01/10/14 - Read our revised and expanded instructions here (with lots of photos!), and print our helpful PDF -> Download How To Hang Vintage Wallpaper - A DIY Guide From Hannah's Treasures
There is really no reason to be intimidated by old wallpaper. The horror stories told by our grandmothers, were greatly exaggerated. I will say that stripping wallpaper off the wall is not fun, and if you do it a few times, you might decide that wallpapering is just too much work. You have to realize that women often wallpapered every couple of years. Wallpaper was inexpensive, and the wood burning stoves and fireplaces often left a smokey black film all over the walls. Papering was a great way for them to freshen up the home at little expense.
Today, wallpapering is a commitment that we make to a room for a number of years. Careful thought should be put into your selection and reflect your personal style. Vintage wallpapers can add artistic pizazz to your room. Using a vintage wallpaper on a feature wall in any room really makes a statement without being overwhelming.
After you have made your paper selection, you will need to purchase wheat paste or cellulose paste to hang your vintage wallpaper. Please read the label on the paste and make sure it is formulated for hanging paper, and not vinyl wall-covering.
Measure the width of the roll. Using this measurement, make a vertical plumb line in pencil to the right of a corner or edge of the wall.
Cut a strip of wallpaper that is six inches longer than the height of your wall. Usually there is a selvage edge on both sides of your wallpaper, sometimes it is perferated and can be removed easily, but more often than not you will have to trim it yourself. Some people prefer to leave the selvage edge on one side of the paper and overlap it. You will have to decide that for yourself. The paper is thin enough that the seams where it is overlaped are not visible, unless your wall gets a lot of direct sunlight. You will need to trim at least one salvage edge it before hanging. You can either trim one edge (either right or left depending on where you place the wallpaper in the room) or you can trim both. If you trim only one edge make sure you always trim the same edge on any additional strips, and overlap the wallpaper to hide the selvage edge which assists in matching the pattern.
You will need a flat smooth surface to trim the wallpaper, a straight edge and a very sharp blade. I use a clear plastic ruler and an Olfa rotary cutter, available at most fabric stores. Other tools are available at your hardware or paint store, but sometimes you can find things you already own that will work just as well.
Apply a thin mixture of the paste to the back of the wallpaper, and hang immediately, you do not need to let the paper rest or “book”. (booking is needed for papers that are pre-pasted…do not book vintage wallpapers)
Place right side of strip along plumb-line. Smooth strip into position, using a damp sponge or a flexible rubber edge, working down the center and out to each side, removing all large bubbles. Avoid stretching or hard rubbing. Do not be concerned with small bubbles, they will dry out. Trim the excess at the top and bottom with a sharp blade. Sometimes it is easier to trim the top and bottom after it has dried a little, you must use a sharp blade to trim the wallpaper when it is wet or it will tear. Make sure any excess paste is wiped off the front of the wallpaper.
Using the same procedure apply second strip, making certain left edge of pattern matches right edge of first strip. When placing the wallpaper to the wall, make sure you butt all edges tightly and sponge gently but firmly. Continue this process with subsequent strips.
Wallpapers that were printed before 1940 usually are not colorfast. Special care needs to be used when hanging these papers. I always spray the paper with Krylon matte sealer, before hanging the paper. It doesn’t change the look of the paper, it dries quickly, and it will prevent the print from bleeding. It is always a good idea to check your paper before hanging to see if it is colorfast. Simply gently rub the front of the wallpaper to see if the color comes off, if it is easily removed, the Krylon matte sealer will make a big difference and make the job much easier.
Most of the vintage wallpapers sold at Hannah’s Treasures are colorfast; the papers listed in the 1930’s section have the potential of bleeding when wet. Again, it is always a good idea to check to see if your paper is colorfast.