Ask the Experts: The Wallpaper Artist

Photo: Victor Prado/New York Magazine

You wallpapered Lena Dunham’s Brooklyn Heights home. Tell us about it.
She ordered our foils for her dining room; our glow-in-the-dark paper for her closets and bathroom; and handprinted sticker wallpaper for her living room and bedroom. Her home is actually more humble and understated than people would presume.

How do you know if you’ve chosen the right design?
Follow your gut. If there’s something you respond to at first, go for it or order a sample and live with it for a few days and see how it looks with the lighting and décor of your home. Remember that the pattern will really transform a room, so it may be difficult to imagine the final look.

What are your thoughts on wallpapering just one wall?
You could do it to save money, but I think it looks a bit unbalanced.

What if you’re afraid of committing? Or live in a shoebox?
Wallpaper looks gorgeous in small spaces. Don’t be afraid of patterns either. I don’t believe that wallpaper makes a space look cramped or overwhelming. If anything, it provides a wonderful way to draw your eye away from something that’s awkward, like your desk that’s probably a little too big.

Are decorative wall decals a viable alternative to wallpaper?
No. I’ve always thought they look chintzy.

What if you rent?
You can still use wallpaper. Frame it and treat it as art or adhere it to furniture like a desk, headboard or a vanity that has an inset top. We rent, and planned on taking ours down, but I think our landlords will be happy if we leave it up.

Do you recommend hiring a pro to hang wallpaper?
Absolutely. Hire someone who’s part of the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers. An expert makes your life so much easier and does a really good job. You don’t want to pay for something that you’re not happy with—or worse, that will need to be redone. You want someone who knows what to do.

And if the budget requires a DIY method?
Be very precise: Measure twice, cut once. It’s about taking your time more than anything. In terms of color, think about how rooms lead into one another.

What tools do you need?
Lots of very soft cloths for cleaning up mistakes and squeegees for smoothing out bubbles. For paste, it depends on what type of paper you’re using. If it’s vinyl or Mylar, you should use professional-grade pre-mixed vinyl paste. For other papers, you can just use a professional-grade wheat paste or nonstaining cellulose paste.

What if you need to remove it?
The paper that’s used today for wallpaper is not such a headache to take down—especially when you use liner paper.

What do you do with leftover wallpaper?
I use it to line my drawers or trays, or repurpose it as wrapping paper.

Favorite wallpaper in NYC?
It’s in the show Sleep No More. The wallpaper is a focal point that really sets the scene and adds drama.

Trick of the Trade
Line your walls first with liner paper. It hides bumps and makes whatever you apply easier to remove. You can get it at the local hardware store.”

Ask the Experts: The Wallpaper Artist