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.
And a close up of the one main problem area.
Those are a few lovely cracks in the 70 plus year old plaster. Nothing structural, just ugly.
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’.
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.
Armed 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. 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.
- old newspaper
- white glue – like this brand
- paint roller – any old roller will do
- paint tray – here’s an earth friendly one
- paint brush – I used a chip brush
- utility knife – like this one
- TWO ladders/step stools/apparatus for raising your elevation if you’re doing a ceiling
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.
Step 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.
Step 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!
Step 4 - Adhere newspaper. (How do you like my work pants that make my butt look like the size of a boat?)
Here are a few things we learned along the way.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
And trim around any light fixtures or awkward corners.
I 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.
Now, 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.
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.
I 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.
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. #justtakingitallinstride