Though wallpaper fell out of favor for a while, patterned walls have been showing strong in recent years. But, wallpaper isn't an option for every room. You may have lease restrictions that prohibit wallpaper or a small budget that won't allow for professional installation. Perhaps you just enjoy frequent decor changes and don't want to worry about stripping the paper when you tire of the pattern. Whatever your reason, here are five ways to add pattern to your walls without wallpapering:
Reversible Fabric Wallpaper
For a fully wallpapered look that leaves zero damage when you move -- or when you just get an urge to redecorate -- affix patterned fabric to your walls using liquid starch. You simply brush a coat of a starch on the wall before applying the fabric, and then brush a second layer on once the fabric is in place. When it's time to remove it, you just pull the fabric from the walls and give them a quick wash with soap and water. As a bonus, you can reuse the fabric elsewhere once you launder it. Be sure to buy extra fabric for matching up the pattern, and then cut it carefully so the vertical and horizontal repeats align. The look works best with smooth, unblemished walls and light- to medium-weight fabrics.
If you like the idea of fabric-covered walls but you have damaged or textured walls -- such as old plaster, textured paint, paneling, or cinder block -- consider upholstering the walls instead of hanging the fabric with starch. Start by affixing a layer of quilt batting to the walls. With drywall or wood paneling, you can staple the batting directly to the wall. If you have plaster, cinder block or faux wood paneling made from hardboard, screw a grid of furring strips to the walls and staple the batting to the furring strips.
As with fabric wallpaper, buy extra yardage and cut carefully to allow for pattern matching. You can staple each fabric panel to the wall independently, or stitch the panels together on your sewing machine first. With sewn panels, you only need to staple around the perimeter of the room, and around windows and doors. Whichever option you choose, hide the exposed staple lines with ribbon, upholstery nail heads, or decorative gimp.
For a vibrant, eclectic patterned wall look, use old photos, post cards, magazine pages, or other paper goods to create a wall collage. After gathering your collage materials, arrange them into an overlapping design that completely covers the wall surface. Don't worry about trying to make it perfect; the goal is a slightly messy, collected over time look.
If you're renting and can't make permanent changes to the walls, affix your collage pieces using double-sided tapes. It's usually low tack enough to come free without damaging or leaving a sticky residue. If you own your place, or if your landlord allows you to paint, consider covering the walls with magnetic paint. Then, attach your collage pieces with tiny butt-n-like magnets. You can also decoupage the collage onto the wall, but it's not easily reversible. Unless you're sure you'll love the look for years to come, consider decoupaging your collage onto plywood or MDF panels, and then screw the panels onto the walls. You'll still have some holes to fill, but it's much easier than scraping away the decoupage medium.
You don't need artistic talent to paint pattern on your walls if you use stencils. The stencils do the work for you, and they're especially ideal for wallpaper-inspired repeating designs. You can even buy stencils based on well-known historical designs, such as the stylized patterns designed by William Morris or Frank Lloyd Wright. If you've fallen for a vintage wallpaper or fabric pattern but don't have enough to do an entire wall or room, you can even create your own stencil inspired by the shapes in the design.
Framed Wall Panels
For another renter-friendly way to add pattern to your walls, frame vintage wallpaper or fabric scraps in large, repurposed picture frames from the flea market or thrift store. Paint the frames to match the molding in your room, and then hang them in a row or grid for an architectural effect. Or, opt for smaller frames -- each containing a different framed fabric or wallpaper -- and hang them in a grouping on a focal point or accent wall. Either way, the eye will register the framed patterned pieces as pattern on the wall.