How to "wallpaper" using fabric

I couldn't stand our boring white door anymore. Something had to be done. So over the weekend, we wallpapered it with a big, fun piece of fabric. I love it. And it's useful, too. There are four white doors in this corner of the apartment—bedroom, bathroom, coat closet, and outer door—and sometimes departing guests get confused about which one they came through. Now we'll just tell them to exit through the village.

This fabric is fairly thin cotton from IKEA. It's called Britten Hus and designed by someone named Emma Jones. No relation that I know of, but clearly someone I would like. She's also got this handwriting print which I adore. Someone should use it! Bed sheets would work really well for this project, too.

For this DIY fabric wallpaper project, you'll need water, cornstarch, a big brush (or a paint roller if you want to do a larger wall), scissors, and a craft knife if you have obstacles like we did.

First mix up your paste, since it will need time to cool. I made way too much, but better safe than sorry. I don't think I even used half of it, so you might want to cut this recipe down. I adjusted a bit to get a nice consistency that's thickened, but pourable. Like really thick gravy.

Boil 4 cups of water in a pot. Mix about 3/8 cup cornstarch with a little water in a small bowl until the powder is dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the water slowly while stirring. Boil until thickened and then let it cool.

In the meantime, measure the area you want to wallpaper and cut your fabric to size. I just made small cuts in the edge of my fabric and tore each side, since I knew it would make a straighter line than I could cut. I trusted that the design was printed to be aligned with the grain.

Brush the entire door with paste, then begin applying fabric from the top down, adjusting and smoothing as you go. The paste is very forgiving and will allow you to smooth out wrinkles or peel a section back off and reposition it. If you need more paste in dry spots, just brush more on. It doesn't change the color of the fabric when it's dry.

Use a scissors or Xacto knife to cut around any obstacles. We made a few quick slits where the lock and doorknob were, just to get the fabric fitted over them so we could continue smoothing out the rest of the door. Then we went back and trimmed carefully around the hardware with a knife. Apply more paste to stick down the raw edges.

Finally, we back went around the sides of the door and applied a little extra paste to smooth down any loose edges. The paste will keep the raw ends from fraying. If you like, you can brush another coat of paste over the entire door, decoupage style. Our fabric was stuck down well enough and I liked the soft fabric texture, so I opted not to. If you use thicker fabric, it might be a good idea to glue it down a little better with a top coat, though.

When you're tired of the fabric, just pull it off and your paint job is unharmed. You may need to use a damp sponge to wipe off any clear paste residue or thread stragglers. I'd also suggest machine washing brightly colored fabric first to make sure the dyes don't bleed when the fabric is moistened with paste—do a small test first.

Update: To show how the fabric peels off, I pasted another chunk onto my hallway wall, then pulled it off.

The fabric peeled off easily. In this case, the edge of the glued area showed slightly. After taking this photo, I went over it with a damp sponge to see if I could erase it, but that just made the faintly darker area larger. The slight discoloration is the result of getting the wall damp. The walls in my hallway have flat paint, which doesn't like wetness—it always shows every water drip and isn't very wipeable. I don't mind, since this part of the hallway is dim and it doesn't show. Or I can always wipe the whole wall with a moist sponge and it will all match!

If your wall or door has flat paint, you might want to cover the whole area with fabric so you don't see any discolored edges where the fabric starts and stops. If your paint is satin or semi-gloss, which withstands moisture much better, I don't think you'll see any lines at all. You can always test a small area first.
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