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A paint brush finish with a roller?

The prep work is done. The lining paper is on. But before your wallpaper can take its bow there’s the woodwork to complete. We don’t miss the days when you could spend an entire day applying a coat of paint to doors and skirting boards with a brush. Foam rollers have made glossing a far less laborious task – but how do you achieve a professional finish?

Orange peel finish

A foam roller makes light work of glossing but the finish has a kind of ‘orange peel’ texture to it. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it might not be the finish you want.

One solution is to let the paint down a little (10-20%) with water or spirit depending on whether the paint is water or oil based. Used as a final coat you’ll achieve a uniform, untextured finish. That’s not practical if you’re using one-coat paint (because you shouldn’t really let it down) – and you still don’t get the feel of a brush finish. For that you need…erm, a brush.

Lay off

Roller your door as usual, then switch to a brush to ‘lay-off’. That is, lightly brush the painted surface of the wood in single, flowing strokes following the grain. Not only will you achieve a brush finish, you’ll also remove excess paint, reducing runs and drips.

Allow the gloss to dry completely before you start wallpapering – that way you’ll be able to wash any excess paste from your wood without damaging the paintwork.

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Wedded to white?

Once upon a time it was magnolia that was the ever present colour in homes where the inspiration had run out before all the rooms had been decorated. It was a kind of default, as if that was how every room would be decorated if you didn’t push the boat out a little.

Magnolia is once more a tone you can approach with confidence, but only because another default shade has stolen its crown: white.

To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with magnolia and there’s nothing wrong with white. It’s what you do with those colours that counts. Let’s suppose you wallpaper your hallway in a blown vinyl and paint every surface white. Yes it will look crisp and clean – and white has a rather natty way of using light and shade to create its own depth. But you’ll be missing a focal point, and warmth.

Make white work

Add a daring splash of contrast and you’ll find that it’s not only the contrast wall that benefits – all your white surfaces will seem stronger too.

The boldness of the black motif in two of these papers, and the shading in the centre one, draws the eye and adds interest. And even if you only wallpaper a single wall, you’ll find the whole room is lifted as a result.

Give white something to work with. Ask us for more ideas to bring your white room to life.

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Wallpaper choices for wonky walls

A while back some friends of ours invited us round to their new cottage in the country. It was (and still is) picture postcard 18th Century stuff: big beams, small windows and almost impossible to heat properly. As far as we could tell there’s barely a right angle in the place, which makes wallpapering a bit of a challenge.

The previous owners had chosen a striped wallpaper for their bedroom. They’d probably regretted it almost immediately. If your walls aren’t straight, your wallpaper can’t hope to be, and these walls were anything but straight.

The result was a striped pattern as if viewed in a hall of mirrors – all dodgy angles, with the natural lumps and bumps in the wall playing havoc with the clean lines. “What do you suggest?” they asked.

What we suggested was this: in a house where the walls are appealingly wonky, you can’t hope to make a wallpaper which relies on straightness work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go for geometric designs – they just need to be designs that won’t be thrown out by irregularities in the wall – like this Teal Glitter Wave.

Small floral patterns can also work wonderfully in an older house. It’s not only because of their cottage charm, but because you can wallpaper over the most obstinate of surfaces and still achieve a result that looks as if you didn’t have to fight the wall to achieve it.

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Table decorations


Wallpaper of the month? That’ll be this beauty from Fine Decor. There’s a wonderful Victoriana vibe to this paper. It has a deliciously classic feel, brought bang up to date by a striking use of colour and texture.

The candelabra motif is created in metallic gel which gives the wallpaper real boldness. The colours have been chosen for maximum feature wall effect- the teal, red and silver practically begging for matching cushions and curtains.

But what we really love about this wallpaper, especially at this time of year, is what it signifies. Family gathered round the table. Warm nights in front of the fire. Candlelight, sparkle and glamour. It is that rarest of things – a wallpaper that looks as if it could have been designed with Christmas in mind, but which doesn’t actually feature anything overtly Christmassy.

That means it will complement the Christmas decorations when they’re up, and will still look striking (and appropriate) once they’re down again.

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Movember on your wall

The Mercury. The Selleck. The Dali. Facial fur has long been a staple of popular culture. Combine it with fund raising in aid of men’s health and it’s not difficult to see why Movember has been such a global success.

Facial hair is cool again and suddenly men’s faces are once more exploding with Wiggins-style mutton chops and Rufus Hound-style handlebars. Even James Bond himself gets stubbly for his latest outing.

Even so, we never expected to see moustaches on our wallpaper…

Wallpaper does many things. Raising a smile isn’t often one of them. But we love this frankly daft paper. No, perhaps it’s not what you had in mind for your living room, but for a student bedroom? A games room? Even a gents’ barbers? We defy you to put this on your wall and not have anyone who sees it break into a grin.

And if it encourages you to join the Movember movement, well, even better.

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When is a wallpaper not a wallpaper?

Recently we visited some friends who’ve been hard at work stripping back the chimney breast in their living room to reveal the bricks beneath. They wanted to give their room a rustic, heritage charm.

Sadly, the original builders didn’t have design elegance in mind when they built the house. The uncovered wall was a fairly random assortment of brick ends held together by some imaginative pointing. There was more cement than brick.

As a result, our friends replastered the wall and opted for a feature of a very different sort: a rather stunning Arthouse wallpaper.

Yet that heritage appeal could have been so much easier to achieve – and it wouldn’t have needed a demolition job to get the best results.

These wallpapers, used judiciously, can create the warmth and homeliness of wood or brick for a fraction of the effort and expense. Although you’d best warn visitors against trying to take a book off that shelf…

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Wallpaper or paint – which comes first?

The best decorating results come when you’ve a solid plan of action and you stick to it. If you’re new to decorating you’ll find one of the simplest but most important planning decisions is this: will you do the painting first, or the wallpapering?

  1. Ceiling paper

We’re skipping past the stripping and preparation stages – something you never should do – to the part where you stop removing and destroying, and start rebuilding. A papered ceiling adds warmth and depth and texture. In high-ceilinged rooms or older buildings we’d always recommend putting a paper on the ceiling (if only to hide the cracks). We’d also recommend doing it first.

  1. Lining paper

If you’re lining your wall (and as we’ve discussed in previous posts, you’ll get a better finish if you do) then do it now, before you start painting. If you’re dispensing with the wallpaper and painting your lining paper instead, paint it now.

  1. Paint

Some things are obvious. Clearly you can’t paint your ceiling paper unless it’s already on your ceiling. But why paint your woodwork now, when wallpapering will inevitably cover your shiny new paintwork in paste?

The reason is that wallpaper paste will easily wipe off paintwork (don’t let the paste dry and use a damp cloth). It’s an awful lot harder to get paint off your wallpaper.

  1. Wallpaper

Once the woodwork is dry, apply the wallpaper to your clean, lined surface. With the painting already complete you’ll have clean lines to work to, helping you achieve a professional finish.

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Things that make bumps in the night (and day)

Lumps and bumps: they’re the gremlins set to wreak havoc on your decorating. When something evil’s lurking beneath your wallpaper, chances are you really could have fixed it before it ever got a chance to show its nasty face. Here’s the ghouls’ gallery:
Lumpy paste
Big lumps in your wallpaper? Check your paste. If it’s full of lumps your wallpaper will be too and no amount of diluting or mixing will help. Best ditch the lot and start again. Follow the instructions to the letter and remember to thoroughly clean your paste bucket before you make a fresh batch.
If the paste’s smooth, those lumps could be caused by…
Big air bubbles
Small air bubbles on your newly papered wall are perfectly natural and should smooth down as the wallpaper dries.
Big air bubbles, though, will need some help. Don’t wait for the paper to dry as you’ll never get rid of them if you do. Lift the paper (and the bubbles) away from the wall. Smooth the wallpaper back into place as directed by the wallpaper instructions. The more you work the air out from beneath the paper the fewer bubbles you’ll leave trapped behind.
Loose plaster
You know the sort of plaster that drops from the wall when you tap a nail in elsewhere? That’s the sort of loose plaster that will inconveniently drop behind your paper when you least want it. Don’t pretend the problem isn’t there. Fill cracks with decorators caulk, and for larger patches, replaster before you start wallpapering.
Lumps on the wall
If you wallpaper over a lump you’ll end up with another lump. There really is no substitute for good preparation. Make your sander your best friend and, once the old wallpaper’s off, start smoothing.
Grit on your paste brush
The last one’s a sneaky one. It’s so easy to accidentally drop your paste brush on the floor, then pick it up and carry on regardless. When you do, you’ll transfer the dust and grit on the floor to your paste. If you drop it, wash it.
They’re simple tips, but they’ll help ensure your finished room looks like an autumnal feast, not a Halloween horror.
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Wallpapering your furniture?

Something’s happening. Time was when wallpaper was something you put on the wall. In fact, if you asked us only a few months ago how many uses we could find for wallpaper we’d have looked at you blankly. Erm, one? Two if you count lining drawers with leftovers?

Yet increasingly it seems wallpaper isn’t only something you decorate your room with; it’s something you decorate your furniture with too. It’s a fashion that is growing in appeal thanks to Channel 4 home guru Kirsty Allsopp who uses wallpaper (amongst other things) to rejuvenate retro pieces of furniture.

Pick the right paper and the results could be striking, especially if you choose a paper and new accessories (handles etc) that complement each other. It’s a technique you can apply to anything from bathroom cabinets to wardrobes, with wallpapers like these:

Aside from some occasionally fiddly cutting, turning dull, faded furniture into something far more striking isn’t difficult. Have a tired old chest of drawers in the garage? One with the inlaid drawer fronts? Transform it…

1.    Remove the drawer handles
2.    Sand the surface of the door with a view to lightly scratching the surface (because you want to give the adhesive something to cling onto)
3.    Using some spare paper (or lining paper) create a template for your insert by laying the paper over the drawer front and carefully marking the edges and corners of the area you wish to cover
4.    Cut your template out
5.    Lay the template over the reverse side of your wallpaper. Mark the shape’s outline and cut to size
6.    The adhesive you need will depend on the furniture you’re decorating. Wallpaper paste may not do the job. Wallpaper repair or border adhesives are more likely to be effective. Paste onto paper as per the product instructions
7.    Work the wallpaper into place, starting at one edge and working carefully across the drawer front with a clean sponge or cloth, ensuring the paper remains straight and bubble-free
8.    Allow the wallpaper to dry before fixing your new drawer handles

Wallpaper. Now officially not just for walls.

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Team GB

We’re in celebratory mood. The Olympics are over but we finish with a hugely impressive medal haul. And that got us thinking: could you create a Team GB of wallpaper designers?

100m & 200m – Julien Macdonald

Not only a creator of fabulous designer wallpapers – a creator of fabulous things in general. An OBE, former creative head of Givenchy and judge of Britain’s Next Top Model. He’s a superstar of wallpaper, which is why we give him the highest profile events. So creative, he even designs his own medals. Here he’s added fuchsia to the traditional silver…

Equestrian – Osborne & Little

There’s something distinctly upper crust about Osborne and Little. They’ve been creating distinctive, stunning papers (such as the Quartz collection below) since the Swinging Sixties so we had to put them in an event that’s open to all age groups. Dashing, smart, effortlessly sophisticated? We can see them going clear in the horse-jumping and medalling in dressage.

Heptathlon – Sophie Conran

Wallpaper is only the start of it. Sophie Conran’s skills extend to china, glass, party planning food and chocolate. She is the multi-eventer of the wallpaper world. We can see her bringing home a heptathlon gold. And then inviting everyone round for drinks and nibbles to celebrate.