Category Archives: Tutorials

Five Tips for Wallpapering Success

Despite being the biggest, sunniest room in our house, the playroom has long been our dumping ground–the room where half-finished craft projects die on the vine, while whirlpools of unsorted mail settle in for a long winter’s nap atop miscellaneous obsolete power cords.  Decorating the playroom has been languishing on the to-do list, and I finally decided I needed an exciting design element to motivate me to get going.

Actually, all of this disorganization and clutter was on purpose to create a good “before” shot for your benefit (riiiiight):

Red House West || Wallpapering

I’ve been curious about wallpaper for a long time, and I decided the playroom would be my testing ground.  I wanted something that wasn’t too cutesy, that left room for imagination, and that wouldn’t compete with our old persian rug.  I settled on the Etched Arcadia wallpaper from Anthropologie, and ordered two rolls.

Although neither Katie nor I had ever wallpapered anything before, we decided to make a project of it during her recent visit.  It turned out great!  The mural pattern was surprisingly forgiving, and after some trial and error we really got the hang of it.  Here are 5 things we learned along the way.

wallpapering success

1.  When Using SureStrip Wallpaper, Don’t Over Soak

Like lots of wallpaper these days, the Etched Arcadia wallpaper is backed with SureStrip for paste-free application.  Instead of glopping paste on your walls, you simply soak each wallpaper panel.  It probably seems obvious that one would follow the directions when doing this, but we, alas, did not.  We knew enough to submerge the panel in water, but then instead of timing the recommended 30 second soak, I literally walked away to get a snack.  Big mistake.

When we smoothed the panel on the wall the backing spooged all over.  Understand that spooge is a big part of this process, even when you don’t over soak–you’ll want to have lots of rags and towels on hand.  But if you soak the paper too long you’ll be covered in slime like a ’90’s Nickelodeon game show contestant.

The instructions say soak for 30 seconds.  When we actually followed the instructions and soaked for no more than 30 seconds the panels went on smoother, and with less mess.

Red House West || Wallpapering

Aaaaaaand, stop!

2.  ‘Book’ Your Panels

One of the trickiest parts about this process was moving the panels into place after they had been soaked.  The wallpaper is thick and sturdy, but when wet it definitely felt like it could tear.  Plus when you apply it to the wall, you don’t want the bottom section to accidentally adhere to the wall before you’re done smoothing the top section.  Through trial and error and a number of YouTube instructional videos, we found that “booking” the panels made things a lot easier.

To book, you unroll the panel as it comes out of the soaking bath and then fold the bottom portion, gluey sides together, back on itself.  Then you press the top section onto the wall, work it smooth (see Tip #3 for more), and then unfold the bottom portion and smooth it onto the wall.

Red House West || Wallpapering

3.  A Gentle Touch is Best–Don’t Use an Ice Scraper

Not that you would use an ice scraper, but in case you were tempted, take it from me, it’s a bad idea.  When we began we were under the impression that we were missing all sorts of specialized wallpapering tools, and that we would need to aggressively press every crease and bubble out with all our might.

We learned that what happens when you use an ice scraper or squeegee is that you pretty much make the creases irreversible.  What works better is to gently and patiently smooth each panel by hand, beginning at the top.

Red House West || Wallpapering

Especially if you’ve booked the bottom of the panel, you have plenty of time to work out all of the bumps (we found that we could smooth and adjust each panel for about 25 minutes after it was first placed on the wall).  Once you’ve got the top smoothed out, move to the middle, and then to the bottom.  When you have the bottom of the panel smooth, go back to the top and middle and gently push out any bubbles that have appeared.

Red House West || Wallpapering

4.  Space Between Panels is Better than Overlapping Edges

When we began, we were nervous about getting the panels to perfectly abut each other and we erred on the side of overlapping.  We didn’t realize at the time that the panels can be shifted for a long while after they’re placed on the wall, so there is ample time to scooch them into position.  On the flip side, once the edges are overlapped, it’s next to impossible to un-overlap them.

Red House West || Wallpapering

There’s one edge in particular in the playroom that is overlapped, and while it’s no big deal, you can definitely see it.  There’s a little ridge that catches the light and it interrupts the image (though I’m sure no one but me and Katie would ever notice).

5.  Use a Sharp Utility Knife and Change the Blade Often

One of the things I’m really proud of is that the wallpaper edges are straight and sharp.

Red House West || Wallpapering

To my eye, the nice clean edges go a long way toward making it look like a pro job.  But cutting wet paper isn’t easy–as soon as the blade was the slightest bit dull the edge of the wallpaper would start to pull and shred.

We ended up using a new blade for pretty much every panel.  When cutting around one of the outlets I did tear a section of the paper, which led to us learning another valuable lesson: patching is possible.  I took the torn piece, smoothed it out, and stuck it back on the wall.  I don’t think I could find it today if I tried.

And that’s it!  It took us a full day to finish, but once we got the hang of it (no pun intended) it wasn’t difficult.   The end result is, as the blogger kids these days say, ‘impactful’.

Red House West || Wallpapering

It really does make the room magical, and most importantly, Opal loves it.

Opal in her favorite construction equipment PJs, making her camping guys (Bass Pro shop action figures from the thrift store) pose for the camera.

Opal in her favorite construction equipment PJs, making her ‘camping guys’ (action figures from the thrift store) pose for the camera.  I could (and do) stare at those eyes all day.

The rest of the room is coming along, and I’ll share the full reveal soon.  Thanks everybody!

Tutorial: Oil Painting Bulletin Board

I’ve known from the beginning that I wanted to incorporate some kind of landscape oil painting into the Chamber of Secrets.  Do you remember this inspiration image I shared?

Eep.  I seriously love everything about that room.  I am, however, enjoying the freshly white walls too much to cover them with a mural and I am also – at this late stage of the renovation game – working with an increasingly small budget.  I figured I could do something on a smaller scale and it would still be dreamy and lovely, kind of like this:

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin Board


Prints masquerading as fine art can look pretty cheap, but I thought that if I took the idea further – and combined brazen fakery with function – I could make it work.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardI gotta say, I’m pretty excited by how this project turned out.  The supplies are few, and it only cost about $12 to make.

For this project you will need:
A bulletin board
An image of your choice, ’tiled’ and printed in color (more on that later)
Mod Podge
Foam brush
Minwax Polyacrylic (or some kind of sealant)

Step One: Find a bulletin board. I almost always see one or two when I’m at the thrift store, so when I got the idea for this project I kept my eyes peeled for a large one. This beaut rang in at just $1.99 (though I recommend you be a bit more discerning in your choice and try to get one that’s been slightly less abused – the cork on this one was pretty lumpy which had some effect on my final product).  I spray painted the frame matte black.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Two:  Choose an image you like.  I used the search term ‘landscape painting,’ and found lots of great ones on the National Gallery of Art website (the same place I downloaded the portraits for my coaster project).  You can download large file sizes for free and there are no restrictions on how you use the images.  I chose this one by the French painter Henri-Joseph Harpignies:

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Three: Measure the dimensions inside the frame of your bulletin board and resize your image.  My bulletin board is about 36″ x 23″.  I used the ‘image resize’ function in Photoshop Elements.  I had to crop it a little to make it work.  If you don’t have photo editing software on your computer they can do this for you at the print shop.

Step Four: Have your image printed.  My initial thought when considering this project was to have the image printed full size.  But a full-size color image of this baby would have run about $60 – more than I wanted to spend on something that would be stuck full of pins.  I decided to have the image tiled – where the larger image is split up across standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper.  Some home printers have this capacity (mine doesn’t), but it was easily done at the print shop where they charged 53 cents per colored page – for a grand total of $8.48.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Five: Trim the excess white off of your images.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Six: Do a dry run by assembling your puzzle on the floor or a table.  Write numbers on the back starting in the upper left so – when the glue is drying way too fast – you’ll remember where they go.  I might be a little proud of this step.  It’s like I’m learning from my mistakes or something.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin Board

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Seven:  Trim your images to fit your bulletin board.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Eight: Using your foam brush, apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the upper left of the bulletin board in roughly the size of your first page.  Also apply a thin coat to the back of your first page.  Gently smooth out all the bumps and creases.

It was at this point that I discovered how chunky my board was.  The bumps and creases made me a little panicked, and I had to ONCE AGAIN learn the lesson that in regards to drying glue or paint it’s better not to mess with things too much.  I tore the paper in a few spots frantically trying to smooth things out, but most of the bubbles deflated when it dried anyway so I should have just let it be.

Continue affixing your pages until your whole image is in place. Leave it to dry for at least an hour (I left mine over night).

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Nine: Apply a thick coat of Mod Podge over the top of your entire image, concentrating your effort on the seams or any little tears that may have occurred when you were frantically trying to smooth out the bumps [see step eight: crying in the Mod Podge]. Allow to dry for a couple of hours.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardRed House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardStep Ten: Apply a thin coat of Minwax Polycrylic (or Mod Podge makes an acrylic coating too) and allow to dry. This will make a nice hard surface, and will combat any lingering tackiness from the Mod Podge.


Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin Board

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardI know it will fill with mementos and reminders over time, but I did put a few things on it just so the intended use would be clear.

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin Board

Red House West || Decoupaged Bulletin BoardThanks for reading along and have a great week!

DIYs to Try

Hi everyone and welcome back from the long weekend!  We both took advantage of the break to get away from our computers and into the woods – it felt good to unplug and fun to do some daydreaming about the coming summer months.

It has been ages since we’ve done a round up of DIYs we’re inspired to try and, with long days and warm nights on the brain, we thought we’d share some fun outdoor-inspired tutorials from around the web.

From Katie:

There have been a lot of evenings spent around our backyard firepit recently, and we’re in dire need of some more seating.  I love this cheerful macrame update to old metal lawn chairs, and Scoops’ tutorial over on Deuce Cities Henhouse is awesomely detailed!

Red House West || DIYs to TryRed House West || DIYs to TryThese little paper lanterns are so charming!  They could definitely work for the winter holidays too, but I think they’d be perfect – perhaps with battery-powered candles – out on the picnic table for a warm summer dinner.

Red House West || DIYs to TryI can see these family-portrait-coloring-book pages being so fun for both kids and adults!  I love the thought of doing this with some awkward childhood photos, and can imagine they’d be a real hit as a party favor at a wedding or reunion too.

Red House West || DIYs to TryRed House West || DIYs to Try

From Mera:

Under my mother in law’s care, our backyard was a magical wonderland that delighted garden tour visitors.  I’m ashamed by how far it has fallen under my (lack of) care, but the beautiful weather we’ve been having has inspired me to work on making the yard special again.

I love Otomi, and this little garden table is a sweet way to bring the pattern outside.

This spray painted outdoor rug is a simple project and a good way to define an outdoor space without spending a bundle.

This table may not necessarily be a central part of backyard beautification, but it sure looks fun!

What outdoor DIY projects are on your list?