Projects & Improvements

The Easier, Cheaper Alternative to Wallpaper You Need to Know About

published Mar 23, 2021
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Removable wallpaper is a favorite trick of designers, DIYers, and others who are looking to add some color and pattern to their walls. It’s a great solution for renters or people who like to change up the look of their space often. But removable wallpaper has a downside: It can be downright expensive.

Classic wallpaper can be cheaper than removable wallpaper, but it also has a downside: It’s permanent. 

Thankfully, you don’t have to choose between cute-but-expensive and cheap-but-permanent. Skip the wallpaper outright and instead set your sights on fabric feature walls.

Hanging fabric on your walls — specifically as an accent wall — instead of wallpaper isn’t a new concept, but it’s worth talking about.  Think of the fabric feature wall as the distant relative you once thought was strange, but now that you’re an adult, you realize they’re actually very cool and have lived a super interesting life, and you can’t wait to get to know them more.  That’s the fabric feature wall.

Here’s why the fabric feature wall takes the cake in my book.

It offers texture. Wallpaper can come in amazing patterns and styles, but a fabric feature wall can offer something standard wallpaper can’t: texture and softness.

Texture can really change the feel of a room and this is an easy way to incorporate that element into your walls.

The softness that fabric can bring to a wall can also help set the vibe of your space as the relaxing oasis you might need right now.

It’s cheap. Picking up a few yards of fabric at your local fabric store definitely beats spending $72 on a 2’ x 12’ strip of removable wallpaper. You could also repurpose oversized curtains or other fabric materials you already own.

It allows for spontaneity. It’s very easy to remove a fabric feature wall (even if you use liquid starch to adhere it to your wall), so if you’re into redecorating, it’s easy to swap out or take down altogether.

The application process is super simple. The wallpaper application process can be strenuous.  The fabric wall application process is not.  I’ve personally done it two separate times, and it’s pretty simple and very forgivable if you don’t get it just quite right.  

There are essentially three different ways to create a fabric feature wall: permanent, semi-permanent, and not at all permanent. Here’s how to pull off each of them.

How to Make a Permanent Fabric Feature Wall

To apply fabric to your walls, you’ll need:

  • your fabric of choice
  • pushpins
  • craft or utility knife
  • a paint roller and tray
  • paint brush
  • a flat edge, such as a credit card or wallpaper applicator
  • wallpaper paste or liquid starch (use wallpaper paste for a very permanent application, use liquid starch for a sturdy-but-might-eventually-take-it-down application)

Apply a thin coat of wallpaper paste, and tack up your fabric with push pins. Once the fabric is up, apply a top coat of paste with a paint roller, and remove any excess paste or bubbles with a flat edge. Let it dry and cut away any excess fabric with a craft knife.

Check out our full tutorial for applying fabric as wallpaper for more tips and tricks.

How to Make a Semi-Permanent Fabric Feature Wall

For a semi-permanent fabric feature wall, John and Sherry from Young House Love had a bit simpler application process. I can personally vouch for this method.

To semi-permanently apply fabric to your walls, you’ll need:

  • your fabric of choice
  • staple gun
  • exacto knife
  • pushpins (optional)

Sherry said she started in the top right corner of the wall and stapled every few inches while pulling the fabric taut in between each staple (you could also use pushpins to help do this before you begin), and then she ran a craft knife around the perimeter once she was done. You can see her entire tutorial here.

When and if you’re ready to remove it, you simply pull out the staples and patch the wall holes as needed.

How to Make a Not-at-All Permanent Fabric Feature Wall

Another unique thing about working with fabric over wallpaper: you don’t have to apply it to the wall.  William McLure used fabric on a Kirsch track to not only act as a wall divider in his loft, but it brings in such a softness to the space and could be switched out super easily.

How to DIY Fabric Wall Art

Don’t want to take over the whole wall? You can DIY your own frame or wrap your fabric of choice over a canvas and display it as wall art. Eve (@evebydesigns1) shows how she wrapped a shower curtain (but you could also use a regular curtain) around a DIY frame to create a bold art piece in this TikTok.  She shows her full DIY process here.

Whether you choose to permanently paste your wallpaper to the wall or wrap it around a huge DIY frame, using fabric over wallpaper still flaunts the same benefits: It’s easy, affordable, and a worthwhile option to consider when decorating your home.