I tried Joanna Gaines’ removable wallpaper—and it's a home decor game-changer
Or, how I took my bedroom from drab to fab
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I’ve been a renter for a long time—we’re talking close to 10 years now—and one thing I’ve hated about virtually every apartment I’ve ever lived in is the walls. Seriously, why do management companies all pick the same bland shades of beige and tan?
When my boyfriend and I moved into our new apartment at the beginning of the year, I decided enough was enough. Our bedroom was so incredibly bland and boring with its yellowy-beige walls that I wanted to scream, so I declared we were going to put up temporary wallpaper.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I was getting into. It seemed like a fairly easy DIY project, but putting up temporary wallpaper definitely isn't something to do on a whim. Here’s everything I learned throughout the process, as well as my verdict on whether removable wallpaper is worth it.
What is removable wallpaper?
Temporary or removable wallpaper has been extremely trendy in the last few years, and as its name implies, this product is unique in its ability to be easily removed. Unlike traditional wallpaper, which requires paste for installation, temporary wallpaper is more akin to an extra-large sticker, so it’s easier to put up and can be taken down with minimal damage to your walls—no steaming or scraping required.
As you can probably imagine, this characteristic makes temporary wallpaper an ideal solution for renters like me. It goes up and comes down without damaging your walls, allowing you to change up the appearance of a room without putting your security deposit in danger.
The first hurdle: Figuring out how much you need
I was immediately sold on the idea of temporary wallpaper, so I picked out the Magnolia Home Willow Peel and Stick Wallpaper from the Magnolia Homes by Joanna Gaines collection at Home Depot. Peel-and-stick wallpaper basically means there’s no paste required—you just pull the backing off the wallpaper and slap it on the wall. (This is obviously a gross oversimplification of things, as you’ll soon see.)
You get 34 square feet of wallpaper with each roll, so all I had to do was measure the wall and do some quick math, right? I thought it was that simple, but alas, I was very wrong. We planned to wallpaper the wall behind our bed, which is roughly 60 square feet, so I ordered two rolls of the wallpaper, thinking that would be plenty. It was not.
You see, each roll of the wallpaper gives you roughly two and a half 8-foot strips (assuming you have 8-foot ceilings), and unless you want awkward horizontal seams in the middle of the wall, you’re only going to get two full strips per roll. Each wallpaper strip is 20.5 inches wide, so a better way to measure is to divide the length of your wall by 20.5. Divide that number by 2, and that’s how many rolls you need. We would have needed (at least) two additional rolls of paper to cover the wall behind our bed, so we decided to do a smaller wall instead.
Everything you need to apply temporary wallpaper
The first time we first decided to hang the wallpaper, our plans were quickly squashed because we didn’t have the necessary tools, and in the words of my boyfriend, “If we do a hack job, it’s going to look like a hack job.” (He used to be a professional carpenter, so he’s particular about things being just right.)
To save you from the same issue, here are the list of tools we recommend you have on hand to apply temporary wallpaper:
- Utility knife
- Smoothing tool
- Long straight-edge for cutting the paper
- Step stool
- Someone to help you
- A lot of patience
I ended up purchasing the Wall Pops Smoother and Utility Knife Kit, which was quite helpful and definitely worth the $6.
The main challenges of applying temporary wallpaper
When we finally got down to it, the whole project took us around four (maybe five) hours start to finish. All installation entails is measuring and cutting the strips, peeling off the backing, lining it up on the wall, and smoothing it out, but it’s definitely more challenging than it sounds.
I don’t think you could apply temporary wallpaper alone—you need one person to hold the top of the strip and another to line up the bottom to ensure it goes on smoothly. However, the good news is that the wallpaper is easy enough to peel off and reposition if you do mess it up.
To adequately prepare you for the task, here are some of the main challenges you’ll face when applying peel-and-stick wallpaper.
Hanging the first sheet
The first sheet was definitely the hardest. After we figured out what worked and didn’t, we were able to get into a flow, and subsequent sheets went up much faster.
Why was the first piece so challenging? First of all, you’re supposed to work left to right across the wall, and to start, you need to draw a vertical line 20.5 inches away from the corner to guide your first strip. The idea here is that if your wall isn’t perfectly straight and you use it as a guide to hang the paper, the print will be crooked all the way across the wall. Basically it’s an additional step that, while annoying, is important if you want best results.
From there, you have to figure out how to work best with your partner. After a small amount of bickering, my boyfriend and I decided it was best if he held the top of the strip while I pulled ¾ of the backing off. I held the bottom while he lined up the top, and then he started pressing it on from the top down.
Lining up the pattern
I have a bone to pick with the designer of this wallpaper. While the print is lovely, I don’t love how much overhang there is when you’re lining up the pattern.
Basically, wallpaper prints repeat every foot or so, allowing you to match up the pattern seamlessly as you move from strip to strip. The Magnolia Home Willow Wallpaper has a really large repeat, and you end up wasting a lot of paper to get the pattern to match up. In the worst spot, we had to cut off 17 inches (!!!) to get the print lined up. With this much waste, you may very well find you need more wallpaper than initially anticipated.
Cutting around outlets
Another task that seriously hindered our progress was cutting out spaces for light switches and electrical outlets. We tried to do it by cutting around the edges of the plastic plates, but it’s a fairly painstaking process to get the lines straight. If we did it again, we agree it would be easier to take the plates off the wall, cut rough holes, then put the plates back on over the wallpaper.
If I’m paying $50 per roll for wallpaper, I expect the pattern to line up perfectly, but it didn’t. There’s one place in the pattern’s repeat where the leaves just aren’t right. It’s not a small discrepancy, either.
The good news is the pattern is busy enough that you don’t notice the imperfection once you step back.
Filling in small gaps
When we finally got toward the end of the wall, we were dismayed to discover there was a 2-inch gap between the end of the wallpaper and the door. We didn’t have any full strips left, so we ended up having to piece together small bits of the scraps to fill in this gap. I think we ended up using three little pieces to fill in the space, and obviously, it took quite a while to find scraps with the proper pattern and cut them to the right size.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it
After all the hassle we went through to decorate one (admittedly small) wall, I was tempted to say, “Never again!” to temporary wallpaper. However, when I stood back and looked at the final result, I loved it. The wallpaper brings new life and vibrancy to the room, and the whole makeover only cost around $100. Plus, it won’t jeopardize our security deposit!
Overall, while hanging up temporary wallpaper is a frustrating, painstaking process, I do think the effort is worth it if you want to spruce up your rental—or even your home. It’s a low-commitment option, and there are dozens of pretty peel-and-stick wallpapers to choose from, letting you really customize your space.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.