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Before and After: These Walls Mimic High-End Wallpaper (for Under $2!)

published Dec 3, 2019
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White walls can be beautiful. They’re bright, fresh, and go with everything. They transcend styles—working with looks that range from farmhouse-y to mid-century modern—and can make rooms look bigger. But white walls can also just be a little… boring.

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Rachel Kernighan was getting that feeling in her powder room, which—while lovely—felt a little lacking. “I knew it was time to add something to this room as it just felt so bland and sterile and needed something to warm it up and give this space a little personality,” Rachel says.

The ideal look? Wallpaper. “I had seen so many gorgeous wallpapered bathrooms and knew this room would be perfect for something along those lines,” Rachel says. “But it wasn’t in the budget to buy wallpaper, so I had to get creative.”

So with a kitchen sponge—bought at the grocery store for $1.49—and greige-toned paint (Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore) left over from another project, Rachel got to work re-creating the look of fancy wallpaper. First, she trimmed the corners of the sponge, creating a rounded oval shape on the long, thin edges. Then, she used the thin side to make an all-over pattern.

Rachel started from the ceiling and worked her way down. She slightly staggered the rows for a more natural, organic look. “About four rows in, I was panicking asking myself, ‘What have I done?’ but by the time I had finished one wall I was in love and went full steam ahead on finishing the room,” Rachel says.

To create some natural color variation and depth, Rachel didn’t dip her sponge before each print; instead, she let the sponge go lighter in some spots and heavier in others. For the areas around the trim, she cut a smaller sponge she had on hand to make those spots look consistent with the rest of the room.

The results look pretty darn convincing. “I have had guests in my home shocked to find out it isn’t actually wallpaper as the slightly textured paint and very natural pattern looks very much like a high-end wallpaper,” Rachel says. If you’re going to try this at home, Rachel has two pieces of advice: “I really recommend starting along the ceiling to get that first row level and working down from there,” she says. “And don’t over saturate your sponge with paint as that will lead to drips which can be a pain to keep wiping up as you go.”

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