I’d seen people use book pages for DIY wallpaper before and when I saw it in person at my friend Carla from Etica Studio’s old house, where she used vintage newspapers to wallpaper this feature wall in her ensuite, I fell in love with the idea even more.
When Carla and her husband Ben were renovating the old Art Deco house on their block, they discovered all these old newspapers. “We found hundreds of 1955 newspaper sheets under the linoleum,” says Carla. “We salvaged these and used them for paper flowers at our wedding and most recently as wallpaper in our dresser and ensuite. It is stunning and the soft brown colour of the sheets adds real warmth to the room.” What I love most about it is the old advertisements that now seem so quaint!
Recycled wallpaper is fun and quirky – and costs next to nothing, so it appealed to my budget decorating tightarse side (in full swing since our honeymoon).
You don’t have to use pages from a dictionary obviously. I’ve seen pictures on Pinterest of it done with use maps, music sheets, newspapers, magazine pages (ooh, now I’m thinking vintage equestrian magazines would be cool) comic book pages, children’s storybooks, album covers, family photos (scanned and printed).
But I have always been a sucker for lovely old books and when I saw a tattered vintage French dictionary at a secondhand market, straightaway I thought it could make lovely wallpaper. The pages were just so beautiful and the little illustrations so quaint. The man selling apologetically told me it wasn’t in the greatest condition (the binding was loose and the cover hanging off) and said I could have it for three dollars. Sold! Bargain wallpaper.
Now I know there are people who cry blasphemy about ripping up old books, and I actually do understand where you’re coming from. But here’s how I saw it. We – as well as all our family and friends who visit – would get a whole lot more joy out of this gorgeous book when it’s up on the walls as opposed to sitting away unseen on a shelf. It keeps what’s between its pages alive, in a sense. Your husband’s friends wouldn’t come over for a beer with him and flick admiringly through a beautiful vintage French dictionary, would they? Yet so many of them now comment on the toilet.
Maybe I inhaled a bit too much glue, but I got so excited about doing this project once I started. It was just FUN. It made me think that so many DIY and crafty things we do as adults just aren’t that fun, are they? Yeah, I love the end result of a good DIY project, the sense of satisfaction. But when it comes to actually DOING the project, to be honest, most of the time I find myself feeling very lazy.
BEFORE: Do you remember the before pics of our toilet (adjoining our laundry) as it was when we bought the Crap Shack? It was a very typical and rather dull 1970s toilet. Recently Mr Nerd gutted the floor tile and we replaced it with beautiful travertine. All that’s left to do now is replace the ceiling lights and get a new door for the laundry.
THEN: We had the window changed (big improvement!) and made these shelves from reclaimed timber.
NOW: The new travertine floor in and the wallpaper finished.
It’s always good to have a supervisor.
But this wallpaper – it was so much fun I enjoyed the process just as much as I enjoyed the finished result. It made me feel a bit like a kid again. You know when you were a kid and it was art class and you just could not freaking WAIT to paint something or make a demented bowl out of Clay (or even just for the glue to dry on your hands because then you could slowly peel it all off?) Same crazed feel here guys.
I 100% think you should do this project somewhere in your home half because I guarantee you will enjoy it. It’s so easy and simple. I had some matt Mod Podge glue, I brushed it on the wall very lightly with a brush in small patches (it dries fast), I pasted a page up, smoothed it out (you can use your fingers or sleeve, or a credit card). So easy. I wasn’t that well that weekend so I took a bit longer than I had expected, but you could easily do this in half a day if you’re efficient.
1. First I cleaned the walls with sugar soap and water and let them fully dry. Then I applied matt Mod Podge glue in small patches. I love Mod Podge – it’s water-based so it’s not too strong smelling and if we ever wanted to remove the wallpaper we could thoroughly soak it and scrape it off.
2. Don’t apply too much glue at once – Mod Podge dries super fast, and you’ll want to think about where you put the pages. In my case I didn’t want to put too many full-picture pages too close to one another, but wanted to spread them out. I cut out all the pages before so they were ready to go, and used blu tack some times to pin them up so I could step back and see if they looked good.
3. I found a brush easiest for applying glue. It lets you put it on as thinly as you like, which is important – use too much glue and you’ll find the finished result doesn’t look as smooth. Put a little bit of glue on the edges of each page so you can overlap them and get a nice smooth finish.
4. Kylie from the lovely Lucy Violet Vintage blog advised me to use a credit card to smooth out bubbles in my wallpaper – such a good trick! You can also use your fingers or a soft rag (or your sleeve if you’re lazy, like me).
Coffee and good snacks are a DIY must-have. Thank you Sue for the most amazing banana bread ever.
To make it more personal, I chose some pages that had some kind of meaning to us or to our families – like the little map of Italy (where we spent our honeymoon), a little motorbike (for Mr Nerd’s love of bikes) horses (for my love of horses) and all the little illustrated dog breeds (I love how much the French are into their dogs!) The dogs were obviously a tribute to Nala, who was pleased.
I really love how it turned out. And, as my husband pointed out, our toilet also now smells nice – like old books, which is much better than what it sometimes smells like. As strange as it sounds I think the toilet may well now be my favourite room in the house! It’s fun to examine the pages and notice little things you hadn’t before.
It’s not 100 percent finished though – I’m yet to seal it (although I do love the look of it unsealed) and am on the hunt for the perfect sealer that’s not too glossy – let me know if you’ve done similar and what you used! I may be doing very thin coats of Mod Podge or an acrylic sealer with a roller. Will update!
Have you done wallpaper – DIY or otherwise – in your house? Would you consider doing it or do you not like the ‘permanence’ of wallpaper? What would you use for DIY wallpaper? Would you cut up a book or never? Maya x
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