Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Glory of Black and White

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take on a design challenge that I have wanted to tackle for years... Fabric covered walls. I've yet to have a client who is brave enough but my friend Beth was game and willing to take the plunge. To make matters more interesting, the fabric we chose was an enormous, abstract black and white, palm leaf print. Each leaf measuring about 1' x 2' against a white background. Very graphic...when you hear a designer comment on a room "having punch", this feel like you've just absorbed a right upper cut to the jaw.

You can do this simple project. Having another person makes the job sooooo much easier. Here's what you'll need...

  • measurements of the wall
  • appropriate yardage
  • staple gun
  • scissors
  • appropriate trim pieces...more on that later
  • brad nailer or hammer and finishing nails
  1. Measure wall height and width. Break this down into square feet then convert to yardage. If you're mathematicaly challenged like me, ask your 5th grader or your friendly fabric store employee, they'll know. Always allow for a 10% overage for mistakes.
  2. Cut your panels according to wall height...leave 2" at the top and bottom and ends of walls or corners. Most fabric is 54" wide so hang the panels lengthwise. REMEMBER...measure twice, cut once!
  3. Get out the staple gun, if you've never used one, please take a minute to familiarize yourself with how it works and do a few test shots somewhere inconspicuous. Hold the fabric tight and straight at the top of the wall (where it meets the ceiling) and fire away. Here you don't have to leave a 2" overage, the trim will cover that later. This is also where you need the extra set of hands. If this is the edge of the wall or the corner, attach the fabric at the ceiling first, then work your way down the corner wall or edge...smoothing and checking for wrinkles as you go, leaving the 2" overlay.
  4. The next panel needs a 1" crease ironed on the side so the printing or frayed edge of the fabric doesn't show. Continue stapling this one at the top first then smooth down the first panel because it's going to be stapled under the second panel along the edge, this is where that smooth, ironed edge will be showing on top and it will look crisp and clean.
  5. Continue on your way down the wall keeping an eye out for outlets. You can simply cut out a 1" x 2" slot for the outlet because when the fabric is attached to the bottom wall (last step) the switchplate will go on top of the fabric and get screwed back in to the outlet.
  6. Make sure all panels are wrinkle free and there ar no outlets covered without a slit cut into them. Have your helper smooth out the panel from the top down and staple the bottom of the fabric panel to the wall at the top of the existing trim. (if you don't have trim already, take the fabric to the floor, with your 2"overage and you can install trim over this).
  7. If you're not confident enough for the trim work then find someone who is to help you. This really is easy, promise. The guys at Home Depot will even cut your trim for you, just remember to take the measurements with you. Trim width will vary but I suggest a 1" finishing trim painted white. The trim will be nailed over all your fabric panel seams...where there is a staple pattern, there will be the trim to cover it up and give it a finished look. Don't cheat on this part with liquid nails to attach the trim, you'll be sorry, have a mess and it won't hold tight.
  8. When you're finished, your panels should be smooth, relatively straight (DO NOT choose a striped fabric for this project unless you're a glutton for punishment) and framed out with the trim.
It sounds a little complicated but really, you can do this. The toughest part of this entire project is cutting the trim pieces accurately and getting them up. This is where you call in your husband if you're not up to the task. I urge you to try it yourself first. It's quite empowering to tackle an unfamiliar project and actually have it turn out right!

Good luck and let me know if any of you will take this on. I think I may try it on one of my walls in the bedroom...


  1. I'm decorationally brave?! This, my friend, is a high compliment coming from you.

  2. You are brave, I can't name too many people who would have taken the plunge! Pat yourself on the back!

  3. Do you have any photos of past or current decorating projects you've done? That fabric wall you did at your friend's house sounds divine, but I would like to see how it looks before trying to do myself. Thanks.

  4. WOW mom great blog mine is better! ha ha ha ha ha. Just kidding! Well i don't know ok!