Is all wallpaper passe?

bethesdamadmanApril 27, 2008

This is in reference to a thread below where a seller asked for comments on the pictures in a listing. I have a general question and didn't want to hijack that thread. I noticed that there were numerous negative comments about the wallpaper in the bathroom and I was just wondering: Is all the negativity because the wallpaper was too dark and/or personalized, or is the reaction based on a feeling that wallpaper in general is passe and should be taken down and the rooms painted prior to putting a house on the market?

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I made the comments about wallpaper in that post because to me wallpaper is too taste specific and a real bit## to take down if the walls haven't been prepped properly. So sellers would have to find the buyers that like their tulips, or dark colors, or floral prints or southwest or country wallpaper or sell to someone that anticipates a lot of work removing the wallpaper and painting.

Buyers tend to over estimate the work, time and money involved in any home improvement project. So why not appeal to the broadest range of buyers, do the work for them -- remove all paper and paint the walls.

I do think that in vintage homes, wallpaper that is consistent with the era of the home isn't a no-no.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 8:23AM
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A lot of the wallpaper that we see on the selling and decorating boards reflect the time that it was installed. Small prints, mauves, blues, hunter greens ... When someone is buying a home, they probably won't be crazy about the seller's 15 year old decorating choices.

Taking down wall paper is usually a giant PITA. Rarely do people take the extra steps when installing it to make sure that it comes off cleanly. That's why it can be such a turn off.

There is some gorgeous wallpaper out there. Unfortunately, most people don't have up to date wallpaper

Here is a link that might be useful: I love Thibaut paper

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 8:49AM
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Not only is taking it down a PITA, but getting the walls back to paintable condition can be a PITA too. I hate wallpaper enough that I would probably put 'all wallpaper must be removed and walls smooth and primed' in an offer. I don't mind painting, so wouldn't ask the sellers to do that.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 9:35AM
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Tastes are too subjective. But passe, dated? Who makes those determinations? HGTV, Pottery Barn, BHG? My preference, however, would be to deal with a paint color that didn't work for me as opposed to stripping wallpaper. I'd look long and hard at a potential home purchase if every room was papered up or had borders everywhere because, frankly, I'm beyond the point where I would ever want to do more than pour over paint cards.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:27AM
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"Tastes are too subjective. But passe, dated? Who makes those determinations? HGTV, Pottery Barn, BHG?"

No, I think the public at large makes those decisions. For example, one doesn't need HGTV to tell them that olive green kitchen appliances have been passe since the 70s. Or that shiny brass light fixtures scream 80s and 90s. I was just wondering if wallpaper in general falls into that category as well.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 12:09PM
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I have yet to see a wallpaper that I like. The only time that I might be able to tolerate it is in an old farmhouse, or vintage Victorian...but I wouldn't be buying a house like that anyway.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 12:12PM
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Hmmm...maybe a look into the history of wallpaper manufacture and sales?

It's very unlikely that I will be wallpapering any large areas ever again.

Hah! I just remembered that DH and I papered the tiny bathroom in our first apartment a few weeks before our wedding. (Yes, it was a test. LOL)

I papered a kitchen in a townhouse once, finishing late in the evening. The next morning all the strips had peeled down from ceiling to a point a yard off the floor.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 12:17PM
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Most wallpaper is too patterned for my taste. I have seen wallpaper making a bit of a comeback in local model homes, but it is generally very muted in pattern or the paintable embossed style that offers texture only.

I've stripped plenty of wallpaper. It is often a messy, difficult job. For me personally, I would consider wallpaper a "fixer-upper" option, and make my offer accordingly.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 12:59PM
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Between my sister and myself, we subscribe to lots of modern shelter mags, like Domino, Dwell, Architectural Digest, etc. I see wallpaper a lot in these mags. I myself really dig wallpaper, but not necessarily other people's wallpaper, if that makes sense. Just like paint colors, except it's easy to repaint over someone's paint, but taking down wallpaper can be a terrible experience.

IF the wallpaper was put on over properly PRIMED sheetrock there is a good chance that the wallpaper will come down fairly nicely. However, many of the older homes had wallpaper slapped up over unprimed sheetrock and so when you peel it off, all you get are ripped and pock-marked walls that look bad,and then you must become really really good with mudding and sanding. All of this is such a pain when all one is looking for is a different color on the wall.

And IMO, most people now know they should have a more neutral decor for a faster sell, but the reason they don't strip the wallpaper is because they put it up and they KNOW what's behind those walls. In fact, they very likely decided to wallpaper because THEY couldn't get the old wallpaper off, or else they did and the wall looked so bad it was either more sheetrock or else repaper.

Can you tell I'm living in a home that had every single smooth wall papered over unmprimed sheetrock? I have had every single wall ripped out and have put up new sheetrock.

This house is in a marvelous location and was on the market for an entire summer during the time when houses in the area were selling within hours. I got if for a great price during an incredible seller's market. BECAUSE THE WALLPAPER screamed I'm-stuck-in-70's-and-not-in-a-good-way.

Mind you, I have NOTHING against un-updated homes. In fact, I LOVE them. But I get them for bargain prices. It's kind of like the job market. In a hot IT market, programmers were coming to job interviews in jeans and Tshirts. NOW? HA! Better have on that suit and tie if you want that job and you want top dollar...

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 1:48PM
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I actually like wallpaper. Or, at least some wallpapers. We're traditionalists & our decorating style is sorta English library meets early colonial America. Wallpapers can be great with our type of furnishings...or, they could be horrific. And that's the rub about papers. They are so personalized.

In my area, wallpapers are used more & more frequently the higher & higher you get in price range. It would be unusual to not see wallpaper in houses priced $900K-$2.5M. They are usually done by decorators & everything looks pretty good. People buying in that market don't change the paper themselves...they hire it done & I don't think it's much of a consideration in whether they offer on a house, or not.

A house priced, however, at $450K is a different animal & there I would recommend existing papers be removed prior to listing. A lot of DIYers at that price point & everybody has spoken the truth about what a PITA ill-prepped wallpaper is to remove.

So, I guess my answer to your question is, "It depends."


    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 2:20PM
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Yes, wallpaper is being used in higher end homes along with brass fixtures, unpainted trims, etc. What goes around comes around.

But for buying and selling I'd run screaming before getting stuck taking down wallpaper again - and let's not even talk about my reaction to painted wall paper. Would wallpaper stop me from purchasing a particular house? Yup. Wallpaper is too big a mess and removal causes holes, dings, etc that must be filled, sanded, primed, etc. And, as someone who has purchased a house to find paneling behind wallpaper (don't ask what was behind the paneling, let's just say we replaced the wall), and a different house with wallpaper painted with a spray gun (it was NEVER coming down, the wallpaper was textured, the spray job was over everything; the electrician chiseled off the switch plates and the walls needed to come down for any other decorating choice), as well as helped my ex-SIL remove 10+ layers in an old home....I will never purchase a house that is wallpapered again.

Let me say my parents love wallpaper... well, my mother does. They are in the early 60s and it has been her decorating choice for over 40 years every time she updates the house. My father hangs it and REFUSES to use anything except cloth backed paper. Why? Because it can easily be peeled off to remove leaving no dings, dents, or anything to repair.

If everyone used cloth back paper my answer would be completely different. Since they do not, my answer will always be "No more wallpaper".

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 3:03PM
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Seasoned home buyers who have dealt with wallpaper in the past are often turned off by it because of all the work required to get it to the point where it can be painted or replaced.
Too often it's unknown how the wallpaper was put up which increases the chances of unforeseen problems. Deal with removing it just once on drywall that wasn't properly sealed and you will never want to deal with it again! It's best when selling to take the guess work out and just remove the paper since it increases the buyer pool.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 3:10PM
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Nate was on the Oprah show this past week and was talking about how hot wallpaper was. He was showing easy to remove wallpaper on the show.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 4:43PM
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But - going back to the idea of passe. I don't think most of us arrive at style in a vacuum - something somehow somewhere influences our choices sets a pattern of ideas in motion. (And from largely lurking on some decorating forums, I see a lot of influence coming from whatever Ikea, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrell, HGTV, etc. is pushing.) If Madison Ave. in conjunction with appliance manufacturers hadn't "discovered" almond or black or stainless or cabinetry fronted appliances, etc. we'd probably still see a lot of Harvest Gold or Avocado. With a new generation of products tempting us every twelve months, it all has the potential to become dated quickly.

For all of us who would prefer our painted sheetrock and our painted plaster there are thousands who have found the last piece of the decorting puzzle in a book of wallpaper patterns.

Love it or hate it, I don't think wallpaper is passe. It fills a niche and has filled a niche ever since French engraver Jean-Michel Papillon started making block designs in matching, continuous patterns in 1675. Voila, wallpaper as we know it today was on its way.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 5:35PM
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I stripped the wallpaper out of our bathroom (when we bought the house 15 years ago) and went shopping for more! It took a few different trips but finally I found one I loved and couldn't live without. I still love it.

That being said, if I were to put my house on the market I think I would take it down. I couldn't picture a paint color in that room but I'd take HGTV's advice and paint it a blah color that wouldn't scare timid buyers. I wouldn't paint over the wallpaper because it has texture, like paintbrush strokes. The fact that I love it 15 years later still amazes me, but I know my taste does not run to the general or mundane. I think some spaces are just made for wallpaper.

Here is a link that might be useful: bathroom wallpaper

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:15PM
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neesie -- I think you proved the point -- wallpaper is very taste specific. What you love, may not be loved by others. I'd see your wallpaper that you love and I would think about all the work to take it down.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:26PM
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From Kathy G who has just spent 2 days taking down wallpaper and has one more wall to do. BTW, the wall that is left was not primed! *%*&*@#%$
Take down the paper!!!!!!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:49PM
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I knew a very macho guy at work who bought his first house from a minister and his wife. Not that this status has anything to do with it. But he kept saying "The Minister's wife must have wallpapered every room." When I went to visit a few years later, literally every room had full blown feminine "country look" wallpaper with borders - the works. He still hasn't removed any of this frilly stuff but lives in the knotty pine basement/den anyway. His plants occupy the main floor. The mismatch in personality and style was hilariously funny.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:54PM
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After stripping two layers of extremely hard-to-remove wallpaper in a house I used to own (and breaking three ribs while doing it in a fall from a ladder) and then stripping even more paper in DH's old house, I swore I'd never buy a house with any wallpaper in it ever again. Well, our current house has some wallpaper and I'm OK with it because it's very tastefully done, especially the paper in our dining room. I can live with it for now, but know I'll eventually take it down and paint those walls, especially if we decide to sell it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:52AM
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I have no problem with wallpaper generally. Every house I've bought has had it.

We had a beautiful craftsman home where the wallpaper really went well with the woodwork and stained glass. I kept that wallpaper.

With other houses, the wallpaper is generally not my taste, or old and stained. I know it will have to come down, so I think about what it would take. Houses with plaster walls are fine, I can get wallpaper off those pretty easily. If the house has sheetrock walls and lots of wallpaper, I would think twice about buying the house.

The house I'm in now, we checked before we bought. The owner assured us he'd sealed/painted the sheetrock before putting up wallpaper. He peeled back a little in the hallway to show us. We found out after we'd bought that the hallway was the only room where he'd done that. All the other rooms, some of the backing comes off the sheetrock with the wallpaper. In a few rooms, my husband re-sheetrocked because it was such a mess.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:59AM
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No, not all wallpaper. Just the vast majority of it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 4:40PM
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For some reason, I don't mind taking down wallpaper. I see it as a long term project & do it stages. Listening to a good audiobook helps.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 8:40PM
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