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Ask an Expert: An Interview With a Seasoned Wallpaper Hanger

Joe Clark shares his secrets.

Presented by Chic on the Cheap May 3, 2019

One of my favorite wall treatments is wallpaper.  It can be bold, neutral, calming, lively, textural—or a combination of these.  Adding wallpaper is a quick (relatively speaking) way to change the look of your space entirely. 

Perhaps you’re thinking of adding wallpaper to the wall behind your bed as an accent?  Great idea—do it!  It will be a one-day job and give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about what to look for in wallpaper patterns.  Today, I’m interviewing the grand master of wallpaper hanging, Joe Clark, about what qualities to look for in a wallpaper, regardless of the pattern, and when to steer clear.  Joe has been hanging wallpaper for me for about eight years now, so when I say he’s the grand master, I admit I’m a tad bit partial.  That said, I’m not the only Sarasota interior designer to have this opinion. 

What is the biggest blunder someone can make when selecting wallpaper for their home design project? 

Joe: On a few occasions, after an installation, I have had homeowners less than thrilled with the outcome.  The reason is they were expecting one thing and got another.  This is often the case with natural wallpapers, such as grasscloth.  Since it’s not a manmade pattern or material, every roll is different, and seams are noticeable.  That is the beauty of it, in my opinion, but if you’re not expecting that, you can be disappointed. Having a good understanding of what the final product will look like is important.

Below is an example of an embroidered wallpaper Joe hung for me last year that falls into this category; you can see the natural beauty of the paper (in my opinion too!). 

Smith foyer

What makes a good installation in technical terms?

Joe: Having the right tools and using a professional installer make a big difference.  Having a smooth wall texture isn’t always required, but most of the time it’s good practice.  The smoother the wall, the better the outcome.   That being said, the basic key to success is proper wall preparation. A true wallpaper sealer is crucial no matter if your wall is smooth or not.  The wallpaper sealer will make installation easier because it creates a water barrier with the drywall.  This means it extends the drying time, giving you the ability to adjust and tweak the wallpaper for a longer period of time to make sure the pattern repeat is laying out properly.  On the back end, if wallpaper removal is needed, the paper comes off the wall easier and cleaner if a sealer has been rolled onto the wall prior to installation. 

Smith powder bath

I’ve noticed there are beautiful wallpapers being offered online from big furniture companies; Serena and Lily is a popular example.  Do you have advice for ordering online?

The best protocol is not to use an online square footage calculator, because it doesn’t paint the whole picture.  I recommend either calling the company to help you figure it out or having your wallpaper hanger measure your space, deducting for window and doors and factoring in pattern repeat and drops in the paper. They can then tell you accurately how much to order.  

Thank you for the great advice, Joe  It’s been fun learning more about what is popular and what to look for.  And remember: measure twice, order once.

Registered Interior Designer Lic # 5736, LEED AP
Chic on the Cheap