If Walls Could Talk: Recovering From Past Decorating Mistakes

picture of a potential decorating mistake


Sometimes redecorating isn’t about bringing in a new style that you love as much as it’s about recovering from past mistakes and vowing not to repeat them. Maybe your taste simply changed, or maybe the design disaster lies at the feet of previous homeowners. However it happened, if your walls are screaming for help, there are ways to recover from outdated décor, and, just in case you are tempted, ways to achieve similar looks with a contemporary twist.



Worn Out Wallpaper

old wornout wallpaper with cowboys on itPerhaps it was blue checked with a country cow border, or maybe it was a shimmery background with tiny lavender flowers, or possibly burgundy toile. Whatever wallpaper swatch seems perfect in the sample book years ago now seems outdated and tired on your walls. Your best bet for recovering from a wallpaper faux pas is to remove it. Painting over it seems easier, but it’s a risk since wet paint can cause wallpaper to bubble and peel.

Luckily, there are several ways to remove wallpaper. Each involves elbow grease and scraping, but the effort pays off in fresh, clean walls. How difficult the process is depends on how many layers of paper there are, and how well it was adhered. The first option is the use of a scouring tool to make tiny holes in the paper before scraping it off. The second option involves using a steamer to heal and dampen the paper, which will loosen the adhesive. The DIY Network offers a detailed video demonstrating both processes.

However, wallpaper is coming back in vogue (though the borders that were trendy in the early 90s are not). If you are craving the big visual impact wallpaper makes, This Old House offers a wallpaper buying guide that explains the latest trends in wall covering and how to hang them. If you love the look, but not the risk of needing to remove it down the road, painted wall stencils are an easy way to get a graphic pattern that can quickly be painted over. For a contemporary look, opt for a stenciled accent area, rather than a whole room. Houzz offers a how-to guide for using wall stencils.


Outdated Wood Paneling

The thought of wood paneling probably conjures up images of shag carpeting and harvest gold appliances. If you are hoping to trade in your dark wood paneling for a more contemporary design, your best bet is to remove it. To safely rid your walls of paneling, you’ll need to remove any molding and then use a pry bar to lift at one end of the wood sheet. As the paneling comes loose, you’ll work your way down the wall, removing nails as you go. eHow At Home has an excellent video detailing the process.

The upside to paneling is that the vertical lines between the wood sections can give the optical illusion of higher ceilings. If you like the look of slated wood, without the dark color of the paneling of yesteryear, wainscoting is a trendy option. When installing to chair-height, white wainscoting looks crisp and clean under brightly painted walls. The look is especially popular in casual dining rooms, bathrooms and hallways. If installing wainscoting sounds like a job you might want to tackle, check out Lowe’s DIY guide for step-by-step instructions.


Heavy Texturing

popcorn ceilingAccording to many realtors, heavy texture, especially the infamous “popcorn” ceiling, ranks right up there with outdated kitchens and bathrooms as turnoffs for potential homebuyers. If heavy wall or ceiling texture is weighing you down, it is possible to remove it. However, if your home was built before the 80s, you’ll need to proceed with caution because ceiling texture material may contain asbestos. The Environmental Protection Agency offers a guide for testing for and dealing with asbestos.

The process to remove ceiling texture is fairly straightforward, albeit messy. After covering the room in drop cloth, you’ll need to dampen the offending texture before scraping it off. Do It Yourself provides a step-by-step guide that explains the process completely.

Though flat or lightly textures walls and ceilings are currently on trend, the heavier textures of days gone by did serve a purpose. They are excellent at muffling sound, and more, importantly, they camouflage imperfections. Plan to leave on, or replace, a bit of texture, rather that going the completely flat route. Before jumping in to this DIY project, it’s a good idea to consult a professional.


Love Today, Laugh Tomorrow

Design trends come and go. No matter how much you try stick with décor that will stand the test of time, there will come a day when you find your home in need of refreshing. The best you can hope for is that you love it today, and are able to laugh about it later.

What design mistakes are you living with? When you look at your wallpaper, do you wonder what you were thinking? Do you have a good story about home decor that looked good one decade and terrible the next? Tell us in the comments below. If you share a particularly good story, we’ll amend it to the blog, with your permission of course!

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