Last week I shared our kitchen progress. This is a confused room because we don’t know what our long-term plan is yet. Will we repaint/keep the cabinets, or spring for all new ones? Do we need to replace that window? What appliances do we want? With all this unanswered, we’ve been working on a “half-makeover” while we get our act together for the real thing.
Because one thing was for certain, we didn’t want to live like this:
We had the old yellow back splash torn out during the demolition-spree in our renovation, figuring anything would be better than that yellow. Now, I love yellow – I willingly painted all of my doors yellow and bragged about it on the internet – but this was a particularly bad shade. It was faded and sickly, and brought all the wrong tones out of our cabinet wood.
Taking it out turned out to be quite a pain, as it was actually installed under the upper cabinets. It had to be carefully cut out and then peeled off. But I was right: having no backsplash at all was better than that color. Especially with the other changes we made in our renovation, like an open floor plan or new counters in the kitchen.
So we lived like this for a while, and I almost stopped seeing the pitted wood coated in glue with gaping electrical holes….
Almost, but not really at all.
We had to do something to help us enjoy the room while we figured out the long-term plan. It needed to be relatively affordable, easy, removable, and colorful.
I did consider fabric like Sage used beautifully on her stair risers. However, fabric in a kitchen is just not practical, and setting it behind a sheet of glass or plexiglas (which can be done beautifully) was a lot more work and expense than I was interested in for this project, which was supposed to be quick, cheap, and easy.
After reading everything I could find, I decided that renter’s wallpaper was the perfect solution. It goes up like a big sticker and peels off without a trace, so it is ideal for those who can’t or don’t want to make permanent changes to their homes. And, while it is certainly not cheap to do a whole room or even an accent wall, I found it to be affordable enough for a small backsplash.
I looked at a ton of options online – there is some great stuff out there! I loved Champaign by Tempaper, which had a metallic sheen.
Also, Little Leaf by Chasing Paper.
My runner-up was Wild, also by Chasing Paper. (I was overruled by my Advisory Council, in this case Brad and my friend Tasha, who deemed it too “creepy” to have all those animals staring out of the wall. Wrong on them: it is adorable. I WILL get this in my house somehow.)
I finally settled on Tiles by Swag Paper. I have been craving beautiful bright tile like this or this, so the pattern lets me live a little of that dream while I wait to get my hands on a real kitchen or bathroom renovation. I also loved that it pulled in a lot of the saturated primary colors that we have around the living and dining rooms, while still having a light background.
After staring at a swatch on the wall for a week I was ready to pull the trigger. I figured I could get away with just two 6 ½ foot rolls. And I was right… sort of.
To get things ready, I (sloppily) patched up the wall and put up two coats of semi-gloss paint to give it something to stick to rather than the pitted glue surface. I also thought that using a semi-gloss might make it easier to peel off later. I went with the same paint we’re using for our trim, knowing that it needed to be white or the tint might show through and make the paper look dingy.
The imperfect paint job was so much better than the gross wood. I didn’t even mind living with it for a week while it cured.
Finally, it was time to put up the wallpaper. Starting on the back wall, I peeled just a few inches of the paper backing off the top of the first panel, lined it up along the top, and smoothed downward with a credit card, peeling off more of the paper backing as I went. At the bottom, I trimmed the excess with an x-acto knife and stuffed the cut edge behind the counter with the card.
(Protip: don’t use a credit card or anything with value on it, because it can easily slip and fall behind the cabinets. …Whoever eventually tears out these cabinets will find themselves the proud owner of a new Charlie Card, and can ride the MBTA as far as $9.50 will get you in 2037.)
It was slow going because there were so many nooks and crannies to measure and cut around, and I didn’t have much material to spare. Each panel probably took 15 minutes. Here are three:
A lot of that time was spent lining up the edges. I didn’t get it quite seamless, but I think it looks pretty good. And it’s hardly noticeable from a few steps back.
Despite taking a little more time than I anticipated, it was really pretty easy and painless. And it was pretty satisfying to be working with a pretty pattern. Here is the job all done!
It is colorful, with the blues popping because of the hue of the counter, but it isn’t overpowering. I love the pattern, and it goes a long way toward making our kitchen feel cheerful and homey.
It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come!
I wish I could have gotten away with leaving the end piece next to the microwave as just plain wood. However, there were some holes and rough patch jobs there so it had to be covered.
To create a simple (and free) border, I trimmed some spare paint stirrers down to size with the x-acto knife and gave them two coats of our trim paint. I glued them right onto the wallpaper so they’ll peel off with the rest of it when the time comes.
I actually almost ran out of paper, and had to painstakingly patch together enough to fill in this corner by the window while maintaining the pattern. I think it turned out pretty well, and it’s not very visible back here, but it was touch-and-go there for a while.
If you do this project, remember to take the pattern’s repeat into account for your measurements, and that it is better to over-order than under-order!
We’ve been living with our new back splash for about a year now and it is holding up great. Renters wallpaper isn’t actually paper – ours is a vinyl coating over a light fabric texture – so it can handle being wiped down with a damp cloth. I just wouldn’t let any splatters dry on there or it might pick up a stain. But so far it looks as fresh as the day I put it up, and I feel good that it will make it the 1-3 more years that we need before deciding on a final plan for this room.
Now, if only we could do something about those cabinets, handles, lights, appliances, baseboards…
(Sharing on Whimsy Wednesday, Sarah Celebrates, Think and Make Thursdays, I Heart Naptime, That DIY Party, AKA Design, Thrifty Decor Chick, Remodelaholic, and A Bowl Full of Lemons – and FEATURED at Dwell Beautiful)