Wallpapering your dolls house or miniature project is one of the hardest things to do well, but it really shows when it is done properly. Doing a really professional job is not that difficult when you stick to some golden rules and have a little bit of know-how and some top tips.
Here at Poppet's Dolly Bits we have been getting excited over wallpaper for 8 years now. When I started in 2005, I had just been gifted a dolls house by my husband, who thought I needed a hobby and I had shown interest in the miniature world. As I am 4 foot 10 and in his eyes a miniature (he is 6 foot), I think he thought the two would go together - I have no clue what he would have bought for me had I been 6 foot 4!
A room in the little yellow house - the papers have that flat dull look.
Anyway so it began, I started to decorate that little yellow house and I soon realised papering in tiny spaces is awfully difficult and needs a LOT of patience, something I also realised I didn’t seem to have! Give me three children all yelling for 3 different things at once while cooking 4 different meals with a baby on my hip, NO PROBLEM, been there done that. HAH I laughed in the face of chaos how difficult could it be…..
Another room in the little yellow house - you can see I had no clue about what borders and papers would work.
Well there it is - decorating that house started to come between me and my wits, I lost sleep, skipped meals, and ate far too much comfort food and way too much vino! I tried everything to get the best possible finished job I could, I tried different papers, linings, adhesives, pastes, glues & fixatives in fact probably the only thing I didn’t try was flour & water glue! That house was like an art & crafts reject!
Finally, house done, and by the time the last room was done I pretty much had it sorted. Long story short, I papered another house with the methods I liked and it was a breeze.
My second house
Mind you, never think you have it totally sorted. Recently we discovered, thanks to DHPP's Rosemary, that even with the best laid plans and all that …. things can still go wrong. Rosemary is very experienced in working with older dolls houses and when she put our papers on her 1930s house the inks reacted with the old wood and her lovely decorated rooms all had a very odd green tinge.
Green-tinged wallpaper in Rosemary's house. Photo © Rosemary
Two more lots of papers later and lots of stress and lots of help from her and her unending patience, it was solved. The wood was the culprit, whether it was oils in the wood or wood type or whatever, you can never take it for granted that you know 100% what you are doing 100% of the time. So remember if you are happy with the job you do and the way that you do it, no matter what, it’s your project and you can do whatever you want.
Of course everyone has their favourite hints and tips and methods that work and "if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” so the saying goes, but for anyone who is new to this hobby or wants to try another method with a long lasting great result, this is Poppet's Dolly Bits recommended method. Those of you who have bought papers & borders from us before will know that we always put in a sheet of how to get a perfect job done, and here it is courtesy of we three at Poppet's Dolly Bits!
To get the best out of your papers & do a perfect job invest in 2 items –
Firstly, good quality ready-made wallpaper paste. We have tried & tested these on different brands of papers and it works brilliantly on all and it keeps for up to 2 years so works out much cheaper than dolls house paste! Or use Pritt stick or stick glues if you really don’t want to go down the paste route.Secondly buy a mini-roller from either a hardware shop or a rubber arts and crafts one. Either way it will become your new best friend. The roller is priceless for bubbles & overlapping seams on your paper & will save you tearing it by avoiding use of damp cloths etc. Keep a damp rag nearby though to wipe off gluey fingers (gluey fingers are your enemy along with damp cloths on your papers).
1. Poppet's TOP TIP – We ALWAYS paste the wall not the paper with the wallpaper paste or glue.
2. Our papers are sprayed with graphic fixative to stop fading or bleeding. We do this for a better long lasting finish. If you want to spray any papers you buy, use the cheapest hairspray - it has a fixative in it - not good for hair, but great for craftwork, & the cheaper the better.
3. Our papers all edge-match but trimming to top/bottom to perfect height fit may be needed. Houses are all sizes & you may be using borders etc. Lay out paper, measure 1 perfectly then match edges 1 by 1 before pasting.
4. On vintage or antique dolls houses (pre 1980s) houses, it is best to paper your wallpaper onto thin card cut to the size and shape of each wall. This allows you to redecorate to your taste, while retaining the original papers for posterity. It is important not to strip original wall and floor papers, as they are one of the best guides for dating a house, and also enable future owners to reproduce the original decorating scheme if they want to. If papers are mouldy, etc, they do have to be treated or removed, but even small scraps of original papers provide information. Sometimes sections of original papers can be retained as features, framed by the new wallpaper, or hidden behind fixtures like fireplaces.
5. On previously papered modern dolls houses, or porous new or old wood, you should strip walls & sand & put on a coat of wood preserver or emulsion to stop colours bleeding & prevent reactions. If the existing paper is intact and in good condition you could paper over using it as the backing paper.
6. We only use glue sticks or ready-mixed wallpaper paste as our recommended choice as it's perfect consistency, pure white, dries clear & doesn’t react.
7. If using 1 sheet of paper in a room to cut costs, try using it on 1 wall as feature paper & paint others in a contrasting paint, or cut the piece of paper in half lengthwise, paper the bottom of the wall, add borders & paint the rest.
8. POPPETS TOP TIP Heavy patterns hide wires & irregularities by the ton!
9. Try to get the best pattern match you can. Centre paper on a chimney breast or central point of a main wall to start or start & finish in a corner, this is the easiest way. Dolls houses are notoriously detailed when all your pictures, furniture etc. are in so don’t worry about it.
10. Paint or stain your measured & cut to size coving, skirting etc. and glue them on before your paper. You can do this the other way round & if you don’t keep redecorating the house this is fine & means no raggy edges. If you are painting & using friezes not paper use blu-tak to get an idea of how it will look.
11. Cut your paper to measure before you paste as this gives a neater edge, cutting damp paper is not the way to get a good edge & paste walls NOT paper, this eliminates stretching and wrinkling of the paper. If final trimming is necessary cut the paper when it’s totally dry e.g. round door edges etc.
We made the floor tiles on photo paper, but got the sizes and printed them as an exact fit to give a proper tiled look.
12. POPPET'S TOP TIP If like me you aren’t good at guesswork of measurements, use a card interface. Cut a piece of card to the exact dimensions of the wall & use it as a template for cutting out your paper perfectly.
13. Don’t put borders on until everything is completely dry.