Trying Not to Ruin the Wallpaper

It's done! It's done! The powder room is done!

Wallpaper is "Mountains" by Miss Print courtesy of Wallpaper Direct, soap dish & hook are from Signature Hardware, and mirror is from Homegoods

If you’re confused because you saw me finish the wallpaper 4 months ago, then that makes two of us. What feels like an eternity in blogging years was double that IRL (that's 8 months, in case it's too early to be doing math where you are). And yet the powder room was still not finished! What was the hold-up, you ask?? 

Gardenia soap dish form Signature Hardware & "Mountains" by Miss Pixie wallpaper

A spot for the soap & hand towel. A small thing, I know – & yet so important. I should probably be embarrassed, but I’m too busy being relieved. It was like running the race of my life and then crawling the last 20 meters in Crane Pose. Anti-climactic much?

I've never given much thought to the soap & hand towel sitch in other bathrooms. The soap goes on the counter, the towel goes on the towel bar. #NoBrainer And yet suddenly it wasn't so obvious once I found myself with a doll-sized bathroom, a doll-sized sink and wallpaper that I'm terrified of putting holes in. What I really wanted was this mirror from Anthropologie (or this one!) with an attached shelf for soap because that would be a 2 birds 1 stone scenario – but I couldn't bring myself to spend $300 on a mirror for the powder room. Maybe someday...

I was driving myself crazy looking at affordable options & liking none of them when I stumbled upon these little cuties on Signature Hardware’s website. They were simpler and more rustic than anything I'd considered before, but I think that’s what I liked most about them. The wallpaper is the true star here, and these guys are perfectly happy to be out of the limelight and revel in their understated charm.

      Gardenia Soap Dish

      Gardenia Soap Dish

 Solid brass hook with porcelain knob

 Solid brass hook with porcelain knob

I was gonna have to suck it up and put some holes in the wall. Four to be exact – enough to nearly give me a heart attack! So I did what any normal person does when they think they're having a heart attack – I consulted the all-knowing interwebs. Obviously. Experts seem to agree on this method for protecting the sanctity of your wallpaper: cut an upside down V in the wallpaper, peel it down and put your nail hole directly in the drywall. Then, when you decide to move whatever was hung there, you should be able to paste the paper flap back where it was for a seamless repair. It sounds pretty clever – but I'm hoping I never have to find out if it actually works. I just went with it, and so far so cute.


Signature Hardware's Gardenia soap dish & solid metal hook in oil-rubbed bronze

All the success stories I’ve read to date talk about using this trick for itty bitty nail holes. I, on the other hand, needed some big honkin’ craters for drywall anchors and screws. That complicates matters because any repairs would require me to remove the anchors, spackle the gaping hole where my heart used to be and sand it down to be level with the drywall I can no longer see – all without messing up the wallpaper. Should be fun! This is either a really dumb idea, or it’s a perfect example of "scaling up." Don't worry, guys. I have some spare paper lying around if things go totally bananas.

If you have wallpaper and feel like taking a leap of faith with me, here’s how I hung these fixtures:

1. I started by choosing a position on the wall. This gets its own step because what's usually a simple task feels like a high-stakes gamble when wallpaper is involved. I wanted the soap & towel to be convenient to reach when standing at the sink so guests don't have to bend down, reach up, or smush their arms like a T-Rex to dry their hands. I also wanted them to sit at a point in the pattern that would help me camouflage future hypothetical repairs.

Powder room complete with Signature Hardware soap dish & towel hook as well as Miss Pixie's Mountains wallpaper

2. Next, I leveled the hanging plate and just barely marked my holes with pencil. When I say "just barely," I mean my mark could have been confused for a microscopic dust particle. It’s a miracle I could see it at all.

Use a level to mark the position for a soap dish

3. Then I held my drywall anchors up to the wall & centered it on the microscopic-dust-flake-of-a-mark to determine how big of an upside-down V I needed to cut. The answer, to my dismay, was “Really big.” : [

I held the drywall anchor up to the wall to mark the size of the cut in the wallpaper

4. Then for the “Here goes nothing” moment — I used an Exacto knife to cut the upside-down V big enough to comfortably surround the drywall anchor on all sides....... What's done is done.

5. Gently, carefully, nervously I peeled the wallpaper back from the wall and bent it down. My two cut-outs looked like evil Jack-o’-lantern eyes saying, “What have you done?!”

I peeled back the wallpaper to make room for my drywall anchors

6. Then it was time to bring out the big guns, and by guns I mean drill. I drilled 1/4” holes on my original marks and then screwed in the cool drywall anchors that came with my soap dish. Those eyes just got a little creepier...

Drywall anchors in

7. From there it was a matter of attaching & adjusting the hanging plate so it was level. I screwed it in most of the way, checked the level and then tightened it down. The actual soap dish hooked onto the plate with a little screw. 

I used my drill to drive screws into the anchors

It was essentially the same dealio for the towel hook, but with smaller holes and cutouts. Thank god. So there you have it. This room is fully functioning now! And my little Low-Cost-And-Found stool that I made from a lampshade is doing a fine job holding that extra toilet paper!

The powder room is finally finished after adding Signature Hardware fixtures for hand soap & towel.

This entire powder room makeover cost me less than $150, and the results are not too shabby if I do say so myself! It wins the honor of being the first "finished" room in the house. Also the smallest. ; ] Huge thanks once again to Dana Miller of HouseTweaking & Wallpaper Direct for gifting me this awesome wallpaper. The pattern is "Mountains" by Miss Print. 

Wallpapering Like It's 1989

If I took a survey of homeowners and asked them the first word that comes to mind when they think of wallpaper, I’d guess the responses would weigh heavily toward “nightmare,” “outdated” and “tacky.” Many people still think of it as the perm of home decorating – something that seemed like a good idea at the time but that's caused you regret and embarrassment ever since. In case you haven't heard, the tides are turning, y’all…and unlike the “beach wave perm" that inspired false hope of rolling out of bed looking like Kate Hudson, wallpaper’s resurgence is real. You know it’s offish when stores like CB2 and West Elm are selling it in catalogs! 

Now that doesn’t mean you should go bananas and wallpaper every room of your house – I hope we at least learned that much from the mistakes of our fathers and their fathers before them (go back and read that in your best Robb Stark voice). There are some places paper just shouldn’t go (steamy bathrooms and greasy kitchens come to mind). And there are some patterns that are better left forgotten. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that paper is expensive and permanent, so don’t waste it on “meh” looks or in rooms where it will get ruined. And for the commitmentphobes of the world, they offer removable wallpaper now, but it’s still spency as all get out.

When we found our house I knew before moving in that I wanted to wallpaper the powder room. It’s a tiny space to cover, in a room where we don't spend much time (so we wouldn’t get bored in a week), and yet everyone who comes to my house would see it. Yatzhee. It's just the kind of room where a bold pattern could make it really pop. We left the room relatively untouched for five months while we focused on to-do list items that were functional rather than aesthetic. That is, until I saw this giveaway on one of my favorite blogs, House*Tweaking. I threw my hat into the ring and I won (is this real life?!) – $300 to WallpaperDirect! It was pure, dumb, amazing luck and I could not have been more thrilled. The powder room briskly skipped to the front of the line in terms of priorities.

It went from this...


To this...

Mountains by Missprint wallpaper makes this powder room pop
Mountains by MissPrint wallpaper makes this powder room pop.
Mountains by MissPrint wallpaper makes this powder room pop.
Artwork from Ikea and greenery from Target add life to this wallpapered half bathroom.

But let's take a step back...

Wallpaper repeat

After finally deciding on a pattern (a nerve-wracking process in itself) we had to figure out how much we needed and how to install it. I used this tutorial as well as some youtube searching to guide the process. Luckily WallpaperDirect also has a very handy calculator to help you determine how much you need, just by measuring the width and height of all the walls you plan to cover and subtracting the width and height of doors and windows. Less lucky was the fact that 3 of our 4 walls had odd angles, and you have to take into account the size of your "pattern repeat." If your wallpaper has any sort of pattern, the repeat is the vertical distance between one point in your pattern and the next identical point. Our paper had a 20" repeat, which I think is pretty big. That means there was bound to be a lot of wasted paper that just wouldn't line up right. We rounded up our calculations when deciding how much to order, because we expected to make a few mistakes in our first rodeo and – let's be honest – because we weren't paying for it. (Thank you, Dana Miller and WallpaperDirect!!)

So let's get down to brass tacks. Here’s what we used:

Paste, sponge, brush, pasting table and other supplies necessary to install wallpaper

Prepping the room

The first step was to clear the room of just about everything. The sink, light fixture, socket covers, and vent covers all came down. The toilet stayed, because ain’t nobody got time or space for that. I repaired any holes and dents in the wall with spackle and sandpaper and used a wet sponge to clean all the walls because it’s super important to have a totally smooth, clean surface. 

Supply List

• 3 rolls of Mountains by MissPrint
GH-95 Wallpaper paste for bath & kitchen – $16
Pasting brush kit – $19.95
• Trough for paste
Smoother – $2
• Razor or wallpaper knife (in our kit)
• Scissors
• Large, clean, flat table (dining table?)

Empty half bath

Getting a level line

The next step is to draw a level line from ceiling to floor. Do NOT use a corner or the ceiling as your guide – there’s almost zero chance that those are actually level (scary, huh?), and what starts as a slight tilt can get out of hand quickly as you add on subsequent rows! I learned from WpD to draw this line about a foot out from the corner, and I used a laser level, though they also suggest a plumb bob. 

Once you’ve drawn your line, you have to cut your length and width of paper. If you have enough wall space to fit a full-width strip – great! That’s much easier. In our case, the walls are narrow, so we had to do a lot of cutting to make narrower pieces that would get us to the corner. The factory edge would be the one we used to line up, and the cut edge would eventually be hidden in the corner. More on that later. We measured twice and cut once (except the times we screwed up and had to start over with a new strip), with the help of my man Yasiel Puig. Cut the length a few inches longer than you measured to make sure it will go all the way down the wall. You’ll cut off the excess using a razor once it’s up.

Chloe cutting wallpaper with scissors

Applying paste

Next, we flipped the paper so the pattern faced down on the table, and we started applying paste with a big paste brush. Two things to note at this step: first, don’t leave any unpasted spots, and second, brush out when pasting the edges. If you drag the brush inward from the edge, excess paste is liable to get scraped onto the front of the paper and leave a stain. To the same end, make sure you aren’t getting paste on the table and then placing your paper on it. We pretty much always slid the paper over to line up with the edge of the table to avoid making a mess. If you do get glue on the front (we did a few times…) just be quick to wipe it off with a clean, wet paper towel before it dries. 

Process of applying wallpaper paste

Booking time

Then we “book” the paper, which means literally folding the paper up on itself like a book without creasing and letting it sit for 5 minutes or so – we set a timer each round. The moisture from the glue causes the paper to expand – we let that happen during booking so we don't have any surprises after putting it on the wall. Booking also makes it easier to carry the paper over to the wall because there’s less gluey surface exposed, and it buys you some time by slowing the glue's drying process.

Pasting and booking wallpaper

Putting it on the wall

After the timer goes off, drape the book over your arm, with the crease facing the ceiling, and carry it to the wall. Peel up the edge of the paper that will go at the top of the wall (in the picture above, that's the left side – determined by your pattern's orientation) and carefully begin to place the first half of your paper onto the wall, lining it up with your level line. Keep the other half of your book folded – it’s easier to line up a shorter piece of paper and it also buys you more time before the glue starts to dry on the bottom half. This was a 2 man job, so no free hands for photo ops – sorry!

We then used a wallpaper smoother to press out air bubbles and affix the paper snugly to the wall. When you find an air bubble you just use the smoother to guide it toward the edge and force it out. It takes a lot of passes to make sure no bubbles are left. At the risk of sounding dumb, make sure your smoother is smooth and clean, so you're not spreading crud all over the place or scratching the paper. And as I mentioned before, the paper is expanded with the glue’s moisture while you’re doing this. As the glue dries, the paper is going to shrink again. If you’ve done it right, it will be snug on the wall and won’t budge at all during drying. But if you leave bubbles and pockets underneath, the paper will pucker and shrivel and look generally awful when it’s dry. That's also why it’s so important to fill in any nail holes and have a smooth wall surface.

(God, my hair looks SO GOOD in these pictures. -___- )

Smoothing bubbles out from under wallpaper
Use clean sponge to remove excess paste

While you’re doing all this smoothing, glue is probably oozing out the sides. Use a clean sponge to wipe away the excess so it doesn’t end up on the front of the paper. Our kitchen sink is a mere 5 feet from the powder room, so it was pretty convenient to rinse the sponge often. 

Another fun thing to think about is whether you’re still lined up with your level line (to be clear, by "fun" I mean "super annoying"). There were plenty of times that we got to this point and realized we were no longer lined up. I had to remind Eli a few times the first rule of wallpapering (and DIY in general) – DON’T PANIC. If we got too far off track, we just carefully peeled the paper up from the wall and realigned it. There are a few mulligans to be taken. That being said, you don’t want to do this too many times with the same piece, because you’ve lost paste during the smoothing process and the paper will start drying faster. So – don’t freak out but also don’t take a break for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood either, y’know? You’ve still got the other end of your book to do.

Once we felt confident in our work up top, we did the same with the lower half. There should be some overhang at the very bottom, because we gave ourselves a grace period (aka a few extra inches). We smooth, smooth smoothed to our heart’s content, and then used a razor blade to carefully cut off the excess along the baseboard.

Wallpaper butt joint

For the next row of paper, you’ll have to find the point on the paper that will match up with the top edge of the piece you just put up. This is where the pattern repeat comes into play because you'll probably have to lop off the top of your roll to get to the right section and you start collecting 20” pieces of paper that are unusable. Womp womp. Follow all the same previous steps, but when you put this one on the wall you’ll want to line the new edge up very carefully with the pattern on the previous piece. The edges should butt up next to each other without overlapping (what someone with a sense of humor named a "butt joint"). This was one of the trickiest parts – making sure the edges were close enough to appear seamless but not so close that they overlapped – we didn't always get it perfect, but I decided that was fine. I'm firmly in the "no one will ever notice" camp. So if you come over and you do notice it, just pretend you don't, mkay? :)


When you reach a corner, you want to smooth all the way into it (making a crease) and carry the edge over to the adjoining wall, leaving a couple centimeters of overflow. Then, on the new wall, you’ll line your paper up in the corner (not with the edge you just pasted). This usually meant we had to cut off a vertical slice of the next piece of paper to get to the correct horizontal point in the pattern to match the corner. We tried our best to make the pattern match perfectly from one wall to the next, but perfection is like near impossible – so again, "No One Will Notice." 

Sockets, Lightswitches and Vents

When you reach sockets and vents and other holes in the wall, you smooth the paper over it like it doesn’t exist (being careful not to press too hard when theirs no wall behind the paper). Then you take a razor blade or scissors to pierce the paper in the center of the hole, and cut diagonally toward each of the hole's corners. This gives you 4 triangular flaps that you can then cut off easily around the edges.

Wallpaper over vent
Cutting wallpaper around edge of vent
Cut diagonal slits to make hole for vent
final wallpaper edge cuts around vent


Doing anything behind a toilet stinks (hah). Luckily the commode in this room is set out a tiny bit from the wall, so I was able to sort of reach my arm behind it to smooth. Once we reached a pipe, we took a careful guess as to where in the pattern the pipe would pop out and then cut in to that spot from the closest edge. The cut gave us two flaps so we could start to position the paper around the pipes, and then we followed the same process we did with the vent of making diagonal relief cuts, this time in a circular pattern instead of square, so the paper could lay flat around the pipe. Once we were around the pipe, we smoothed like normal and matched up the edges we had cut and it’s like it never even happened. Honest to god, I think that pipe just sprouted from the wallpaper naturally. This was another 2-person job with no photos of the process – but look at dem pipes! No seams in sight.

Wallpaper and pipes under the sink

After all the paper was up, we let it dry overnight and then reinstalled the sink and covers for vents, outlets and switches the next day. We did NOT reinstall the mirror and light fixture because both were ugly and I didn't want to drill holes in our new wallpaper for things I planned to replace. It took some time to find something I liked better, but that's a whole 'nother post.

This project was by no means simple– It took us a few solid days, as well as a good bit of brain power and patience. BUT, I'm glad we did it ourselves and anyone who really wants to do it could. It was so rewarding to see each subsequent row go up and the room get closer and closer to finished. Plus, after dealing with all the challenges of a tiny under-the-stairs bathroom, now we could wallpaper a regular ol' wall in our sleep (don't tell Eli I said that). 

Let's take another look at that after photo :)

Toilet before
Toilet after wallpaper

Ahh.... much nicer. Every time I open the door my heart squeals with joy. Thank you again, Dana Miller of House*Tweaking and the generous folks at WallpaperDirect, for making my half-baked idea possible. And thanks to Eli for doing half the work :D  

So, what do you say? Who wants to put up wallpaper now? 

Disclaimer: This tutorial is not error proof and is simply what worked for us. Please do additional research and take precaution when embarking on your own wallpapering adventure! Little House Big City cannot be held responsible for your safety or the outcome of your home improvement projects.