A New Use for Old Books: Wallpaper

by Anh-Minh on September 16, 2010

The walls on the set of Print Is Not Dead was made with vintage book pages.

By now, hopefully you’ve seen the video we made to officially announce the launch of Anthology. (If you haven’t, take a look over here.) One of our favorite parts of the set that we built was the wall treatment. It consisted of hundreds of pages from old books. The texture, as well as color and font variations, could only be accomplished by using individual sheets of papers. So while it was a bit tedious to create, it was well worth the effort.

If you’ve got more time than money, it’s a great alternative to regular wallpaper. All you need is a stack of books, a brush, and some Modge Podge. Since we were constructing a set, we adhered the pages to panels of thin cardboard; it’s actually floor protector from a builder’s supply store that’s sold in large rolls. Then we stapled the panels to the walls of our set. That’s it!

Photo credit: Marvin Ilasco

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily September 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

Brilliant — I’ve seen this done with great success on the ceiling at Ruxbin (ruxbinchicago.com) in Chicago. (A great meal too, by the way!)

Justina Blakeney September 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

I’ve been doing some DIY projects lately with old book pages and it works much, much better than newspaper in most cases. It’s especially fun to use noon-English language books. If you wallpapered your washroom with paper from french books you could practice french while on the loo! Can’t wait to check out the issue! Love the illustrated cover.

Becca September 16, 2010 at 9:46 am

A friend of mine did this same thing in her kitchen using old cookbooks. Turned out great!

susan September 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

I did this to a bathroom with a vintage book of botanicals, loved it. Old dictionaries are my newest love and my next project is to paper my cabinets in my living room.

Margaret Perry September 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

where are those sheets from? I love love love love them!

The Buzz - Diane James Home September 16, 2010 at 10:56 am

Always looking for something to read, especially in the powder room! Great idea for a guest room, too!

Eddie September 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

I absolutely love the idea. I have been playing around with doing something similar once we get our own place. I have been collecting maps for years for the same purpose.

Alyssa September 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thank you – this is SO helpful. I’ve been contemplating using book pages as wallpaper in my office. I’ve seen it styled in photos and in sets, but wasn’t sure how it would look in real life. The floor protector is a great idea, as well. We live in a rental so real wallpaper is out.

Anh-Minh September 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Hi Margaret – I believe the floral sheets are vintage, and the ruffled shams are from Urban Outfitters.

Glad you all like the book pages-as-wallpaper concept as much as we do!

Tricia Rose September 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Have you no pity for people who are obsessively drawn to read all print?!

Jane @ the girl in the brick house September 16, 2010 at 7:42 pm

What a fantastic idea and it looks so cool! Did you do the same with the lamp shade?

victoria@recycledrevamped September 16, 2010 at 8:35 pm

You rock! My friend did this in her hallway and it looks awesome. Thanks for reminding me about it.
In our laundry room, which was paneled with some lovely mauve and blue flowers, I used old grocery sacks and wallpaper paste with amazing success. I’ve seen it with a coat of poly too, and it looks like leather!
I want to work for your magazine!

Stephanie September 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Love it! I’ve been wanting to do this in my hallway out of old hymnals!

Elizabeth @ rosalilium September 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm

This is so inspiring. I am doing the interior design for an apartment in Prague so I might use this idea there.

alexis September 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm

what a fabulous idea. and if I ever find myself fighting a writer’s block-I can always read the walls for inspiration!

Pam May 3, 2011 at 10:46 am

Back in the late 70s, my folks bought a big old house in Seattle – built in the 1890s. In the powder room just off the entry, someone had wallpapered the entire room (about the size of a closet!) with pages from the New Yorker Magazine – some covers included. I think the magazines were from the late 50s/early 60s? At any rate, it was fascinating reading! I especially enjoyed the old cartoons.

Looks like this is an old idea that has become new again. :-)

Try out several printed sources – books, magazines, newspapers – on a small sample, both to practice the technique, and to see which look you prefer. Experiment with full pages versus torn-up pieces of pages, glued up so the edges overlap.

Newspapers will brown with age. That might be ok, depending on the look you are going for. They will also tend to wrinkle as you put them up, but that might be ok, too.

Have fun making your samples, then go to town on a larger piece!

Note: in most normal-sized rooms, one wall is probably all you should do. That way it’s an “accent wall” and not too much. The tiny powder room was a little overwhelmed with all the magazine pages on all the walls!

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