors, which can all be found at Kopft’s website, DecoratorsBest.

Threshold Textured Shiplap Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper ($34; target.com)

Threshold Textured Shiplap Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Threshold Textured Shiplap Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

ICYMI: Shiplap is having a major design moment, and for good reason. Crisp, clean and oozing with nautical-chic vibes, the Joanna Gaines-approved wood paneling can be spotted on walls and ceilings in homes throughout the world. And now you can get the next best thing — wallpaper adorned with the look of shiplap — for a fraction of the price with this peel-and-stick option. One of Target’s bestsellers in the category, the paper can be applied to entire walls, backsplashes, nooks and more, bringing with it a natural farmhouse look.

All Modern Enid Striped Hexagon Geometric Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll ($46.99; wayfair.com)

All Modern Enid Striped Hexagon Geometric Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll
All Modern Enid Striped Hexagon Geometric Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll

Modernists, rejoice! There’s a geometric wallpaper out there for you. Available in three color combinations — white/gold, black/gold and white/gray — this wallpaper is beloved by Wayfair consumers, racking up nearly 500 positive reviews. One shopper raves, “Run, don’t walk! I researched and thought about doing this for six to eight months. I wished I had the confidence to do it out of the gate. Transformative change! Highly recommend.”

Homeland Wall Mural by Brittany Fan (starting at $275; minted.com)

Homeland Wall Mural by Brittany Fan
Homeland Wall Mural by Brittany Fan

When a repeating pattern just won’t cut it, turn to Minted for a gorgeous accent wall mural. Sourced from the artwork from Minted design challenge winners (read: the cream of the site’s crop of independent artists), the collection of several hundred pieces is overwhelmingly difficult to choose from. We love this brooding landscape from painter Brittany Fan, which is definitely an oversized version of a painting we’re already looking to buy! More to know: The murals are available in five sizes, from 9 by 8.25 feet to 12 by 5.25 feet.

Peach and White Vintage Palm Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper by Drew Barrymore Flower Home ($69; walmart.com)

Peach and White Vintage Palm Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper by Drew Barrymore Flower Home
Peach and White Vintage Palm Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper by Drew Barrymore Flower Home

The latest iteration of Drew Barrymore’s Flower Home line does not disappoint, and that includes the peel-and-stick wallpaper options. We love the vintage look of this easy, breezy design, and that fact that it comes in a navy hue too.

Flower Vine Wallpaper ($188; anthropologie.com)

Flower Vine Wallpaper
Anthropologie
Flower Vine Wallpaper

No surprise here: Floral wallpapers got a bad rap in the 1960s (and beyond). Thankfully, today they are über chic, and a smart choice for bedrooms, bathrooms and pretty much any room in your house that needs a dose of cheer. This vintage-inspired design is an Anthropologie bestseller, and we love it for its saturated pattern and pretty color palette.

Beth Norton Alien Abduction Toile De Jouy Pattern in Blue Wallpaper (starting at $39.20, originally starting at $49; society6.com)

Beth Norton Alien Abduction Toile De Jouy Pattern in Blue Wallpaper
Beth Norton Alien Abduction Toile De Jouy Pattern in Blue Wallpaper

We’re more than a little obsessed with this vintage-looking toile paper that looks like it belongs in a historical home — that is, until you look a bit closer and spot the UFO alien abduction occurring in the scene! Check out artist Beth Norton’s page to score the same pattern on everything from bath mats and masks to shower curtains and coffee mugs.

Gracie Oaks Sylvan Place Cherry Blossom Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll ($48.99; wayfair.com)

Gracie Oaks Sylvan Place Cherry Blossom Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll
Gracie Oaks Sylvan Place Cherry Blossom Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll

Just looking at this stunning wallpaper makes us feel more relaxed. The perfect accent for a serene space, the beautiful design is quiet but intricate, making it an ideal backdrop for your walls. We love that it comes in an equally striking beige and blue as well.

Carly Home Monkey Garden Wallpaper ($58; anthropologie.com)

Carly Home Monkey Garden Wallpaper
Anthropologie
Carly Home Monkey Garden Wallpaper

This vibrant paper from designer Carly Blumberg will add a dose of drama to any space, and it’s sure to be a talking point too. (Can you spot the monkeys?) If the yellow is a wee too bold for you, fear not — it comes in a more sedate black-hued option as well.

Mack & Milo Akil Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll ($45.99; wayfair.com)

Mack & Milo Akil Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll
Mack & Milo Akil Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll

Add a pop of playful pattern to your kiddo’s space — er, or maybe your closet, bathroom or kitchen pantry! — with this polka dot-patterned paper from Wayfair’s kid-friendly Mack & Milo line. We love how it feels minimalist and stylish all at once.

Tempaper x The Novogratz Constellations Designer Removable Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper (starting at $36.97; amazon.com)

Tempaper x The Novogratz Constellations Designer Removable Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Tempaper x The Novogratz Constellations Designer Removable Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

If you’re like us, you love you some Novogratz-approved decor, and this striking removable wallpaper from the husband/wife duo is just that. Created by Matthews and Au’s brand, Tempaper, the Novogratz collab has many gorgeous options, but the stargazers in us are definitely smitten with this delicate yet bold constellation pattern, which comes in a gentle blue/silver, a bold navy/gold and a sleek white/gold.

Opalhouse Tropical Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Green ($34; target.com)

Opalhouse Tropical Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Green
Opalhouse Tropical Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Green

Tropical, grassy patterns are definitely rising to the surface of the removable wallpaper trend, and this one is as good as they get. Bright and cheery, the pattern is dense enough to work as a bold backdrop to a room but light enough to add some serious style to an accent piece of furniture.

Ottoman Wallpaper ($188; anthropologie.com)

Ottoman Wallpaper
Anthropologie
Ottoman Wallpaper

As spring nears, we want to bring all of the pinks and purples from the outside in, and this gorgeous option from Anthropologie will certainly do the trick. We love how the dense pattern is chock-full of detail, making it the perfect backdrop for a bedroom.

Floral Figure Study Removable Wallpaper ($49; urbanoutfitters.com)

Floral Figure Study Removable Wallpaper
Urban Outfitters
Floral Figure Study Removable Wallpaper

Another place where peel-and-stick wallpaper is a home run? Dorm rooms. Or any college dwelling, really. Which is why we weren’t surprised that this slightly sensual wallpaper is a bestseller at Urban Outfitters. Featuring a mix of linework figurines alongside sketched-out florals, the minimalist motif is sexy and stark all at once.

Millwood Pines Bryanna Distressed Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll ($71.99; wayfair.com)

Millwood Pines Bryanna Distressed Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll
Millwood Pines Bryanna Distressed Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll

Not all peel-and-stick wallpaper needs to be a work of art. Case in point: this option, which mimics the distressed brick walls we imagine you’d find in a Brooklyn loft. Hilariously realistic, it will have guests running their fingers over the photographed grout to confirm it’s not actually brick. A Wayfair bestseller, the paper has nearly 400 positive reviews, and it comes in a lighter gray hue too. (And if you’re looking for an even paler shade of gray, check out this beloved Amazon option here.)

Solar System Kids’ Wall Mural by Alexandra Dzh (starting at $275; minted.com)

Solar System Kids' Wall Mural by Alexandra Dzh
Solar System Kids’ Wall Mural by Alexandra Dzh

Send your kids into outer space with this larger-than-life mural from Minted artist Alexandra Dzh. Available in five sizes — ranging from 9 by 8.25 feet to 12 by 15.25 feet — the one-wall-only mural is sure to be a talking point, not to mention the focal point of the room.

Opalhouse Marker Floral Coordinate Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper ($34; target.com)

Opalhouse Marker Floral Coordinate Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Opalhouse Marker Floral Coordinate Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Charming and bold all at once, this pretty floral pattern will be the ultimate mood-lifter in your home. We love the juxtaposition of the bright pink blooms and green leaves against the sharp navy background, which will work to brighten any space it’s placed in.

Wrought Studio Leanne Perplexing Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll ($49.99; wayfair.com)

Wrought Studio Leanne Perplexing Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll
Wrought Studio Leanne Perplexing Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll

Geometric-patterned wallpaper is a big seller at Wayfair right now, and we love how muted this option is. Featuring a navy-on-navy design, the paper is rich and textured without overwhelming, plus there’s a white option with off-white detailing.

Opalhouse Celestial Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper ($34; target.com)

Opalhouse Celestial Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Opalhouse Celestial Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Another Target fave is this cosmic-inspired design from Opalhouse. Mixing navy and metallic gold hues, the wallpaper is equal parts gorgeous and interesting.

Vintage Floral Yellow Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper by Drew Barrymore Flower Home ($69; walmart.com)

Vintage Floral Yellow Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper by Drew Barrymore Flower Home
Vintage Floral Yellow Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper by Drew Barrymore Flower Home

This is a bold and beautiful wallpaper if we’ve ever seen one — and it’s a bestseller among the Flower Home collection. Inspired by nature seen through a vintage lens, the paper will add a burst of color wherever it’s placed.

The Pioneer Woman Gorgeous Garden Pink Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper ($35; walmart.com)

The Pioneer Woman Gorgeous Garden Pink Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
The Pioneer Woman Gorgeous Garden Pink Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

While Barrymore’s line may steal the lion’s share of the publicity, the Pioneer Woman’s home line is also full of fun removable wallpaper options — like this sweet pink garden print. Perfect for anyone looking to add a hefty dose of girly florals to their space, this paper is balanced out with blue and green hues too.

Society6 Fashion Pink Lips I Wallpaper (starting at $39.20, originally starting at $49; society6.com)

Society6 Fashion Pink Lips I Wallpaper
Society6 Fashion Pink Lips I Wallpaper

This just in: We all need some luscious, pink lip-patterned wallpaper in our lives! Whether you line an entire accent wall with these juicy pouts or add them to a piece of furniture (they’d be a hilarious surprise as drawer liners!), this wallpaper will not disappoint.

Tempaper Feather Flock Removable Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper (starting at $30.31, originally starting at $39.99; amazon.com)

Tempaper Feather Flock Removable Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper
Tempaper Feather Flock Removable Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

This just in: Birds are sophisticated! The proof is in this refined wallpaper that would be right at home in a New York City brownstone…or maybe in your mudroom. Available in five colors, the pattern is an Amazon favorite with nearly 600 positive reviews, and it’s one of Tempaper’s bestsellers too.

Society6 Midcentury Modern Geometric 04 Yellow Wallpaper (starting at $39.20, originally starting at $49; society6.com)

Society6 Midcentury Modern Geometric 04 Yellow Wallpaper
Society6 Midcentury Modern Geometric 04 Yellow Wallpaper

Calling all midcentury modern lovers! We found this removable wallpaper that’s going to be your jam. Created by The Old Art Studio, the marigold-hued geometric pattern evokes those we’d see on walls (and blouses) in the ’60s and ’70s, and we’re not mad about it. Neither are the 3,400-plus shoppers who liked the wallpaper.

Highway Wallpaper Smoothing Tool Kit ($7.49; amazon.com)

Highway Wallpaper Smoothing Tool Kit
Highway Wallpaper Smoothing Tool Kit

More than 1,900 Amazon shoppers agree that this wallpaper tool kit is the go-to solution for installation day. Containing a utility knife with 10 replacement blades, two squeegees (one felt-edge, one plastic smoothing tool), a cleaning sponge and a safety cutter for carbon fiber vinyl — let’s just say this set has you covered. Did we mention it’s under eight bucks? Done and done.

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