9 Ways to Use Wallpaper in a Living Room

Uses for wallpaper in a living room
Photos via Pinterest

Wallpaper is a fantastic tool that can pack a huge visual punch. It's available in a seemingly unending variety of colors, patterns, and textures, and depending on what you choose it can be either big and bold or soft and subtle. What's also great about wallpaper is that it can be used in many different ways. If you want to incorporate wallpaper but aren't sure how, consider one of these 9 ideas.

Cover the Walls

The most classic use of wallpaper is to cover all the walls. While the look might not be as popular as it was a few decades ago, it can certainly still work depending on the room and the paper. The key is to erase the memories of the bright colors and geometric styles of the 70s, and the delicate florals of the 80's, and think in terms of contemporary colors, patterns and styles. In certain rooms, a bold, graphic paper can look fabulous covering all the walls, while in other rooms a simple pattern or texture can create subtle interest.

Cover Half the Wall

Covering either the top or bottom half of a wall with wallpaper is a great way to get the look without overwhelming the space. (Ideally, you'll want to separate the papered and non-papered halves with some time of architectural molding such as chair rail.) This is another look that was popular in decades past, but it still appears regularly in rooms that lean towards traditional styles. Particularly popular is to cover the top half of the wall with paper and have paneling on the bottom half. It's a very classic look that will never go out of style.

Install Two Papers on One Wall

A really interesting and bold look involves covering the top half of a wall with one paper and the bottom half with another (again, it's best to separate them using chair rail). This is a tough look to pull off but when done right it can look amazing. If you want something really strong, consider contrasting patterns such as stripes and toile, or chevron and damask in strong colors. For something more subtle look for tone-on-tone patterns and keep them very simple and similar in theme. Also, since this is a very strong look be cautious about what other colors and patterns you put in the room. You want all the patterns to compliment each other, not fight with each other. 

Create a Feature Wall

A wallpapered feature wall is a great way to either create or enhance an already existing focal point. It draws the eye in and creates a really striking feature. When it comes to this use of wallpaper you can go bold or you can go subtle, just make sure that you're not competing with any other focal point in the room (when there's more than one focal point the eye gets confused and it creates a sense of chaos). So try installing wallpaper on the wall behind the TV or fireplace, or any other spot the eye is naturally drawn to.

Wallpaper the Ceiling

So often people forget to look up. Usually, ceilings are painted a simple white and then left alone until there’s a leak or crack that needs to be dealt with. But the ceiling, or fifth wall as some like to call it, provides a great opportunity to have some fun with wallpaper and create a really unique look. If you're going this route you may as well go all the way and choose something highly decorative or bold. Don't waste the effort on something subtle. Also, this is not a recommended DIY project as the installation is awkward and you want to make sure it doesn't bubble or peel. Get it done right the first time and hire a professional installer.

Decoupage the Furniture

If you want to upcycle an old piece or add a little flair to something simple, consider applying some wallpaper to a piece of furniture. This works particularly well on pieces that have clean lines and simple silhouettes (not too many curves), such as chests of drawers or console tables. And keep in mind that the paper doesn't have to have a pattern, sometimes a textured wallpaper such as seagrass ads just the right amount of interest to a simple piece.

Decorate the Inside of a Bookcase

An open bookcase is a great place to add a little decorative flair with wallpaper. Instead of leaving the backs of the open shelves bare, cover them with a pretty pattern that compliments your room. An easy way to do this is to cut out pieces of foam core that fit each nook and apply the wallpaper directly to them. That way you're not applying paper directly to the piece of furniture and you can easily take it out if you tire of the pattern.

Hang Wallpaper as Art

If you want to use a really special wallpaper but can't afford to do a big project, consider having a piece framed and hanging it on the wall. This is a great way to incorporate the pattern without any of the effort or expense you get with traditional applications. Another similar approach is to hang a long piece and install dowels at either end so it looks like a scroll. These types of wallhangings are very pretty and require minimal effort from you.

Wallpaper a Lampshade

If you have a plain lampshade and you want to give it a little pizzazz (or a damaged lampshade that you want to salvage), applying wallpaper is a great idea. It can add instant flair and it's very easy to do. Simply cut the paper to size and apply it using a spray adhesive (traditional wallpaper glue can be a bit clumpy on lampshades). Another option that is a little more subtle but still a lot of fun is to apply wallpaper to the inside of the shade. It doesn't make as much of an impact as the exterior of the shade, but it's a great little decorative touch.