Preserving the Past By Breaking the Rules

Renovation Rule : Don’t Paint Over Wallpaper.

Painting over wallpaper is just not okay. It makes it incredibly hard to ever change things about the room, because it’s SO HARD TO TAKE DOWN. But sometimes, in the name of love, you gotta do what you gotta do.


When we discovered the Beidler family signatures and notes on the front bedroom walls, under the wallpaper, my dreams of a painted room weren’t exactly dashed, but they were put on hold. There were a lot of options : plexi over the sites, frame them out (like art), wallpaper over them, document and paint…. I didn’t like the last option because the idea that I would rob someone else of the discovery later on was not okay. I did some research, and decided to be that person who paints over wallpaper. (Dear Future Owners. Please don’t hate me.)

Also, in addition to preserving the signatures under the wallpaper, I also had a canvas made, to keep one of the fun facts about previous restoration by the Beidlers on display as artwork in the space.


Of course, I’m justifying the wallpaper decision by reminding myself that one of the reasons Victorians USED wallpaper was to hide imperfections in the wall, so it’s a perfectly period-appropriate decision.

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It still makes me feel very wrong on the inside. But I’m so glad that we’re preserving the writing.

Also, we’re going all SORTS of out of order. We’re just wallpapering and painting about 25% of the room right now, because we still have more turret work to do, and we’re going to take Labor Day weekend to work on building a wardrobe for the room. It seemed like a good plan to spend a long weekend on a serious build, but we needed the walls it’s going against to be ready. So everything’s a mess, in a good way!


We set up a station in the middle of the room for the paper. We’re using a lining paper, meant to be used to smooth walls, line under real wallpaper, or to be painted. We’ll see how it goes!


Our first wallpapering adventure was in the Laundry Room, and this time around, it’s so much easier, because there’s no pattern to match. Doug learned how to wallpaper by reading some books, and watching this great series. When he watched it again this time around, I was in the other room, and I swear I thought it was Christopher Walken narrating it. And now, I need that to be a thing. Someone needs to make Christopher Walken do home improvement. (He already cooks.)

So, we’re all ready to go! But first, we sign…. Actually, I signed. Doug didn’t want his handwriting on the wall.

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We gathered our tools.

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And laid out the paper. And pasted away! Even if paper is pre-pasted, you should use wallpaper paste. It’s just smarter.

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Wallpaper paste looks like cinnabun icing, for the record.

After pasting, you book the paper, which means you fold it against itself, and let it rest. Here’s what you do!

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That’s how you Book It! All of this made me want a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.


We had made a line around the room to show how high we needed to be. The top part of the room is going to be anaglypta, and there will be crown moulding and a picture rail, so we only needed to go up about 7 feet above the baseboard.


You hang the paper and check for level, and first smooth it down with your hands and some light pressure.

The paper will still be wet enough to butt the seams right next to each other. You can move the whole paper on the wall. There’s a lot of play, so don’t stress or think you’ve ruined it. You have time.


Next, you brush over the wallpaper, from the inside to the outside.

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And you push the wallpaper into the spot where the baseboard meets the wall. Which makes me cringe because glue is getting ALL OVER MY WOODWORK. (It wipes right off. But it still makes me cringe.)


Brush first, then take this child-of-a-dustpan-and-a-spatula (or “flexible smoothing tool?”) and swipe it all over with a little pressure. This really secures it to the wall and smooths it out.


Back to this spot! Use the spatula to push the paper into the edge, and then use a REALLY sharp blade to trim, using a metal trim guide as a guide.

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Change your blade about every three cuts. If not, you’ll tear the paper, and not cut it. Also, on Doug’s very short list of “Things that I can’t stand about Amy” is that I never close the blade after I use it. Don’t be like me.


Roll the edges and the seams! This really just feels like you’re playing with race cars on the wall. Which would be a WAY cooler tool.


Next, wipe it down with a dry dry barely damp sponge. And wipe off my baseboards. Now.


Ta-Da! One roll of paper up. So many more to go. Doug timed it, and it took us about 15 minutes a sheet to hang up, so hanging a roll in an evening after work will totally be doable as we finish this up.


Then we got to an outlet. This is pretty easy.


TURN THE POWER OFF. Lay the paper over the outlet.


Cut an “X”over the outlet.



Trim the side pieces away.

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They’re so helpful.


Corners are a little trickier. You can’t just wrap the corner, or you end up with giant puckers and wrinkles (which existed in this room previously). Wrap the corner first.

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You trim using the spatula as a trim guide, because you want the edge of the first piece, on the left, to wrap the corner about an eighth of an inch.


Then you pull the piece that you cut off the wall, and start to set it.


The cut piece on the right will go all the way into the corner, to overlap the small bit of paper from the first piece that wrapped the corner.


Once it’s leveled out, you can trim anything that overlapped too much, and trim the bottom pieces off.


It’s coming together!

DSC_0137Since this doesn’t have a pattern, it’s not AS important, but you should still check to see how level you are. And in old houses, walls aren’t straight, so just be within some reason.


This is the last piece we HAVE to have done for the wardrobes to be built. The hard part (the bay window and the turret) are still to come.

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Clean, lovely, preserved wall.

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Did you remember that I’m painting this room black? Here’s a sneak peak! I really love it. Don’t be scared. It’s going to be fine.



  1. Wow, thanks for bringing back memories of Book It! when I was a child!

    And great work on the house, of course. I enjoy following your blog, although I feel a little guilty, since I don’t have the ambition to blog my work. I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys restoring old homes. I am a little sad my wife doesn’t get as excited about it as you do, though. She often says stuff like “Why do I feel like we live in a construction site?”

    1. Ha! Don’t worry, as much as I love restoration (and I DO!) I still say things like that, as well. I’m so glad you’re following along, and also glad you appreciate the Book It! Reference. Now I need a personal sized deep dish pizza. 🙂

  2. I thought I was the only person who remembered Book It! I found my button in a drawer in my parents’ house. It was a hologram. The book opened and closed.

    I’m impressed by your wall papering skills. I don’t think I would ever attempt it after seeing that episode of “I Love Lucy” where Ethel and Lucy wallpaper the apartment. It was a disaster!

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