Wondering About the Walls

By Kate Riley September 8, 2011

It’s that time again, I always look forward to these articles by guest contributor Courtney Lake.  Courtney writes the DIY blog Courtney Out Loud and he is back this month with a predicament. 

Courtney is searching for the perfect statement to make on the walls of his master bedroom.  Follow along with his interesting thought process as he weighs his options in deciding what to do in The Case of the Problematic Bedroom Walls.  Perhaps you can help him find the perfect solution. 

“If you ever wondered how I met Kate, it was through paint…well stenciling to be exact.  For some reason, I ended up stumbling upon Kate’s site the day she debuted her bedroom stencil last year.  It so happened that I had just completed a similar trellis stencil a few days earlier in my own home which I shared with her via email.  One thing led to another and Kate kindly featured my living room stencil on her site and thus began our DIY blogger friendship.

Fast forward a year later and I stand in my master bedroom stumped about what to do on the walls. 

Master Bedroom

 Image: Courtney Lake

The bedroom is on the third floor in what would have been attic space, and has one huge issue.  The walls are a mix of angles, peaks, and curves that have proven to be a real challenge for me.

The one thing I do know is that I do not want to do another stencil.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the stencils I have done in the other parts of my home, but because I have done them already throughout my house, I am looking for something different.

I turned to the internet and sought inspiration and found it in the form of Phillip Jefferies wall coverings. This New Jersey based company produces some of the most beautiful natural fiber wall coverings on the market. In particular, their Rivets line caught my eye – metallic inks hand printed on a background of woven hemp – it is simply breath taking.

Phillip Jefferies collage

Images: Phillip Jefferies

What was also breath taking was the price – $89/foot with a 24 foot minimum or over $2000 for just the wallpaper alone.  While inspired, I was also left deflated knowing that I could not afford such a pricey splurge. I briefly contemplated a DIY painted version of the wallpaper but quickly nixed the idea remembering that the whole point of this exercise was to avoid stenciling, so I continued my search.

Here’s what I also discovered as I searched through the wonderful and at times wacky world of wall coverings.

Nailhead Trim  Normally as home owners we spend a good portion of our housebound lives avoiding placing holes in our walls, but I challenge you to think otherwise. Applying decorative nailhead trim on your walls provides you with instant glam, masculinity and texture.

However, this technique is not for the faint of heart, those who change their mind often or who are afraid of math.  It is a commitment but one I think I would gladly take considering how closely the look mimics my beloved Phillip Jefferies wallpaper.

 Nailhead Trim collage

Images: House Beautiful, Lynn Monday

Paper Backed Fabric   Did you know that you could make your own wallpaper?  Through a process called “paper backing” you can turn upholstery grade fabrics into wallpaper.  An acrylic latex coating is applied to the back of the fabric allowing it be used just like regular wallpaper.

Designer Sarah Richardson has done this on several occasions in her TV projects and it seems like a great candidate for those seeking non-traditional textiles on their walls. That was the case with designer Anne Kyyro Quinn who uses the paper backing process on felt to create beautiful tactile and sculptural wall coverings.

 Images: Anne Kyyro Quinn Leather

Nothing says luxe like leather. No denying it, a room lined in sumptuous leather is like being hugged by your rich uncle’s second wife – you know some money was spent to get that look. 

After talking with the people at York Street Studios, a premier retailer fine leather goods and leather wall upholstery, they assured me that while leather walls were an investment, they were something that was easily maintainable and durable, easily taking a beating and come out better for it.

I just an not so sure that the sales force at York have encountered kids running amuck with sticky hands, a dog who refuses to be house broken and a clumsy partner with a penance for spilling stuff.  If leather walls can stand up to that, then I will gladly plunk down the cash.

 Leather Walls collage

Images: York Street Studio, Studio Art

Mirror  Forget the tacky wall-to-wall mirrors of the 70s and 80s. I am thinking antiqued panels with patina and distress that fill a room with romance.  A mirrored wall will visually expand a room but in turn, it will also reflect anything you may have been trying to hide on the other side of the room.

My master bedroom is overflowing with quirky architecture but not great views and I am less than enthralled to see my laundry basket repeated into infinity on a mirrored wall. 

Mirror collage

Images: Elle Décor, Skona Hem

Decoupage  Decoupage – it isn’t just for crafting anymore! UK based designer, Kevin McCloud has taken decoupage to new heights, using the technique to bring dimension and even architectural elements to plain painted walls.

Before you bust out your Mod Podge, remember that decoupaging a wall is just as much of a commitment, if not more, than wallpaper. Any imperfections on the wall will be amplified by the technique and once you tire of it, unlike wallpaper, you will need to probably patch or replace the dry wall when it’s removed.

Decoupage collage

 Images: Kevin McCloud

Photography   Why not make a big statement to add personal meaning like Brian Patrick Flynn of the blog Décor Demon did using personal photographs. Galen Gondolfi did a similar treatment in his entrance way. By having personal photos blown up as a mural Brian & Galen were able to infuse a sense of self into the room and save dough by not having to splurge on artwork. It’s a bold design statement and also huge testaments to familial bonds since you really have to like the person(s) you are blowing up to super human size. 

Photo collage

Images: Galen Gondolfi, Brian Patrick Flynn

Moss   While I am pretty sure this is not the solution I am looking for, Oki Sato’s take on wall covering is unique.  Using dried moss, Sato created a filigree-like pattern on the walls of his Tokyo apartment bridging the gap between indoors and outdoors in a city defined by its lack of natural surroundings. I could see this being used outdoors as an accent wall in a garden or as part of an urban landscape.

Moss Oki Sato 2

Image: Oki Sato So

After all the research on various wall coverings, where do I stand?  Well I’m a lot more knowledgeable about the possibilities out there, and convinced with a little more digging, the perfect wall covering is waiting for me to discover it.” 

What say you?  Have any ideas for the walls in Courtney’s bedroom?  Since he loves textured natural wall coverings, I’d love to see grasscloth wallpaper on the wall behind the bed with a similar tone paint color on the angled ceiling and surrounding walls. Lowes carries the Patton Wallcoverings line of beautiful Decorator Grasscloth in all colors and in various woven textures at affordable prices.  Perhaps a complementary woven shade in the window too.

I love the idea of nailhead trim, don’t you?  I’m thinking he could use pewter nails to define that angled wall.  Whether he chooses a backdrop in a subtle shade of gray or a deep hue like navy blue, the use of grasscloth and/or nailhead trim would make quite a statement together as they do on this this piece of furniture.  And how cool is the use of nailhead trim used in this bedroom space by Mary MacDonald?

What do you think Courtney could or should do with the walls in his master bedroom?  Got any ideas for him?  Do share!




  1. If Courtney does decide to use the nailhead trim (which I think is fabulous, by the way) he should use the strip trim that I believe you used, Kate, in an earlier blog. That would make it so much easier to keep the lines straight. Good luck to you, Courtney. I am sure what ever you decide will be gorgeous.

  2. I would go with wallpaper on the far wall only and paint the rest out to match. Would give great impact for minimum time and investment. I would paint all the walls a light colour and use a high impact wall paper. Nail head trim is also interesting though not to my taste but again I would keep whatever impact to just the headboard wall, covering all those angles with interest would give me a headache (as the moss walls you show do). It can just be too much.

  3. I LOVE the Life-size posters! You wouldn’t have to do a person, would you? The nail-head trim is fabulous, and I think would look great in a room that has right angles. But Grass-cloth has such a luxurious textural element to it. Oh, the choices! I’m sure whatever Courtney chooses it will be tasteful and striking! Good luck!

  4. I think he should check into some sort of old metal that has rusted a bit. I’ve been wanting to try a rusty metal wallcovering, but I’m too scared. Maybe Courtney can give it a shot.

  5. Home by Novogratz likes to use large photos (esp of the family’s kids) as wallpaper and the results are stunning…

    Here’s one they did as a collage http://www.hgtv.com/decorating-basics/stylish-and-eclectic-makeovers-from-home-by-novogratz/pictures/index.html


    (which seems sort of narcissitic as an adult IMHO) and I don’t see pics of the kids’ room they did but the pic with the children was stunning

    I’ve also tried the paper backed fabric and had a lot of problems with it – make sure to get advice on the correct fabric to use as it makes all the difference.

  6. What about using hardwood flooring on the walls? I recently spotted an entire pallet of vintage gym flooring at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It had all the painted stripes on it and with a little sanding it could have looked even more distressed. That would be perfect as a feature wall. A picture of the flooring is on my blog in this post: http://www.thetallchickblog.com/2011/06/time-on-my-hands-and-lights-on-my-brain_22.html. Also, here’s an example of flooring on the walls, http://pinterest.com/pin/164085483/.

    Another thought would be to use these awesome wall tiles. They would add tons of style to the space and they could be painted, too. Love some of their designs! http://www.3dwalldecor.com/

    Either way, I’m sure whatever Courtney decides will be fabulous! Loved your post!

  7. I assume that is a window above the bed? I’d love to see curtains hung on either side of it to give the illusion of a large window behind the bed. A green the color of the moss Courtney showed, or the green in the tufted velvet couches he also included would look so amazing in his space. It would fool the eye into thinking one sees green through the window. And it would be such a dramatic focal point for very little effort. I was excited to discover Courtney’s blog recently since he lives in my city!

  8. I just have to say that the comment about the rich uncle’s second wife almost made me spit my water out and ruin my laptop screen! I love a good post with some great humorous writing. I do think that the nailhead trim would be a good direction. Not for me, because I had to take college math more than one time (please don’t tell!), but I know Courtney could rock it out.

  9. Oh Wendy, you made me gasp in sheer delight! Croc wallpaper? Be still my heart! And Amanda, you’re right. That comment made me LOL too, isn’t he great?


  10. I love the picture on all the wall option, but maybe after a while I would love to change again…don’t know a lot of great inspirations btw!

  11. Oh my, Courtney cracks me up when he sneaks in those little side comments! Love him. I love that room and all the angles!! I too could see seagrass wallpaper on the back wall, or even a board and batten type feature on the wall. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with. I know it will be fabulous!!

  12. What a great, well-written article. I loved reading about all of your options. Fun, fun! I agree that grass cloth or nailheads are the two stand outs.

  13. I love it just as it is, but since you asked… what about slate behind the bed? There are some gorgeous polished slates or go with the unpolished for a bit of rustic-ness- – rusticity- – ummm, you know what I mean! :)

  14. Hi There,
    Well–if it were my room and I had to solve this problem I would purchase some custom plantation shutters for the windows to add some texture and a bit of interest. Then, I would simply play off the current colors of the bedroom. Paint the wall behind the bed a rich cocoa brown and paint the rest of the walls a subtle light blue/grey.

    Beyond that, I would take away the tree and the brown basket in the corners–and replace the two pictures on either side of the bed over the nightstands with something more substantial or hang nothing at all. I would also trim out the wall behind the bed with some decorative moulding painted in some shade of creamy white.

    It’s a wonderful room and I’m sure whatever he does will be fabulous!!!
    Have a great day,

  15. I too LOVE the idea of the crocodile paper on the headboard wall. Foil the dark textured feature wall with a light silver iridescent paint color on the remaining walls and ceilings. Since it appears that the window behind the bed isn’t being used for light or a focal point, why not cover it up completely with either a large mirror or beautiful artwork. Perhaps this is where the oversized photo comes into play. I could see and overscaled sepia image that is gallery wrapped on canvas. Add nail head trim to act as a textural frame by placing it about an inch in from the edges. I don’t have a link to provide, just came up with the idea :)
    Keep us posted with your decision!

  16. What a great collection of ideas! Thank you SO very much Courtney and Kate!

    Kate I just completed a project in which I used upolstery piping (welting/cording) for the first time. Your tutorial helped immensely. I hope you’ll come on by, I love how this sweet little $8 chair turned out.

  17. I love the idea of the nailhead trim on the wall behind the bed!
    I also think an ‘upholstered’ fabric on that wall would be nice. You can nail up lathes around the perimeter and staple the fabric up and add trim (and maybe batting?). Soooo many fabric options!

  18. Wait! I had another idea and forgot to add it in my first comment! What about those sheets of metallic material they sell at Home Depot and Lowe’s that look like old tin ceilings? I think something metallic in Courtney’s room would be gorgeous! Copper?

  19. I’d be concerned doing an elaborate and dark wall covering in such a small space, but the white-paneled leather effect (seen on left York Street Studio) is just BEAUTIFUL – though, in that case, it could just as easily be wood paneling with a mixed coat of light and dark waxes over a creamy white. Visually it would be the same, though lacking the touch… and lacking the pricetag. Haha.

    Being much more interested in wood myself, I’d suggest checking out: http://www.1kindesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/813.jpg by M. Elle Design

    The whole house is gorgeous, but this room offers similar problems – angles & tighter space. They lift the space with vertical planks for interest and height of the walls. Playing off the inherent architectural interest of the ceiling they framed and accented the slope.

    I’d also suggest doing something a bit different with the furnishings. Your dresser on the left is a big light sink, and it’s helping to make the space seem smaller. So, too, do the side tables. Maybe you could bring the funk/masculinity of the nail-head wall treatment by upholstering the tables in a lux white leather & nail head?

  20. One thing thing is that the large basket in the corner is the laundry basket and it has to stay in it’s current location (no closet space) and all the furniture is staying for the moment due to budget. Right now, the only thing changing in the room is walls – once those are finished, then we can slowly morph the room to fit the design aesthetic. Thanks everyone for the suggestions and comments! Keep them coming. It is interesting to hear everyone’s ideas on the space.

  21. I see a very pale blue on the ceiling walls, like you are looking up at the sky. I think that would open up the angled walls more. Then leather or nailhead on the other walls.

  22. I love the suggestions to use wood flooring for the wall behind the bed! Also love the croc wallpaper idea too. Courtney, please share what you decide when you’re finished, I’m sure it will look great!

  23. I vote for crushed capiz shells modge-podge-ed to the wall in stripes to draw the eye up! Will reflect light but not laundry baskets :)

  24. I love the nail head idea… so many possibilities. I do think he could splurge on the wall behind the headboard and then use paint on all the other walls/surfaces. Maybe even different colors to accent all the angles in the rooms. Why try to hide it when you could just embrace it.

  25. I, too, was tired of wallpaper after using it for years and then moving into a home 15 years ago that they applied wallpaper in every room directly onto the walls without prepping. After steaming and peeling and peeling, we were successful in removing all the paper, a couple of rooms each year. One room we left an additional 8 years and after being on the walls for so long, we couldn’t seem to get it off with out some serious dings/gouges.
    Rather than the expense of sheet rock, I elected to go for a leather look, as this was my office and I was dying to accent it with animal prints. I saw this process done with paper grocery sacks but used rust colored kraft paper instead.
    Tearing it up in sizes from a sheet of paper and large, I crumpled the kraft paper up, wet the wall with old fashioned wallpaper paste, smoothed it on and painted more paste over the top. As it wrinkled and creased, it looks like well worn leather.
    All in all, I did a 10′ x 12 ft in 2 hours for about $25.00. I have more compliments on it than most any other room. I have bamboo and expresso furniture in it with dark woodwork. Although, most people originally think of it as masculine when they hear of it, the candles, plants and leather animal statues soften it.
    I think your room would like great in the same color scheme or a graphite grey color. Good look in choosing – all the ideas are fabulous. I love the thought of the nailhead trim.

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