A Secret Interior Design Trick: Wallpapering a Closet

WANT TO GIVE your décor a pop of personality that is both discrete and powerful? Take wallpaper inside your closet, a favorite interior-designer trick that’s playful, surprising and easy on the budget. You do still have to consider the context, however. When adding a motif to a room, Jewel Marlowe, a Washington, D.C., interior designer and DIYer, categorizes patterns into stripes, dots, watercolors, organic and geometric. “If my closet is in a striped room, for example, I would choose a dot, watercolor, organic or geometric with a different scale for my closet for more visual interest.” Here, some other particulars.

The Appeal

Closets are, surprisingly, among Jewel Marlowe’s favorite spots to wallpaper. “I believe the smaller the space, the better the opportunity to make a statement,” said the Washington, D.C., interior designer, who clad every wall and shelf of her kitchen pantry in a green geometric pattern (right). She loves the unexpected splash and seeing guests’ reactions when she asks them to fetch an onion from the charismatic closet. Los Angeles interiors photographer Sara Ligorria-Tramp opulently papered her walk-in closet (left) to inject some liveliness into her home’s mostly neutral design scheme. “It’s a great place to take a risk without committing to an entire room. And it makes me happy every time I’m in there,” she said.

PAPERED PANTRY In her home outside Washington, D.C., designer Jewel Marlowe covered all surfaces, including shelves, in a kitchen closet.


Jewel Marlowe

The Tips

When choosing a pattern, carefully ponder scale. For a small space with shelves, select a print with a small “repeat”—i.e., the number of inches before the pattern starts over again. Too large a repeat and the motif will look chopped up, chaotic and hard to appreciate. Larger-scale patterns work better in closets with fewer shelves, such as walk-ins. “Scale also relates to what’s outside the closet door,” noted Ms. Marlowe. “It is easier on the eyes if the closet wallpaper pattern is either smaller or bigger than the patterns” in adjacent rooms. Another source of guidance when picking patterns: The accent colors in the adjoining room often prove useful as a starting point. Ms. Marlowe’s kitchen is a pale blue, but in choosing her pantry paper, she took cues from the greenish hues in a nearby painting, wainscoting and copious houseplants.

The Caveats

If you decide to sell your house, potential homeowners might curse you. “Un-wallpapering a closet, I could only assume, would be a drag,” said Ms. Ligorria-Tramp, pointing to the many hooks, shelves, and hanger bars that must be removed to peel the paper. When installing it in the first place, measure precisely or outsource the task of anticipating the right quantity. Ms. Ligorria-Tramp thought she had done a good job by using an online wallpaper calculator, “but I should have given the measurements to the wallpaper installer directly.” She had planned to cover her closet’s ceiling, too, but barely had enough paper to span the walls, paying about $500 for the installation.

DIYers will need patience, not perfectionism. Said Ms. Marlowe, “When you are covering entire shelves and working around angles of existing brackets, there are bound to be slight variances, but trust me, probably only you will notice.”


What tips do you have on using wallpaper in your home? Join the conversation below.


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