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Wallpaper vs. Paint: Which Accent Wall is Right for You?

by Gabrielle Heath March 29, 2019

We’ve all felt it before - that desire to shake things up in our lives, that itch for change. And then suddenly we find ourselves at the hair salon, our stylist whirling our chair around to reveal what can’t possibly be the same person under that new, fantastic do. Or maybe we find ourselves browsing Pinterest and Instagram, fantasizing about revamping some aspect of the space we call home. If the latter sounds familiar, the change that you’re looking for might very well be a fresh accent wall.

Like hairstyles, accent walls come in many forms - wallpaper and bold paint colors being two of the most popular options. To help you determine what makes sense for your space, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of each, and mapped out our recommended uses. The point being, we don’t want you to be the person that leaves the salon when it’s all said and done and immediately throws on a hat.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper has continually come in and out of trend. In our humble opinion, if something lasts for up to 15 years and consistently comes back into style, we think it’s safe to assume that wallpaper is just plain in. Here are the benefits and hard truths to keep in mind before delving into your wallpaper accent wall project.

Benefits @section_title

Long-Lasting: While walls need a fresh coat of paint every 3-5 years, wallpaper is an investment that will sustain for as long as 10-15 years. Although the upfront cost of wallpaper is usually greater than paint, its superior durability means higher ROI over the long-term.

Conceal Anything: Is your wall cracked, uneven or too thin to paint? Go for a thick, textured wallpaper to camouflage these imperfections and to create a stunning focal point in any room.

Class Act: Wallpaper, when selected and incorporated into a space wisely, can provide an upscale, classy feel. If you’re looking to wow your guests, wallpaper is it. With endless designs available, you are sure to find that perfect pattern. Wallpaper also comes in textured options, something that paint can only achieve with special additives or applications.

Hard Truths @section_title

More Expensive: Although the material costs of paint and wallpaper are comparable, wallpaper is more expensive on average due to the cost of professional installation. And take our word for it - if you want your paper to last a healthy 15 years, don’t DIY this step.

Difficult to Remove: Removing existing wallpaper can be a tedious task that requires the right tools to be effective. Older materials in particular are nearly impossible to remove and by doing so, you can damage your walls. Fortunately, newer brands allow you to remove the paper more easily in strips.

Moisture Prone: Wallpaper does not do well when faced with moisture, such as steam from the bathroom or kitchen. The moisture can actually permeate through and affect the strength of the adhesive holding the wallpaper to the wall. This causes the paper to peel, or worse, develop mold and mildew.

Best Suited For @section_title

Bedrooms, living areas and entryways are our favorite canvases for creating wallpaper-flair. If you’re new to experimenting will wallpaper, start with smaller accent walls rather than committing to a large wall or entire room. Aim to avoid wallpaper in bathrooms and kitchens due to the moisture, and kids bedrooms due to the ever-evolving tastes and the inevitable desire for something more “cool”.

Paint

Paint is like the jean jacket of fashion. It never goes out of style and it’s hard to replace. Here are some noteworthy benefits and hard truths of choosing paint to achieve your accent wall dreams.

Benefits @section_title

Less Expensive: Paint is budget-friendly. It’s cheaper than wallpaper on average and requires very few supplies.

Accessible to All: An amateur who has never painted before could easily buy the supplies and slap a new fabulous color onto the wall (we’re not promising it’s going to look perfect). Paint makes for a great DIY project and does not require professional help. 

Easy to Change: Just paint over it! Note however, that it can be difficult to go from a dark color to a light color, as it requires several coats to successfully conceal the dark color underneath.

Hard Truths @section_title

Shorter Lifetime: Paint can get scratched, chipped, and begin to show its age after a couple of years. This means more touch ups and paint projects over time, when compared to wallpaper.

Less Design Variety: While there are countless colors of paint available, creating patterns or textures with paint is possible but very time-consuming. If you’re going for the WOW factor and are looking to do something really unique, consider textured wallpaper.

Best Suited For @section_title

Paint is great for all spaces: in particular, kids’ rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. It’s also the recommended option if you’re renting a home and looking for a less-permanent solution that your landlord will approve, as they’ll have an easier time updating it in the future. Make sure to go with a lighter paint color in the event it will be painted over down the road. Paint also makes for a fantastic canvas for a gallery wall, while wallpaper can often be too busy for this.

Feeling shy about wallpaper? Start with paint and slowly experiment with wallpaper on smaller walls to get a feel for it.

Excited about both? Mix the two to get the best of both worlds. Create small accents with wallpaper and amplify this with a complementary paint color to further accentuate the paper and unite the space beautifully.

Feeling even more bold? Check out paintable wallpaper. That’s right. This innovation, which has been described as a modern marvel, is thicker than most wallpapers and comes in textured options. Once applied to the wall, paint your desired color over it!

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