newspaper as a creative wall covering

newspaper as a {creative wall covering}

newspaper as a creative wall covering
Hello, hello!!  If you happen to follow along on Instagram you saw a little sneak peek of a creative wall covering idea I worked on with my bff at one of our rental houses in Maryland.

I’m going to start by saying that I am seriously in love with how this little experiment turned out.  A $6 upcycling idea that I worked on for 2 hours with my bff and had no idea what to expect for a result … when something like that works out in the end what’s not to love, right?!?!

You first saw this room when I was talking about my favorite paint tip.  It is a small bedroom in a two bedroom rental we have in Maryland.  She’s been a steady work in progress for a number of years in between a stream of various tenants.  Over the last few months we decided to take the time to make some long overdue updates and hopefully attract a more … attractive type of tenant, let’s say.  IfyouknowwhatImean.

The one thing we had left to tackle in this little room was the ceiling.
newspaper as a creative wall covering And a close up of the one main problem area.
newspaper as a creative wall coveringThose are a few lovely cracks in the 70 plus year old plaster.  Nothing structural, just ugly. πŸ™‚

And did you know that a lot of homes built-in the 40s have layers and layers of wallpaper on every. single. surface?  I didn’t … but I found out pretty quickly with this house.  And that includes the ceiling.  Every. Single. Ceiling.  And there really isn’t much harder work than trying to do something above your head for hours on end.

So, after the ceiling paper came down, we figured we had a few options.

1) Do nothing.
2) Caulk the cracks, skim coat the entire ceiling to create a smooth surface and then prime and paint.
3) Cover it up.

We’ll go down the ‘here’s what we were thinking’ path in a bit, but the long and short of it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’.  πŸ˜‰

And I’ve had some experience covering a few things with paper … like a dresser in maps or picture frames in book pages or even an old file cabinet in book pages.

This upcycling idea seemed totally doable on my own, was cost-effective (glue is the only investment), I had the right tools (paint roller and brush) and I had recently discovered the free book section at the Key West library.
newspaper as a creative wall coveringArmed with two old and tarnished paged books I made the trip to Maryland … and then, while I was organizing some things in the garage I came across the plastic bin of shame our old recycling.  Crazy, I know.  I don’t have any recollection how it happened that we didn’t recycle our last bin of newspapers before we left for Curacao, but we didn’t, and I just ask that you don’t judge am totally OK with that.  πŸ˜‰  And hey, it all worked out … the train of thought when I discovered it went something like …

Thought #1 – Oh my goodness, how come we still have a full bin of newspaper to recycle?

Thought #2 – This can’t be normal, we are losers, this is so embarrassing, I can’t let anyone see this.

Thought #3 – Look at how they’ve all tarnished over time, they look kind of like the old books I brought to cover the bedroom ceiling …

Thought #4 – These bigger sheets of paper might be a faster way to cover the bedroom ceiling.

Then comes the exciting point where you realize you can use something old and left over for a new upcycling idea and you have all the supplies on hand and it isn’t going to cost much at all and you hope it isn’t going to take too much time and you have just the right bff to help.  Nirvana!

So, in 5 steps or less, here is how we upcycled newspaper as a creative wall covering to create a unique accent wall in a bedroom for under $6 and in less than 3 hours.


Step 1 Pick your poison paper and decide how many pages of newspaper you’ll need.  I wanted only black and white pages and by laying out paper the length and width of the room because measuring is overrated I got a rough estimate of about how many full (think double wide) pages I would need.
newspaper as a creative wall coveringStep 2 – In a paint tray mix about equal parts water and white glue … I think we ended up with a little more water than glue in the mix … but it’s so hard to know for sure since I believe measuring is overrated.  πŸ™‚
newspaper as a creative wall coveringStep 3 – Using a paint roller roll the water and glue mixture on your surface. I think it’s worth noting here that I totally thought this would ruin the roller and brush but I was able to wash it all out after we were done and feel I could use them to paint again.  Bonus!
newspaper as a creative wall coveringStep 4 – Adhere newspaper. (How do you like my work pants that make my butt look like the size of a boat?)
newspaper as a creative wall coveringHere are a few things we learned along the way.

  1. The half pages (think single wide) were more manageable than the full pages.  Just much easier to adhere to the ceiling and keep smooth with minimal bubbles.
  2. Wearing gloves prevented my hands from getting all mucked up.  You’ll be using your hands a lot to smooth and scooch and smudge the gluey newspaper into the right spot.
  3. TWO step stools and a lovely assistant helped this process move along without hold-ups. Also, having something to put the paint tray on that was in reach was key.  These two secrets prevented me from having to step down at any time.
newspaper as a creative wall covering

My designated assistant just shuffled the step stool/chair/night stand set up around the room while passing me the pages of newspaper.  So much better than having to climb up and down all day, that’s for sure.  Thanks Sue!!

Step 5 – Touch ups and trimming.  It only took us about 2 hours to cover the entire ceiling.  Then I just went back around with a paint brush and re-stuck, touched up any areas that were sagging … and then after letting it all set overnight I did the same thing again.  This was the one and only real sag, then just little corners and edges that could use a little extra umph.
newspaper as a creative wall covering

And trim around any light fixtures or awkward corners.
newspaper as a creative wall coveringI really like the feel of the finished look.  It’s casual, eclectic and unexpected.  If you want a totally smooth finish you can follow these tips, but for this room I was fine with a few lumps and bumps.
newspaper as a creative wall coveringNow, here’s how I decided this would be a good solution to our imperfect ceiling problem.

1) For a rental home, do nothing is always an option.  It’s cost-effective and time effective.    We take into consideration how it affects the feel of the room and the entire home and make sure it’s not dangerous in any way.  In this case, it was just aesthetic, but I was not a fan of the previous owner’s remnants of trying to fix the cracks with tape and a little spackle.

TIP!!!  Spackling a crack will only continue to crack.  It works well to actually make a crack larger by removing any loose debris and then filling the crack (that will always expand and contract) with caulk (which will expand and contract with it) before skim coating over with spackle.

2) I didn’t really have the time to go the full skim coat route.  That truly is a back-breaking task that takes many hours over the course of a few days, using two trowels and then sanding the entire surface.  I’m actually not sure it was the time I didn’t have as much as the desire to go this route.  But we’ll still with the not enough time argument.  πŸ™‚

3) I got some great suggestions in the comments here for creative wall covering ideas.  And I seriously considered the wood option.  I was even thinking something similar to what we did in the back of the open cabinets in the kitchen.  My main hangup with this option was tools and help.  Our nail gun is on its way to Key West and I wasn’t sure I was going to have an extra set of hands to help me.  I was worried that hammering and nailing in the old plaster might just make it worse and I could potentially create a bigger problem than I already had on my hands.  Definitely not good in the ‘time effectiveness’ column.
newspaper as a creative wall coveringI think some molding would look really good to trim it out, too.  So that might still happen at some point in the future.

And we decided to put one color page on there … announcing the winner of the Preakness that year, Curlin … the year was 2007.  Yes, we not only have a bin full of newspapers, but they are 6 years old.  πŸ™‚

What do you think?  Have any of your own $6 solutions to an ugly wall or ceiling?  Like the idea of old paper as a creative wall covering?  Think the time and effort to skim coat, prime and paint would be the better way to go?

And for those of you looking for a ‘when are you going to close on the Key West house already?‘ … the answer is I don’t know.  (Combined with a scowl, and maybe even a growl and quite possibly a frown and pouty eyes.)  I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be this week though.  The hold up at this point is the tenants who were renting the house from the sellers.  I don’t know exactly what agreement they have in place, but apparently it wasn’t to be out by the 21st.  πŸ™‚  #justtakingitallinstride

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85 thoughts on “newspaper as a {creative wall covering}”

  1. I love it! I like the black and white (with the pop of single color.)
    I could also see a kid’s room completely done in old book pages or even just the comics.
    I agree, molding would really make it pop!

  2. Hey, don’t be knocking boat butt pants πŸ™‚ I am sure I own a few pair. For my boat sized butt. LOL

    Looks great, like… you totally wanted it to look that way. No one will ever know! Just don’t give them your blog address πŸ™‚

      1. I love love love this idea I want to do it in the room I have made a little office… but my question I rent an apartment so what is the clean up going to be like when it’s time for the wall to back white?

        1. That is a very good question, Ambroseia. I would imagine the clean up wouldn’t be fun. One idea I’ve seen for an alternative that doesn’t stick permanently is spray starch. I know it holds fabric and then can just be peeled off, but it might hold paper as well, might be worth a try!

          1. I’m a journalist, and I LOVE this idea for my apartment, but I’m worried about the ink bleeding onto the walls/ceiling once I apply the water/glue mixture.

            I thought about covering the ceiling with poster board to protect it, and then going over with the newspaper… Thoughts? I really would like to do this!

          2. Hi Tiffany!! I’m not sure about the poster board, my initial thought is that the thickness of it would make it difficult to apply to your ceiling. :/ It might be time consuming, but maybe spraying one side of the newspaper with something like a spray starch or clear primer would somehow “set” the ink in the paper and prevent bleeding onto the wall? I don’t know for sure because I haven’t actually tried it, but might be something to try? Good luck, and I’d love to hear if you find a good solution!!

  3. What’s black and white and red / read all over? Your ceiling! My Gran used to say that to me daily. Good memories, thanks. A very creative, clever and resourceful remedy to the ceiling situation, wouldn’t expect anything less from you. And good for you that you can say #justtakingitallinstride, I think you probably have guessed that I would have blown a fuse by this point πŸ˜‰

    1. Oh, you have no idea how much I take your words to heart … and about closing before the tenants move out … ay de mi, I think we finally have a close date … the 28th … but don’t hold me to it πŸ™‚

  4. LOVE this idea! It is cool that you have a permanent record of a point in history to the house too. It will probably get more of a patina as it ages and will just get better with time. Great job!

  5. Karah,

    What a great idea! I love the idea of the newspaper aging and looking even more Restoration Hardware! Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring me today!


  6. Hi Karah. I love the newspaper on the ceiling. What a great way to cover up that ceiling without going broke. I would love to hear what potential renters think of it.
    On a totally different topic, I am thinking of moving my blog over to WordPress and I wondered if you use the basic or an upgraded version? I am so done with blogger and their lack of support so I am looking for a new place to hang my hat so to speak. I know you are busy but any thoughts you might provide will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Traci, I highly recommend WordPress … I use the paid version, started on the free version but love the added flexibility of the paid version. Feel free to shoot me an email with any other questions, I’m not sure what else I know but I’m happy to help where I can. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Kelly … we can always hope to come up with an idea people have never seen before, right?!?! And for just the right price. πŸ™‚

  7. LOVE, LOVE the newspaper ceiling. You gave us the inspiration to get our porch/sun room addition ceiling and walls done!. It’s been going on 7 years that we just didn’t know what to do with the interior. I kept looking up ideas on the net, and nothing really took my fancy. When I saw this posting, I excitedly called hubby to come take a look……. and he loved it !. So we went out the other day and bought a gallon of the Elmers glue and a paint tray and roller. Project is set to go for next week. I am so looking forward to getting it done. Thanks for posting, and unknowingly giving us the well needed “kick in the butt” to git ‘er done !!!

    1. Sandy, this is the best comment ever!! All I can ever do is hope to inspire someone. I’m so excited for you. And consider the ‘kick in the butt’ a love tap. πŸ™‚ And I’d love to see a picture if you want to send one along. Happy newspapering. πŸ™‚

      1. Thankyou !. And I will send on a before and after pic. Hoping to get ceiling and walls done within the next 2 weeks

  8. another thought would be great forf a themed room would be using gift wrap, you can get it on sale/clearnace all the time, and if you lie tinekrbell then do tinkerbell themed gift wrap or cartoons/comics and do a childs room. wall/walls or ceiling, it would be a cute way, i am considering doing one wall in my disney room with assorted giftwraps i have collected over the years, and do taht. like a collage of dinsyey, looks so neat, never tyoght it would coe out as good as it didd. you did d great job. keep on inpsiring.

  9. This is soooo awesome! It reminds me of the pantry in my grandparents on farmhouse. My grandmother wallpapered the walls with newspaper…and probably used Elmers.

  10. Pingback: Newspaper for the Ceiling
  11. Oh my goodness! Found this via Pinterest.. Cool beans! I have a TON of old Archie comics from my childhood.. Maybe I should recycle them by doing something like this! Thank you for the inspiration.

  12. I love it! And having wallpapered a couple ceilings over the years… I greatly appreciate how your neck felt when you were done πŸ˜‰ Isn’t it funny how what goes around, comes around? Back in the day… like 75 or 80 years ago, they would wallpaper the walls with newspaper to cover the cracks in the plaster, if they couldn’t afford regular wallpaper… These days, it’s applied for a super cute treatment!

  13. I am so glad to have found this post. I have a few area’s in my home that I want to paint, but cannot afford to, however the newspaper is certainly available. I was curious, for removal (when I can actually paint) will have be a difficult process. Then again I may just love it and leave it. Anyway, thanks for the tutorial, excellent idea.

    1. Yay! I hope this works for you. Since I just applied mine with watered down glue I was thinking that I could spray it all with water to soften up the adhesive if I ever do want to remove it. Then you might just need to spackle and sand a few spots to get it ready for paint. But I haven’t tried it so I don’t know for sure.

      1. Very graceful response to such an abrupt comment. I think I’d like it better if it were more helter skelter and less lined up. On the ceiling it’s not really my first choice, but it’s a huge improvement, and I know how hard ceilings are to work on. It’s a trade off. That being said, I’d sarcastically wished I could use newspaper on a problem wall, but now I see I can. I believe tea could be applied to give the patina of age, but I’ll have to Google that and see if someone has already done the work of figuring it out.

        1. Hi Gael! About the patina, I can tell you that I covered an old file cabinet in book pages about 2 years ago and it has already turned into a nice aged look. I hear you about wanting more helter skelter, I love that idea, too. We started doing that and overlapping the large sheets of newspaper on other newspaper that was still wet, and not fully stuck, just drug it all down off the wall. It’s definitely doable, it would just take more patience … not exactly my strong suit. πŸ™‚

  14. how well does the ceiling handle moisture with all of the newspapers? There can be some moisture and mold problems in my house and before I cover my walls, I was wondering if it would be OK in the long run… Is it like normal wallpaper now? Thanks so much and you’ve inspired me!

    1. Hi Lauren! That is a good question, and I honestly don’t know the answer since I did this in a bedroom. I probably wouldn’t put it in a bathroom. I guess the upside would be if you have to repair or replace any sections there’s always a replacement paper supply. πŸ™‚ I would love to see pics if you try it!

  15. I once did a wall in my teen daughter’s room with pictures of everything she liked from animals,bands and celebs. It was awesome. Now that she is grown and gone to live with Jesus, I think that I will do my walls with computer images or craft images since this is what the room is used for….what do you think?

    1. I am really sorry to hear about your daughter, Theresa. I think lining the walls in something that you love is a wonderful idea. I have heard of sewing patterns for a seamstress and pages from Shel Silverstein books for kids. Surround yourself with what you love!!

  16. I want to do this, but with maps, on a wall of our office. How hard would it be to remove this wall treatment in the future, however?

  17. I covered a wall with sheet music in my hallway. I used the watered down glue also. I love it. I moved before I had the chance to trim it out, but had planned to. I love the ceiling idea. I may try sports pages in the spare bedroom…

  18. Ohh Karah!!
    You are just awesome!! ?
    I want my new house’s living room’s walls covered with newspapers..
    Just for style & creativity.
    Your article will be a huge help for me.
    You are so funny!
    Loved your wordings ❀
    Thanx for your tips!
    Love from Pakistan ?

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