Weekend Makeover: Install a Wallpaper Frieze

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Voysey's Iolanthe frieze, available through Trustworth Studios.

Voysey's Iolanthe frieze, available through Trustworth Studios.

Entryways can go from somber to spectacular with the addition of a frieze. Hung at the top of the wall, in the area above the picture rail or high wainscot, friezes are appropriate for both Arts & Crafts and Victorian houses. Start by choosing a paper that fits the style of your house—Iolanthe, a ca. 1897 C.F.A. Voysey print from Trustworth Studios (left), is the perfect addition to a range of bungalows and Arts & Crafts houses. Also, its monochromatic top edge is forgiving on uneven ceilings—one of the biggest issues in old houses.

To account for a crooked ceiling, first determine how out-of-level it is by using a laser level (or an old-fashioned 4' level) to create a straight line, and a tape measure to determine the distance from the ceiling. Retired paperhanger Joe Maurer of Rochester, New York, says ceilings up to ¾" off typically won’t be noticeable if you hang the paper flush with the ceiling (although he suggests taping up a large section first to be sure it looks right). Above that measurement, you’re better off measuring down from the lowest point to hang the paper.

Begin in the corner (top), then overlap to finish (bottom).

Begin in the corner (top), then overlap to finish (bottom).

For ceilings ¾" off or less:
Hang flush

Begin in the least prominent corner (the one behind you when you walk into the entry). Follow the paper manufacturer’s instructions (whether pasting or wetting), align the paper closely to the ceiling and corner, and move deftly around the room to the right.

When you get to the next corner, overlap it by about ½". When you reach the final corner, you should be able to pull up the starting edge and place the wrap beneath it for a clean finish. (Pre-pasted paper will stay wet and workable for about an hour.)

Mark the frieze's lowest point around the room.

Mark the bottom of the frieze around the room.

More than ¾" Off:
Lower it

Once you’ve determined the ceiling’s lowest point, use a tape measure to mark from there to the bottom edge of the frieze around the room. Use a level to check this point, and dot it as you go to ensure that you install the bottom edge level. Start in the corner, but align the bottom edge with your markings instead of the top. Note: The gap between the frieze and the ceiling will be less prominent if the wall color there matches that on the ceiling, so repaint this strip if needed before hanging the paper.