Adventures in 90's Wallpaper...

Ok so that sounds much more fun than it actually was.  Oh and a little warning- This may be the longest post ever.

Truth is, I knew removing wallpaper was known to be a more difficult and tedious task. So when we moved into our new house and inherited a powder room that was covered in the stuff, I sort of subconsciously willed myself to like it. Because the last thing I wanted to tackle after a stressful move was picking layers of paper off the walls. Kind of low on the old priority list. Let me give you a brief bit of background with the new house...

It was built in the late 90's. So when we bought it and the previous owners had recently de-90's-ed it, we felt like we were walking into a brand new house. Think new hardwood floors, new fixtures and faucets, new granite... Heck, they even replaced every single knob and door hinge. That took some serious dedication because there were TONS. The basement was newly finished, new carpeting upstairs, new paint everywhere, new screened-in porch... Seriously, I feel like we hit the jackpot.
However, there were a few things even they didn't touch. The wallpaper in this powder room and the gold-marbelized painted faux finish in the foyer (I sort of lived with that long enough and am tackling that soon as well... stay tuned!).
Not that there's anything wrong with the 90's... I just like my home to reflect my taste and most of the typical 90's finishes where homes were concerned isn't exactly my jam. Although, I think brass finishes and fixtures are coming back... *must stay on topic, Tiffany*

Here's a closeup of the culprit...

You're welcome.
Now that I look at it closeup, it's sort of reminds me of a skin condition. A bad skin condition... wait, are there any good skin conditions?  That or a closeup of the veins in the heart or a diseased bloodshot eyeball.  haha sorry, I had to.
But I mean, dang... Look at all those reds and dull greens.

So like I said, wallpaper removal is tedious. Think when you remove a sticker, there's sometimes that little white adhesive paper layer that's left behind that is a you-know-what to remove. Think about that covering an entire room. Good times.  However, I did discover a great way to remove it that worked for me. After a lot of trial and error. And the occasional break-down or two. More on that in a moment...

Now don't get me wrong... The right wallpaper can be awesome! I really wanted to like it because I've always dreamed of a little powder room covered in a pretty pattern. However, this was definitely not the pretty pattern I had in mind. I even toyed with the idea of putting up wallpaper in a different pattern. Then after messing with this stuff for days, I was kind of over it.

This is what it looked like before...

This room is actually pretty sizable for a powder room. It's crazy that this was maybe one of the most-used and also the ugliest room of the house.  It's the only bathroom on the main floor of the house (we have a couple more upstairs and one in the basement) and because of that, it gets used most often, especially when guests are over. So it just made sense to finally fix her up.

Ok, this next photo needs some a lot of explanation.

Hey, I worked with what I had, people.  Look at all those sink-top accessories...lol.
You see those little crazy sconce/candleholder/weird things on each side of the mirror? Yeah, those babies totally came with the house too. Even the previous owners had no time for that. They were attached with these huge crazy hooks. Think the type of hooks you'd attach hanging plants to a porch with. How and why I left those up almost three months, I'll never know.
Also, notice (how could you miss) the hand towel holder. From the day we first looked at the house I thought that was awkward. The first thing you see when you come into the room is the side of hand towels hanging at a very awkward and low angle. It was much lower than it seems in the photo. For reference, check out where the light switch is and how far below that it's hanging. Not that I would even want it higher. It was just weird all around.  

Oh and I didn't get a great shot of it (because it was nasty and I spared you), but you've gotta love the bleach streaks coming down the wall below and behind the sink from cleaning products of the past... Ain't nobody got time for that.

The only redeeming quality the stuff had are the cool little "hidden" iridescent stripes you can only see in certain light.  Not redeeming, you say? Maybe I'm crazy? Yeah, now that I look at it again, I'm definitely glad it's gone.

Here's the other side of the room. Look closely for the open seam that started it all.

This, my friends, is how all the madness began.

SO this is where things get sketchy. This piece came off in one big strip. How and why I have no idea. So I bopped into the basement (Brad's lair) and proudly announced I was starting a huge undertaking... Removing the wallpaper in the powder room. He said I was crazy.  To which I bragged to him how easily I had removed a big piece already. The rest had to be just as easy right?
It was so bad, in fact, that I didn't take any photos of the actual process because I was sure that there was no way I was sharing this massive failure with anyone. Especially on here!
Then I discovered a great way to remove it that made the rest of it go much quicker.

But before that, I need to tell you what was going on underneath the wallpaper that probably led to all the difficulty I had. The wallpaper was basically applied to bare sheetrock with no primer. I also discovered the wallpaper was applied before the toilet and sink were installed.
This was a custom job, baby! (dripping with sarcasm)

So I googled and asked around for tips and was bombarded with the whole "fabric softener and warm water" trick.
It worked. Sometimes. Let me explain...

So first, you need to cover your floor with old towels or a drop cloth. The fabric softener makes things slippery and when you start picking off wet (and glued) wallpaper pieces, they can stick to your floor.

Go around the baseboards (if they're caulked to the wallpaper like ours were) with a small utility knife. This helps the wallpaper remove cleaner at the bottom and prevent your caulk from peeling up with the wallpaper.

About the actual removal, you NEEEED one of these sprayers to apply the fabric softener solution. You can get them around $15 at Target or home improvement stores like Lowes.

You must use the little cone shaped attachment to apply it. It sprays an even and large area without splattering everywhere.
Grab some fabric softener (I used our Target brand that I love) and mix it with hot water in the sprayer. I mixed about 3 parts water to 1 part fabric softener. I was working initially with much less fabric softener and found it wasn't working as well. Mix it in small amounts so you can always have a warm mixture.

Next, spray one section (strip) of wallpaper at a time, making sure to really saturate it.  You may want to make sure your towels on the floor are really shoved tightly against the baseboards or even lay down a few extra as you work. This will keep the solution from running down the walls all over your floors and seeping through the towel.

This next part is key. You really have to be patient and let it sit for a while. Some sections, I could peel after maybe 5 minutes (probably wasn't initially stuck as well), some sections I had to apply the mixture like 3 times and wait FOR. EVER. Like 30 minutes later. So be patient.  20 minutes is a good rule for each piece, but make sure you've applied enough so it doesn't just dry.
I would start peeling from the top or bottom, at the seams, wherever I could get a good grip on it. The idea of the fabric softener solution is to make the adhesive come off cleaner with the actual top layer of the paper. Did it always work, heck no. But maybe 60% of the time I was able to peel larger, clean strips. The other time? The top layer of the paper would come off and leave the white papery adhesive layer.  Sometimes I would keep going. Sometimes, I would spray some more solution and wait. Sometimes, that didn't always work. This is when the process started to get horrible and panic ensued.

I even started experimenting with my garment steamer. I've heard of people who have great results with this, but I didn't notice any difference.

So what turned it all around?
Luckily, a twitter follower angel suggested that if you used regular old Windex on the white, papery, impossible to remove layer, it practically "jumps off the walls" she said. She was right!

THE WINDEX IS KEY, PEOPLE! I went through 3 bottles on this project.
So I would peel what I could (some coming off in large sections), and if I could only get the top layer, I didn't sweat it. Because a quick and even spray of glass cleaner to those areas made that layer come right off with little to no effort after a few minutes.

But the process wasn't perfect. Remember the whole un-primed walls thing? Yeah, it caused me to run into some significant problems.
So imagine hunks of sheetrock coming off. Sometimes down the the brown papery seams between the sheetrock pieces. It was so sad. I was sure I had ruined it. The walls were rough and uneven. But I pressed on. I figured the wallpaper at least had to be removed before any other progress (or repairs) had to be made.

Here's a shot of one of the walls...

Gorg, right?
Imagine it feeling as rough as it looks. The white paint you see around the mouldings around the ceiling and windows is where the trim was sprayed when the house was first built and painted. So Brad and I grabbed some 100-grit sandpaper (with wall-sanding handles attached because it made it much easier), tied some shirts around our faces (because inhaling sketchy wall dust is never good), and in about 2.5 minutes, lightly (and quickly) sanded the walls.

I was still left with a rough-looking situation so I took some Dap and spackled all the spots that looked sketchy. I also spackled over the spots where the brown papery sheetrock seams were exposed.
This is the type I used and it worked perfectly...

While I was at it, I also removed the sketchy sconces and huge (even sketchier) hooks, and the awkward towel holder which all left behind huge holes that I spackled as well.

I just realized there's a ton of "sketchiness" in this post... lol there really is no better word for this situation.

When it dried, I sanded over all the spackle to smooth it out.

This type is nice because it goes on pink and dries white when dry so you know exactly when to sand (as you can see in the pic below)....

...which also depicts possibly the sketchiest thing I found underneath the wallpaper. Apparently someone decided it would be appropriate to declare their love for each other on our bathroom wall...literally. The "4 Life" part just really pulls it all together.

Ok so on to the paint. I knew I wanted to do a light gray. Seriously I lucked out because after going to the store and purchasing a primer and a few new rollers, I remembered I had a brand new can of paint in that exact shade just sitting in our garage. I had purchased it in the last few months living at our old house when I thought about repainting our front living room. Which never happened. Score!

So I'll keep the whole primer fiasco brief. I've painted countless rooms before, but I rarely use a primer. In this case, with walls that looked that rough, I knew I needed one. So I purchased a primer which said it was for "damaged, uneven" walls, which only turned out to be.... CLEAR. Yeah. I definitely didn't continue to use it. I only did a few swipes and gave up. I've never returned paint before (you usually can't), but since the guy in the paint department recommended it to me because it "covered awesome" (and it was kind of pricey), that stuff went right back.
So I got crazy and decided to just go for it with the paint I had. I used the Valspar Signature Paint and Primer in one matched to Benjamin Moore Abalone.  The Valspar Signature is awesome. I used it several times at our old place and it covers amazing.

I was skeptical, but it covered everything (with 2 coats)!
I couldn't resist taking photos immediately when I was done, so here is what it looks like at night.

aaand here she is in the sunshine...

I love how this color made all the moulding and windows look much nicer and stand out so much more.

The two little screws in the wall where the mirror was were sunken in with plastic anchors and any mirror covers them anyway, so I didn't bother removing them.  I am now currently on the hunt for an amazing mirror...like this one.

via bamboofurnitureblog.com
However, they're kind of tough to find for sale online and they're a bit expensive. I'm convinced I can find a great deal on one at a consignment shop or yard sale. IT WILL BE MINE! Just gotta be patient! ...and find one that fits perfectly between the electrical outlet and light switch. Awesome placement, guys.

Oh and I did spruce up the light fixture as well. Brad and I played around with the thought of getting a new one, however, when we hit the usual spots (Home Depot and Lowes), they didn't have any that stood out. Then our choice to keep it became clear when at Lowes, we actually liked the one we already had better than all the others. I realized the problem wasn't the fixture, it was the glass shades. So we picked up a few $5 replacements that go much better with the new walls and feel of the room.

Lights on.

Lights off.

Much better huh?

While I haven't really done much decorating or hanging anything on the walls, I've got a few ideas and I'm just taking my time! I'll for sure update when I make a little more progress.


I do have a few things I know for sure are staying.
First, this gorgeous and fun rug I've had for years from Anthropologie. It's never had a great spot that it really "worked" with.

I love how it looks with the paint. I think it's finally found it's perfect spot.

And then, this little sweet antique table I've had forever. It lived in our powder room at our last house. Before that, it was always in my parents' house in their powder room. Before that, I'm not sure where it came from. It used to be dark wood and a little banged-up. So I gave her a coat of pretty gold spray paint.

Yes, that is a Starbucks thermos. Cute vase, no?

So to wrap up this crazy-long post, here are a  few things I ALWAYS do when I paint:

Cover the paint tray in aluminum foil. This is an old but great tip that's pretty much everywhere on the internet. This makes for easy cleanup and you'll never have to buy another paint tray again.

"Cut-in" around doors, mouldings, and the ceiling (if you don't have crown) with an angled brush. I never use painters tape.

Store brushes and rollers in big zip loc bags between coats so they don't dry out.

Nothing too crazy or groundbreaking. I just keep it simple and try to be careful!

Let me just say.. Thank GOODNESS this is the only room of our house that has wallpaper. I couldn't imagine doing this again. I mean, I could if I had to, but let's just say it wasn't the best few days of my life.

I hinted at possibly re-doing our foyer in this post as well. I'll for sure keep you guys updated on that as well! Since it's a 2-story foyer, I might have to leave that job to the professionals...  I'll keep you posted!


  1. HAHA! This post is creative, inspiring and HILARIOUS (love your humor) in the same time! It just goes to show that when you are determine to do something, the results can be really satisfying. That sad diseased-looking wallpaper had to go, lol. You did a great job! ;)

  2. I had the same issues taking down 80s wallpaper in the bedroom I grew up in at my parents' house. Used industrial strength wallpaper remover solution and scraped and scraped forever to get it off. Nothing (windex included) took off the glue underneath. Then, a few years later, my parents decided to take off the wallpaper in my brother's room -- done with the same glue at the same time as mine. But my mum rented an industrial wallpaper steamer. Way more powerful than a clothes steamer. The sheets of wallpaper peel WHOLE from the wall. I will never scrape again. So worth the rental money!

  3. Beautiful. beautiful post by the way. (And, it goes without saying, the room) Love the paint colour, love the side table and the rug... Just love, love, love.

  4. It's amazing what a little paint and elbow grease can do!It looks great! The former owner of our house was a wallpaper fanatic and we spent many weekends removing butt ugly wallpaper from bedrooms and bathrooms. Just imagine, if you will, forest green wallpaper, carpet, and trim in the master bedroom. And the icing on the cake....white picket fencing nailed to the wall all around the perimeter of the room. Luckily the wallpaper came off pretty easy, but priming walls and wood trim was time consuming. Now it's a pretty grey with white trim. Still working on the apple wallpaper and birdhouse border in the kitchen.

  5. I don't know if this would have made it more helpful and I guess this is too late now, but when we had a whole dining room/living room covered in the disgusting wallpaper I found this little hand tool that would basically scratch and scrape at the wallpaper (im not explaining this super well) and then you just buzz that all over the wall (it was on like wheels so you ran it quickly across the surface) and then spray your windex or just warm soap and water concoction overtop the wallpaper and since it had tiny cuts in it... the stuff sunk in nicely and was much easier to pull off!

    cant wait to see the finished product!

  6. You did an amazing job! Props to you for tackling it yourself too. I love how you just changed out the glass covers instead of the whole fixture - that gave me the idea to do that with our living room fan instead of getting a whole new one (it has those granny scalloped opaque covers = ick).

    Loving the home decor & fashion posts lately!

  7. Love the change! I would love to see what mirror you go with and just the final product all together! Thanks for the tips!! xoxo

  8. I like what you've done to the place :)

  9. It looks so nice! I love the paint color. I didn't think the other was so bad until you said skin disease. The close-up reminds me of every SVU episode that they found a body floating in the river.

  10. I've never tried windex, but half water and half fabric softener (the cheapest one I could find) worked perfectly after waiting about 20 minutes for it to soak in. I applied it with and old windex spray bottle. ~Krista

    1. Yeah, I know a lot of people have great results with it- Like I said, I did have some luck with it- I think my problem was the fact that it was put up on bare walls. :(

  11. Loved this post! You're hilarious. The wallpaper kinda looked like spider veins, no? Anyway, great blogg post and the powder room looks great!

    1. YESS! haha they could look like so many gross things.

  12. That was fun. Way more fun than doing it myself!!
    I love the new glass globes on the light.. completely changes them. I'm going to try that here.. thanks for the great idea!

  13. It looks awesome now! Like a breath of fresh air! Do you by chance read Young House Love? I think you'd like them for design stuff :)

  14. Love your home blogs! They are my Fave!

  15. Beautiful, Tiffany! I LOVE the rug. I think the space would look great with some more navy accents--maybe hand towels or some sort of window treatment? Just a suggestion, though! My parents' master bathroom has navy accents, and it's easily my favorite room in our house. It really looks so chic and elegant, and it's a somewhat neutral color not many people think to include in a bathroom these days. I just love your style! Your house looks incredible from what I've seen of it so far. Keep up the great work!

  16. "Sketchy?" Are you 15?

    1. Totally 15. lol Sketchy is totally acceptable in the adult world.

    2. Good reply!

  17. Wow, I love how simple changing the glass on the light fixture was, I never would have thought to do that! You've inspired me to do some DIY improving around my home. Thanks!

  18. Love the room! You definitely had an undertaking with that, but did it so beautifully. I've had my share of "home improvement" with paint and wallpaper, and girl, you are awesome for tackling that wallpaper! haha :) Can't wait to see more!
    <3 Melissa

  19. OMG,I was reading your post and just nodding my head. Our house had wallpaper in the kitchen and 1 bathroom and it was applied to the sheet rock too. And behind the toilet like you said. What a nightmare! I tried all kinds of stuff and what worked best for us was plain ole hot water in a spray bottle and a scraper. But, I hadn't heard about Windex. Although here's hoping I'll never have to use it. LOL! I love the gray. Excited to see what else you do!

  20. Love your posts, love your comments, love your home decor!

    Sonia & Rummie


  21. Wow, it is like night and day Tiffany! Great job! Do you wish the outlets were placed lower or do you like them now? My husband and I have rented homes since we have been together (living overseas mostly) and I cannot wait until we buy a home to do some fixing up in and make it ours! Your home renovations definitely inspire me for future projects I might have to take on.


  22. Great Job! What a beautiful transformation. My laundry room is covered in a really questionable wallpaper and I think you may have inspired me to finally tackle it. Thanks for all the great info! :)

  23. You did an amazing job! I just repainted our bathrooms too! Not quite the task that removing wallpaper is though! And you should check out hautelook.com to find your mirror! They have pretty good deals on really nice stuff!

  24. The wallpaper didn't look too bad from far away, but close up.. I was thinking the same thing about a bad skin condition! haha Love this post, and your videos, and sense of style! :) http://dreamliveandrepeat.blogspot.com/

  25. At least the wall paper was decent. We bought a 1950's house and the wall paper was shinny/silver and had raised fuzzy stuff on it. Oh, yeah .. it had to go.

    Good job though! The bathroom looks great!

    Monica, www.pear-shaped-gal.com

  26. This is probably a dumb question, Tiffany, but what are you talking about "cut in" when talking about painting???

    1. Oh sorry I didn't explain that more! Basically, it means to go around the ceiling, mouldings, trim, baseboards, etc (usually where you would put painters tape) with an angled brush made for doing that with the paint. It makes a clean line and you don't have to bother with tape! I usually make a huge mess with painters tape (you have to remove it when wet so it usually gets all over stuff anyway or the paint ends up bleeding beneath it anyway). So I just freehand it. Thats what most actual painters do (not that I consider myself an actual painter lol). Then you go back with the roller and fill in the walls and you don't have to worry about getting close to the ceiling or trim.

  27. Just curious as to why you didn't use a wallpaper steamer? We have always used one for paper removal. Maybe it's a british thing and they're more widely used??! I don't know! It is certainly our go to for paper removal over spraying with solutions. Looks great though and kudos to you for getting down and dirty with it! Braver than me!

  28. I wonder if this would work with wallpaper that has been painted over :( Our house was built in 1925 and the previous owners did some weeeeeird shit...like painting over wallpaper in the WHOLE house!!

  29. What a beautiful transformation!!! I really love the color. I'm decorating my new house in a grey-ish look and your ideas are gorgeous!!! Love this and I'm so happy you are sharing all these great tips with us!!!


  30. Tiffany, what about something like this for your mirror? I have it above my vanity, and it's gorgeous! http://www.houzz.com/discussions/35262/This-mirror-would-be-perfect-for-my-powder---

  31. Please share where the Orchid is from! LOVE THEM!

  32. Hi Tiffany~
    You are so talented girl! Your interior design skills are simply amazing! I would love for you to do my home! This would be a great side job for you. Amazing creativity all around! =)

  33. I love how you do everything independently and not just hire people to do everything!

  34. I'm loving this paint color and it's what I've been thinking about using for our home! Do you know what the name of that particular shade is? I'm horrible at picking colors. I had to redo our bathroom twice, back to back, because I just couldn't pick the right color. Haha! Picking a paint color is stressful!

  35. Looks amazing.. So much brighter and makes the room look bigger!
    Even though it was a pain to do I think it was well worth it (coming from someone who clearly wasn't the one removing the paper.. hehe!)

  36. Oh my goodness! Night and day! I love it!
    I am thinking about going with a very similar color for our spare bathroom.

  37. Thank you for sharing your de-WPing mission! I just painted my bathroom and the color came out much darker with lavender undertones that were not visible in the swatch I saw at Osh. I was going for a color like yours. It's probably my lighting that turned the Sandlot Grey paint to purple. How did you manage to paint behind the toilet? I couldn't figure it out so I left it with a big square of non-painted wall. Defeats the purpose of repainting the bathroom. Not cute. Any advice?

  38. nice blog http://wallpaper002.blogspot.com/

  39. Tiffany did you end up buying the replacement shades for the light fixtures at lowes? my husband and I just bought a house and we've been in the processes of doing a lot of updates. Getting new shades for both bathrooms is definitely the route I think I need to go and I love the ones you chose!

  40. How crazy I have the mirror you want! It's in my garage, unused. It was my grandma's and my mom had it but isn't using it anymore. If it wasn't heavy I'd see about selling it and shipping to you! Know anyone in TX who would drive it to you? ;)

  41. nice post, that is osum :) Tiffany you are doing a great job, you direct affect my heartbreak quotes UK

  42. Cool wallpaper, that's so nice. :D