How To Create a Modular Wall Covering

How To Create a Modular Wall Covering

Ronee Saroff
Feb 26, 2010

The inspiration for this wall treatment came from a kids bedding catalog I received in the mail several years ago. The catalog is long gone, but the clipping has been in my idea folder ever since, just waiting for the right time and place.

We tweaked the original design quite a bit, creating a modular system of foam core squares instead of applying the treatment directly to the wall. This way, we could replace squares that get damaged or modify the design as needs and interests change without having to repair or re-paint the whole wall.

Though this application is for a child's room, it could easily work in a home office, kitchen, or dorm room. We chose to use cork, chalkboard paint, and maps, but a range of materials could be used such as peg board, fabric, metal sheeting, wallpaper, or magnetic paint. We also considered using sheet music, anatomical drawings, blueprints, sewing and knot patterns, crossword puzzles, game boards, the periodic table, and a vintage boy scouts manual. But we'll save those for a future project!

What You Need

Foam core
Cork sheeting or contact paper
Chalk board paint
Spray adhesive
Double-stick foam tape/hook and loop tape

X-Acto knife
Foam paint roller
Cutting mat


1. Measure the wall to determine the size and number of squares you will need. We chose three rows of 15" squares, leaving a 3 1/4" border on either side.

2. Cut the foam core into squares using a metal ruler or T-square and an X-Acto knife. When cutting foam core, it is important that the blade be very sharp to avoid shredding the foam. For a clean edge, make three passes with the knife: first through the top layer of paper, next through the foam, and last through the bottom layer of paper. Leaning the knife slightly into the metal edge of the ruler will produce a cleaner line.

3. Apply two to three coats of chalk board paint to the appropriate number of squares with a foam roller.

4. Carefully remove the backing from the cork contact paper. Place foam core on top and cut excess with an X-Acto knife. Starting in the center, press down and out toward the edges to remove any air bubbles. This can be done with your hands, a brayer, or a rolling pin, but avoid using a straight edge tool as the cork can easily tear.

5. Spray the remaining foam core squares with adhesive. Allow two-three minutes for the glue to become tacky. Cover with maps, smooth to remove air bubbles, and cut excess with an X-Acto knife.

6. After marking your border on the wall, use a level to draw straight lines along the side and bottom edges.

7. Place double-sided foam tape or hook and loop tape on the back of each square and attach the bottom row wall along the lines. This row will act as a guide for attaching the rest of the squares. Depending on the size of your installation, you could also apply your foam core to a piece of plywood and attach to the wall with sawtooth picture hangers.

8. To accommodate a light switch or other permanent fixture, remove the cover and make a template out of paper. Place the template over the foam core square and make the necessary cut outs with an X-Acto knife.

Images: Ronee Saroff

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