Wallpapered Ceilings: The Latest Design Trend


It’s called wallpaper, because that’s where it’s intended to go: On the walls. It's been “hanging around” for 300 years, give or take.

In 1785, the first machine for printing wallpaper was invented. A few years later, a different machine that produced continuous lengths of paper was patented, which lead to the evolution of today’s rolled, pre-printed wallpaper.

Like many décor trends, wallpaper has fallen in and out of style. Its last heyday was in the 1980s, but it’s back in vogue on the walls – and the ceiling.

How to Do It

Hanging wallpaper on the walls is tricky and requires patience (and a second set of hands.) Hanging wallpaper on the ceiling presents its own set of challenges.

Suitable Surface

If you’re hoping that wallpaper will hide flaws in your ceiling, you’ll be disappointed. (And that includes popcorn ceilings. Sorry.)

The ceiling must be smooth, clean, and structurally intact. Older homes have ceilings that are prone to cracking. And if water damage is a possibility, well, forget it.

We suggest forgoing the wallpaper and trying another unique surface treatment such as exposed beams or embossed tin.

The Right Adhesive

Unlike your parent’s wallpaper, today’s papers are available in three variations:

  • Traditional paper that requires glue.
  • Pre-pasted paper that requires only water.
  • Peel and stick paper, that comes with removable backing.

If you’re decorating a rented space such as an apartment, or a child’s room that will change as they grow older, you may want to go with a removable paper. But be aware that it won’t last as long as high-quality traditional wallpaper.

On the other hand, if your taste changes or you plan on selling your home, removable paper will save you from the back-breaking work of scraping off paper and glue overhead.

Picking the Perfect Pattern

Wallpaper ceilings add contrast to an all-white room. If you hang a lot of wall art, your art won’t clash with papered walls.

But a papered ceiling comes with its own set of rules.

Darker shades and patterns on the ceiling tend to “lower” the ceiling, which may be desirable if you’re going for a cozy feel.

Conversely, lighter tones and designs can make a room feel larger.

If you want to brighten a room that doesn’t get much light, consider a metallic pattern.

Go Big or Go Small

Another consideration is the repeat of the pattern. Large-scale patterns, with a repetition of 12 inches or more can be easy on the eye – but pattern misalignment will be more obvious.

Small-scale patterns can hide tiny imperfections better, as any flaws will be literally over your head.

Don’t Neglect the Prep

Just like painting a room, the prep is essential. Repair any cracks or imperfections. Remove light fixtures and vent covers. And make sure the ceiling is clean, dry, and free of dirt and cobwebs.

If you are papering only the ceiling, you’ll want to tape off the walls where they meet the ceiling, then apply a specialty primer. This will help prevent damage to the surface if the paper is removed.

It’s highly recommended that you rent scaffolding instead of using a ladder. This is important as you will be reaching above your head and don’t want to lose your balance. And, unlike painting with a paint roller on an extension pole that extends your reach, you will be working at an arms-length from the ceiling. 

And it practically goes without saying that you should enlist a helper to hand you things, apply adhesive or water, and commiserate when things don’t quite line up. (Trust us, it will happen.)

If you’re bored with a plain white ceiling, why not give papering your ceiling a try? It’s a unique look that is sure to have you dancing for years to come.