Grasscloth taste, vinyl budget…
I had a vision for our powder room, and that vision was grasscloth. Unfortunately, our home makeover budget didn’t share the vision (genuine grasscloth wallpaper can cost hundreds of dollars, and we were on a strictly pre-pasted vinyl allowance).
Our local Home Depot didn’t share the vision, either. When I asked an orange apron to direct me to the wallpaper supplies, he snorted and informed me that “we only sell supplies to remove wallpaper.”
Undaunted, I stuck stubbornly to my vision of a grasscloth powder room and turned to the internet for inspiration. After considering a few faux grasscloth options, I ended up choosing Norwall’s textured vinyl wallpaper — economical, and Amazon Prime eligible!
This whole project was risky business for a few reasons: for starters, our bathroom walls aren’t perfectly smooth. After ripping out the awkward shoulder-height chair rail molding that had been unevenly tacked to the walls, there was a visible roughness to the walls that even our best puttying efforts couldn’t fully remedy.
There were also some gaping holes from old plumbing that had been shoddily patched when the previous owners installed a new sink vanity.
And while we’re on the topic of my powder room’s inherent shortcomings, I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that I have never wallpapered anything, ever, in my entire life.
So add that to the list of reasons why the odds were decidedly not in our favor.
But what’s the worst that could happen, right? (snip, snip)
A lot of the tutorials I watched on YouTube suggested renting a wallpaper table (or fashioning one over a pair of sawhorses). I disagreed with this because, in my personal experience, messes are best when contained on the floor (raising them to a table just exponentially increases the room for error, and increases the list of ‘things that can go wrong’ to include verbs like ‘drop,’ ‘splat,’ ‘fall,’ etc.).
Instead of using a table, I taped down some heavy-duty trash bags to form a ‘runway’ of sorts, directly adjacent to my soak station. This made the process super easy:
Step One: measure and cut piece, allowing for a few extra inches at the top and bottom
Step Two: roll the paper inside out, so the design was inside and the backing faced out
Step Three: submerge and hold in the soaking tray, imagining that you’re Naomi Watts in Shut In and the wallpaper roll is your murderous stepson, and you have to hold him under the water’s surface because you couldn’t be arsed to kill him when you had a hammer
Step Four: slowly roll your paper out of the tray and along the length of your makeshift trash bag runway, ensuring that there are no dry spots on the paper
Step Five: fold both ends of the paper onto itself so the sticky sides meet, then allow to ‘book’ for a couple of minutes (this is when the smooth backing becomes a sticky goop)
Step Six: starting at the top, line up your paper (with a few inches of overhang at the ceiling and floor) and use a sponge or wallpaper brush to guide (gently) and press (firmly) into place, smoothing air bubbles as you go
Step Seven: using a straight edge and sharp (seriously!) razor blade, trim the waste on the top and bottom
Repeat steps 1 – 7, being sure to take plenty of breaks to admire your results / eat leftover Halloween candy.
Cutting around the door was easy — first I cut away the general shape of the door frame. Then I made a diagonal slit in the corner, so I could press the paper around the corner of trim. Once everything was in place, I used the straight edge and razor to cut away the excess.
Corners were a bit more tricky. I
used attempted the wrap-and-overlap technique outlined in this video.
I’m going to file this one under ‘A for Effort.’
Luckily, my subsequent corners looked better.
I was really happy with the paper itself. The print was lightly textured and highly detailed to depict color variation and flaws that you’d find in real grasscloth.
Just like real grasscloth, the seams in this paper are meant to be visible… which means you don’t need to worry about lining up the pattern!
The application was going smoothly, but as I made my way around the room I reached the panicked realization that we were going to run out of paper. Even worse: we’d only be short by a few feet.
If I wanted to avoid buying another roll for a few feet of paper, I’d have to get creative. I started scheming and measuring, and came up a sneaky little plan…
Since we’d be replacing the mirror anyways, I decided to arrange the remaining paper so that the shortage would be directly behind where the new mirror would be placed.
I’m not sure if I should feel clever, or feel ashamed. It is what it is.
There were a few mishaps (entirely user error), but overall the experience was positive. I’m very happy with the look and feel of the paper as a grasscloth alternative, and would definitely use this again (maybe an accent wall or in a closet?)
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