There is a house that I previewed about twenty years ago, and every time I drive past it, I still get this image of the carnivorous wallpaper that previous owners hung on the dining room walls.
The background was jet black. And there were colorful tropical plants depicted against the dark background – the kind that eat flies, and maybe mice or kittens. It was intense, and it didn’t work for me. Eating a meal in that room would make feel as though I could easily become the entrée.
Wallpaper is a highly personal thing. With almost any pattern, you can love it or hate it. You could go for paisley or tropical flowers, or maybe something more neutral, with beiges and pale blues in some sort of geometric pattern. But other people, even in your immediate family, might not share your taste, whatever it might be.
It seems that whatever one chooses, it can become dated as quickly as the last decade’s favorite appliance color. At that point, your choice is to remove it altogether or paint or paper over it.
Anyone who is considering selling a house at any time in the near future, removing old wallpaper is probably the best choice - usually you have to steam it off. If you do that and paint your walls your favorite shade of fuchsia, repainting when it’s time to sell is easy, and even if you leave it fuchsia, your buyers can change it inexpensively with a few cans of Benjamin Moore.
But the chances are that most of the people looking at your home will not be enamored of your wallpaper. Their mental calculation of the costs of removing it, restoring the walls and then painting will probably far exceed the actual amount it will take to get rid of the stuff properly.
If you’re sloppy and just paint over old wallpaper, it will be evident to any discerning eye. There will be telltale seam lines. And slapping on a coat of paint will make the inevitable removal even more expensive.
So, if you’ve just purchased a home and are considering wallpaper, think long and hard before you actually hang it. And if you are preparing your house for sale, don’t take it personally if your agent or stager recommends that you steam it off the paper you so lovingly chose and put up, and paint.
Just do it.