Tips to Install Peel and Stick Wallpaper

I love doing projects with my mom. We drink wine and catch up as we work away. Plus, she has the same attitude that I have when doing DIY projects…done is better than perfect. Today’s project was a great example of how we practice that motto.

A few weeks ago, we installed peel and stick wallpaper in my mom’s guest room closet. It turned out so cute, but it certainly isn’t perfect. Since this was our first time wallpapering, we learned A LOT along the way. But we got ‘er done with just a few tiny bubbles in the paper and the closet looks pretty damn good.

The Guest Room Closet

Guest room closet before

My mom’s guest room closet wasn’t super functional before. It was just a long rod and one shelf above. She stored lots of random items in this closet, like her Christmas tree, extra chairs, and stuff for her grandkids. Now that Finn and I are her roomies, we knew that we would need to make the closet a bit more functional for all of our clothing and shoes while we stay here. So that’s why we decided to tackle this closet and make it a whole lot better!Guest room closet before

While I knew we needed to install a new closet organization system (more details on that next week), I also felt like it needed some personality and feminine touch to match the rest of my mom’s gorgeous place. That’s when I had the idea to find a really pretty wallpaper for the back of the closet. When I stumbled upon this peel and stick wallpaper, I was sold! I figured peel and stick wallpaper was a good way to tiptoe into this new-to-me project, since I wasn’t quite ready to use “real wallpaper.” Plus, I loved the bold color and beautiful pattern.

Tips to Install Peel and Stick WallpaperTips to install peel and stick wallpaper

As I mentioned, we learned SOOOO MUCH as we tackled this project. So while I’m not an expert, I’ll certainly share what NOT to do as you install your own peel and stick wallpaper. My first piece of advice is to start small and tackle this project in a place like a closet. We kept saying, “at least it’s just a closet” whenever a section wasn’t totally perfect. And it’s so true! If you want to tackle this project in a prominent spot, I’d recommend practicing in a smaller space first to get the hang of it.

Project SuppliesSupplies when installing peel and stick wallpaper

  • Peel and Stick Wallpaper (make sure to buy extra, you can always return it!)
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Straight Edge
  • Utility Knife
  • Plastic Smoother
  • Ladder
Peel and stick wallpaper from Lowe's

Prepping for WallpaperEmpty the closet

The first thing we did was actually about a month ago. We removed the old closet system, patched the holes, and primed the entire closet. You want the paint to fully cure before you apply the peel and stick wallpaper or else it might not adhere correctly. We also removed the doors, which is an absolute must when working in tight quarters!

Mark a Guide Line

Draw a straight line for your first piece of peel and stick wallpaper

We started on the left side of the closet, worked our way right, and then did the sides. So the first step was to measure out from the left corner 20.5 inches (the width of the wallpaper). I then used a long level to draw a straight line the entire length of the wall. This was the guide for our first strip, so it needed to be perfectly straight.

Install The First Strip

Install first strip of wallpaper

Peel about 12 inches of the backing off the paper and start at the ceiling. You’ll want to leave a little extra on the top of the ceiling (you’ll trim it later). Line up the right side of your paper with your straight line.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you install this first strip, straight, following your mark on the wall. This strip will make or break your entire project…seriously! Don’t worry about it lining up perfectly in the corner. Instead, make sure it’s absolutely straight along that mark. I think our first strip was a teeny tiny bit off and we then ran into some problems down the line. Learn from us and take the time to get this one just right!

Smooth & Trim

Use the plastic smoother to install your peel and stick wallpaper

The plastic smoother was the number one tool for this project. As you press the wallpaper onto the wall, you’ll move from top to bottom peeling the back off and using the smoother to push any air bubbles down. Trim at the baseboard

When you get to the floor, use the plastic smoother as your guide and run the utility knife along the edge of the baseboard to trim it. Do this same technique on the ceiling to trim the excess. Then go over the entire piece one more time making sure all of the air bubbles are out and it’s pressed firmly onto the wall.

Apply More Strips

Applying more peel and stick wallpaper strips

Follow the same techniques to install your second strip. Match the pattern up exactly and use that as your guide so you know it’s straight. The great thing about peel and stick wallpaper is that you can easily lift it back up and readjust it as you go. So if it’s not lining up perfectly, just unpeel it and start again. This was a gamechanger for us and allowed us to reposition to get everything matched up.

Starting a New Roll

Starting a new roll

There were a couple of areas where we ran out of wallpaper before we got to the bottom of the wall. In those instances, we opened a new roll and matched the pattern on the bottom of the strip, as well as to the left piece. We would cut the new piece and then place it a couple of inches underneath the bottom of the top piece.

We were worried you’d be able to see all of the lines, but once you smooth it into place the lines pretty much disappear. The pattern usually helps to hide any imperfections.

Wallpaper The Sides

Wallpapering the corners

When we got to the right side, we ended up curving the peel and stick wallpaper into the corner instead of cutting it. This made the corner disappear,  creating a seamless look. We then started the next piece on the right wall following the pattern of the one to the left. On the left side wall, we ended up overlapping the pattern a bit with the back wall to ensure that no white wall showed through in the corner. Peel and stick wallpaper in a closet

It took us about three hours to finish up this closet, but we were having a blast catching up and drinking wine while we worked (plus, we took a break for some dinner in there too). I think next time we do this project, we can get it done a bit faster!

Before & After

I now want to wallpaper all the things! I mean, c’mon, this closet looks so much cooler now with that pop of color. Before it was a dingy white and now it’s got so much personality. Pretty pattern wallpaper

Plus, the pattern is so pretty and feminine…just like my mama. Installing peel and stick wallpaperI will absolutely tackle this project again in the new house. I’m already plotting out our front closet. I mean, wouldn’t it be special to have a fun color in your closet as your guests hang up their coats? The ultimate way to welcome people into your home! Plus, I learned so much installing it the first time, that it should be a breeze next time I do this project. Hopefully, I can convince my mom to help me again!

Organized guest room closet space

And here’s a look at the finished closet! You can come to see the process of adding the closet organizers over in this blog post. Our baby girl's closet in the nursery

And if you’re looking for another wallpaper project, I used “real” wallpaper in my daughter’s nursery closet. You can read all about that process right here.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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