9 Ways to Use Wallpaper in a Living Room

White and blue floral wallpaper behind gray couch

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

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, then consider one of these nine ideas.


Click Play to Learn the Best Ways to Use Wallpaper in Your Living Room

Cover the Walls

The most classic use of wallpaper is to cover all the walls in a space. The key to making it work is to erase the memories of the garish patterns of the 1970s and the delicate florals of the 1980s 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, 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. A particularly popular approach 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 simple and similar in theme. Since this is a strong look, be cautious about what other colors and patterns you put in the room. All the patterns should complement rather than 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 striking feature. When it comes to this use of wallpaper, you can go bold or you can go subtle, just make sure 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). 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 call it, provides a great opportunity to have some fun with wallpaper and create a 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. This is not a recommended DIY project, as the installation is awkward and you should ensure it doesn't bubble or peel. Get it done right the first time and hire a professional installer.

Decoupage Furniture

If you want to upcycle an old piece or add a little flair to something plain, consider applying 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. Keep in mind that the paper doesn't have to have a pattern; sometimes a textured wallpaper such as seagrass adds just the right amount of interest.

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 complements 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 sample piece framed and hanging it on the wall. This is a great way to incorporate the pattern without the effort or expense of 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 wall hangings are very pretty and require minimal effort.

Wallpaper a Lampshade

If you have a plain lampshade and want to give it a little pizzazz (or a damaged lampshade 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.