Starching Fabric to Walls Creates Fantastic Looks

Starching fabric to walls is one of my all time favorite projects because the results are always so fantastic.

Matt and I have tackled the project of starching fabric to walls at least three times in residences, and then we took the whole process on the road one year as well.  Why do I mention this?  Well, because many people wonder about the sturdiness of starching fabric to the walls and I’m here to say that it works.  We carried three 8 foot starched fabric walls around with us, shoving them into our van, carrying them through home shows and just generally abusing them, and the fabric never budged.

Bathroom with Fabric Starched to the Walls - MattandShari.com

I guess this means that in your home, with regular wear and tear, starched fabric could stay on the walls forever!! However, the beauty of this process is that the opposite also holds true as well.  If you want to get the fabric off of the walls, simply pick at a corner of the fabric and pull.  It will come off without harming the wall and you can even wash and use the fabric again if you like.  This makes this technique perfect for people who move alot, like to change their decor often, or for those living in aprtments where altering the walls is frowned upon. If you are interested, here is the step by step instruction.

Materials List:

Fabric Tip:
Good quality decorator fabrics work very nicely for this technique, as do sturdy cottons.  To keep your sanity, consider using a pattern that may not need to be matched and stay away from stripes and plaids…at least for your first try!  Overall patterns work great, like paisleys, florals and geometrics! 

Instructions:Fabric Soaking in Starch - MattandShari.com

1.  Start by measuring the height of the wall space to be covered, add 6” to this dimension, and cut out your fabric strips.

2.  Methodically dip the fabric panel into the starch and make sure that the entire piece is coated on the front and back.  It doesn’t need to be dripping, just wet all over with starch. Try to sqwueegee some of the starch out of the fabric as you pull it out of the bucket or sink to save the starch and keep it from dripping all over the floor.

Installing First Strip of Fabric with Starch - MattandShari.com

3.Straighten out the fabric panel by holding it up with two hands at the upper corners and then go to the wall.  Place the fabric into position and press it on the wall into place.  Allow the first panel of fabric to wrap slightly around the corner.  Use your hands or the wallpaper smoother to get out all the bubbles.

Use Push Pins to Hold Fabric in Place - MattandShari.comI used push pins to hold one end of the fabric in place while I smoothed the other end.

Trim Off Excess Fabric - MattandShari.com

4.  Once the fabric is smooth on the wall, you need to trim off the extra at the top and bottom.  I used a very sharp utility knife and a flat blade just like I would with wallpaper. The type of fabric you use will determine your cutting and trimming method.  My fabric was woven so the loose threads kept unraveling which was a big problem.  I found that if I waited until the starch was dry it was easier to cut a straight, unfrayed edge.   If you use a regular printed cotton fabric, it won’t do this.

Tips for Trimming Around Plumbing - MattandShari.com

Tip: If you need to cut around pipes or outlets, simply press your fabric in place the best you can, push pin it in areas slightly away from the area you are cutting out, and start with a small slit made with scissors.  Once you verify that the small slit is in the right location, cut a larger slit until you can push the pipe through or find the edges of the outlet to cut around.  Just take it slowly and you’ll be fine.

Last, let me mention that I did get a little bit of bubbling once the fabric had dried and stiffened.  To remedy this I grabbed a paint brush and some starch and painted the starch over the bubbly area to saturate it again and I pressed it in place.  This worked well and everything is still lying as flat as can be.

Hot Glue Braided Trim as a Finishing Touch - MattandShari.com

If by some chance you have jagged edges that need to be covered up, purchase a braided trim and hot glue it along the edge for a nice finishing touch. I used this to hide the staples on the fabric I upholstered to the wall but it would work on the starch as well.

In another article I’ll explain the upholstering method.  It isn’t as difficult as it sounds and the results are amazing.

Shari

Comments

  1. Freyja Lauritsen says

    Hi Shari-
    I’m in love with a silk gingham by Schumacher and I want to put it on the CEILING in my dining room. Yes, it’s silk, but I get a trade price, and I need 28 yards, which is expensive, but so are the gorgeous wallpapers these days. Since it’s silk, I take it I CAN’T do the starch hanging you say to do in this article? I know there’s a to-the-trade company that can convert any fabric, even silk, into wallhangings/wallpaper, but I was wondering if that’s necessary since no one will be touching it. This is my “forever house” and the walls are shiny green, bright white woodwork, and this green apple and white silk on the ceiling would be dressy and fabulous. Please advise if you have any suggestions on how to hang silk. Thank you!

    • Shari Hiller says

      I wouldn’t try our starching method on silk, nor would I try it on a ceiling…only because I haven’t tried that before and I couldn’t be sure it would stay on the ceiling. Have you found someone to actually do the work? I would contact a reputable wall covering hanger in your area and talk to them about what you want to do and get their recommendation. You might want to simply upholster the ceiling instead of attaching the fabric tight to it. It can be upholstered by adding furring strips to the ceiling along with batting in between and then stapling the silk from underneath and folding it over to hide the staples. Hard to explain, but a wall covering hanger may be able to do this as well. Or, try a local fabric and drapery workroom. Your colors and design sound wonderful. Let me know how it comes out!

  2. thi says

    Hi Shari,

    Have you done this over wallpaper? I have ugly wallpaper on my panels in my house now and having it removed and installed with new wallpaper is not affordable for me at this time. I came across this and really interested in knowing if it’s doable over wallpaper.

    Any tips or recommendations will greatly be appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Shari Hiller says

      Hmm, that is a good question. We haven’t ever done this technique over a wallpaper and my initial thought is that it would wet the paper and get the process started of removing the paper…than of course they would both come down. However, some wallpapers are destined to NEVER come down! Especially the ones you want off the wall! If the paper is super stuck to the walls and there is a place to try it with a small swatch of fabric, like behind a china cabinet or something that won’t be moved, it might be worth a try?

    • Shari Hiller says

      Hi Colleen, we have tried this over paneling and there are several “ifs”. If the groove in the paneling is minimal and the fabric is thicker, the project works well. If the grooves are deep and the fabric is light, it has a tendency to shrink into the grooves a bit. You might want to try a strip low on the wall in a concealed spot to test it before doing the entire wall.

  3. Raine Tillman says

    I have a very small half bath with bead board on the walls. I want to hang blue toile fabric above the bead board. The fabric says “dry clean recommended”…. Can I put a “dry clean” fabric in the wet starch? Thanks in advance for any advice.

    • Shari Hiller says

      Raine, I have to admit, I’m not sure, although the fabrics we have used in the past have been decorator fabrics that are usually used for draperies and upholstery, and I imagine they are dry clean only as well. The checked fabric on the walls in the bathroom photographed is the exact fabric used for draperies in another area of the house and I wouldn’t wash the draperies, I’d dry clean them, so we had no problem with it. I would probably (if I had any extra fabric) cut a swatch, dip it in starch and try it on a wall, perhaps even the inside of a closet or something. Once you see if it works, just pull the swatch off of the wall and wipe the wall clean with warm water.

  4. Raine Tillman says

    Thank you so much Shari. I think I’m gonna buy one piece (smallest they sell) of drywall and practice on that. I actually found the fabric at 50% off , and being a toile freak….( Is there therapy for that?? ) ….I bought a ton of it and, consequently, have plenty of scraps left over from pillows, drapes, and chairs I’ve covered! Wish me luck!
    Raine

    • Shari Hiller says

      Plain, unpainted drywall may absorb a lot more starch than a painted wall, so your final results might not be equal to the results you would get in your home. However, you should be able to test how your fabric reacts to the starch, if nothing else. And, there is no cure for the love of toile…we don’t really need one do we???? I’m right there with you – I’d wear it if it didn’t seem a bit too much! Hahahaha!

      • Raine Tillman says

        Oh good! A fellow toile addict! Actually it’s a brand new powder room, so right now there is only dry wall and that “mud” stuff you put in the cracks. Do you think I should paint the walls first? Also, speaking of paint, I put up bead board and so far have 2 coats of glossy white paint on it, but you’d never know! It’s kinda dull and lifeless looking. Even a bit rough in spots. Should I have painted a primer first as a base?

  5. Diane says

    I’m wondering if this starching fabric to the walls project would work in a bathroom with a shower or the steam would cause the fabric to fall off the walls eventually? I probably have enough hairspray on the walls already that it would NEVER come down, but just checking anyway!! Thanks.

    • Shari Hiller says

      Diane, your hairspray comment make me laugh! You know, we’ve never tried it in a steamy bathroom, but how steamy does it really get? Don’t you have a fan to keep the steam down? Do you open the door relatively quickly to cool it down in the bathroom? You know, the starch holds the fabric on really tightly… maybe we can toss this out to anyone else who may have done this starching project in a steamy bathroom. I’ve heard this question many times, so someone must have been brave enough.

  6. Amanda says

    How much texture can the wall have before it starts looking wrinkly? Or will any texture on the wall show through? The walls I currently have are somewhere between an orange peel texture and a knockdown wall texture, and I don’t think its worth bothering doing unless I could get a smooth look

    • Shari Hiller says

      Amanda, I think that sounds like quite a bit of texture, but you know you could probably give it a try in an inconspicuous area. Take a small piece of fabric and dip it in the starch and press it to the wall and let it dry. I have used a variety of different weights of fabric, and even the thicker woven fabrics will hold as long as they are saturated with the starch. Perhaps you just need to use a thicker fabric, not a light cotton. If it doesn’t work with your sample, peel the fabric off the wall and wash off the starch with warm water and a sponge.

  7. Krysta Michael says

    Hi Shari,
    Just wondering, do you think this method would work on kitchen cabinets? I’m in a rental with old wooden cabinets and I would love to dress them up a bit, I just don’t want to leave any damage behind. Any advice would help! Thank you!

    • Shari Hiller says

      Hi Krysta! The problem I see with putting something very wet onto wooden kitchen cabinets, especially if they are old and have lost some of their protective finish, is that the moisture from the starch could warp the wood. You could end up with a big mess. I don’t think I’d risk it on wood cabinets.

  8. says

    Shari
    Thank you for sharing this! I have been coming up with so many different ideas for fabric walls in my head, but never really knowing if the way I thought it could be done would be effective. This is totally doable and can be so much more affordable than wallpaper. I do small interior decorating projects for people on tight budgets living in apartments. Many times the apartment living restrictions prohibits many typical decorating ideas and budgets can sometimes be so tight that I have to come up with very outside-the-box ways to make bold statements. You have given me something new to look forward to. thanks again for sharing in a very understandable way.

  9. Tina says

    Do you wash and dry the fabric before starching and hanging? Like you would if you were going to sew it? Seems as though the wetting and drying could potentially shrink it. Thanks!

    • Shari Hiller says

      Hi Tina, you know, I’ve never pre-washed a fabric to starch it. Trying to think why? I guess I mostly use woven fabrics, not printed..and always a heavier weight decorator fabric. I’ve never had a problem.

  10. Cindy says

    Hi Shari,

    I am covering a pole in the living room of my parents’ condo with hand-dyed (natural dyes so well-mordanted) silk organza. In a previous reply you said you wouldn’t try this with silk…why not?
    I am not concerned about the colors running; they are completely waterfast (we’ll be experimenting with the lightfastness of some new colors :) but my parents’ are OK with that). I have tried a tiny sample in a closet in my own home (results to be determined as I *just* attached silk to wall and it is still wet) but given your experience with this technique, I am interested in your thoughts/comments. Thanks in advance!

    • Shari Hiller says

      Cindy, I’m so excited to hear your results. I was simply afraid that silk was too delicate and would be difficult to get a smooth finish. Let us all know how it goes!

      • Cindy says

        Shari –
        Thanks for the reply about silk. The project is *almost* complete but since smaller pieces are essentially collaged onto the pole it is very slow. As a basic rule, silk appears delicate but is quite strong. It is definitely a fine, not stiff textile (I think of it as “slinky”) so after a bit of experimentation, I modified your technique a bit.

        I found I got a smooth finish more easily by holding each piece in place with tape (small pieces at the corners) and using my palm to compensate for/smooth out the drape (sag) of the silk then applying the starch with my other hand/fingers (it was/is a laborious task). I put a band of starch across the top 1″ or so to anchor it and stop the drape then, still holding it with my hand (because it moves even when anchored) covering the rest of the piece with starch. When the whole pole is covered, I will apply a final coat of starch to the whole thing…

        The silk held up well though I found it is best only smoothed with fingers, not rigid tools which pull too much and can snag the fabric.

        For the natural dyers in your audience: I was worried about starch as a food source for silverfish so put a little borax in my homemade starch; the borax did modify some of the natural dye colors but that depended on the type of mordant I had used (not all mordant/dye combos changed).

        Overall, I’d absolutely say that you can use silk, or at least silk organza, Some of the coarser/less smooth weaves (e.g., dupioni which has slubs in it) probably wouldn’t work as well (More accurately, they’d probably look amazing but would be more difficult to smooth.), but smooth silks like organza or China silk work great! The key is that my mom and dad like it, and that’s the most important thing to me!

        Thanks again!

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