Transform a Room on the Cheap with Wallpaper Borders

Wouldn't it be great if you could give a room an entirely new look without spending a lot of money or putting in a lot of work? Imagine creating a theme in minutes or radically altering the feel of a room without changing everything in it. You can do this, easily, by using wallpaper borders.

Wallpaper Borders Defined
Wallpaper border is printed, usually pre-pasted wall covering sold in 15-foot sheets. The width of these borders varies from 6 to 10 inches. While they're often used as a finishing touch for a complete wallpaper installation, they also stand on their own as a decorative element, making them a versatile, simple and cost-effective way to transform the look of a room.

Installation can be very simple. You'll need a measuring tape to cut lengths, a large, flat table to work on, a wallpaper roller to smooth out wrinkles and water and a wallpaper brush or sponge to activate the paste. Most wallpaper borders are pre-pasted. This isn't the strongest wallpaper paste available, which makes it very easy to remove the border down the road. If you're pasting over existing wallpaper, particularly vinyl, it may not hold, so you'll need to use a separate paste formulated for pasting on wallpaper.

There's one wallpaper-hanging trick to know: never wet the paste and stick the border on the wall. You need to let the paper soak for a few minutes before hanging, so that the paper can expand to its finished size. Attaching it too soon leads to wrinkles, bubbles and poor adhesion.

Not Just for Ceilings Anymore
The most common use of wallpaper border is as a finishing element at the top of the wall, where it meets the ceiling. You don't need to wallpaper a room to use a border, though. Any border that works with the current color scheme will add a finished, dramatic look to a room. It's also a great way to deal with those changing childhood fancies; you can put up the Spongebob Squarepants border now, then change it to a baseball-themed border in a couple of years for a very small investment.

Don't limit borders to the ceiling. Running borders around the base of the room, just above the baseboard, can add height to a space by making the top of the room appear more open. For a cozy look, use wallpaper borders near the center of the walls, as you would use wainscotting. You can create a wainscotting effect by using a darker paint at the bottom of the wall, a lighter color at the top and a wallpaper border in between to finish the effect.

Dramatic Valances
Wallpaper borders can also be the basis of dramatic window treatments that add color and pop to a plain room. Here's how to do it:

  1. Construct a box valance out of 1x6, 1x8 or 1x10 pine. The simplest way to do this is to cut two four-inch or six-inch pieces for the sides, then attach them to a front piece with metal angle brackets from the hardware store. The brackets get mounted on the back, so that you can't see them.
  2. Cover the entire pine surface with wallpaper border. You can match the size of the border to the pine, or trim the top and bottom off the border. At the bottom of the valance, roll the wallpaper border underneath and a little up the back, so that you cover the exposed wood. Alternately, you can paint the bottom edges of the wood in a color that complements the border.
  3. Attach the box valance to the wall at the top of a window, so that it covers the top trim.
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