Should You Paint or Wallpaper?

You're ready to spiff up walls, but which decorative option is the best choice?

By Jan Soults Walker

Adding color—and maybe even some pattern—to walls is a fabulous way to enliven any room and set the stage for style to come. How do you decide between paint versus wallcovering? Here are a few considerations.

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Jessica Helgerson

Design goals

Think about the ultimate look and mood you want to create in the space. In an entryway, for example, you may want to designate one dramatic accent wall—an ideal opportunity to pick a bold-patterned wallpaper and make a style statement from the moment someone walks through the door. Alternatively, tranquility often takes precedence in the master bedroom, so painting walls and the ceiling soft, monochromatic hues fulfills your desire for calm. Keep in mind that wallcovering also comes in subdued hues with subtle patterns and textures.

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Skill level and available time

Do you have experience with painting or wallpapering? For a DIY novice, painting is an ideal beginner's project that allows you to achieve professional results the first time out. The secret to success lies in proper preparation and using good quality paint and tools.

If you have several painting projects under your belt, then you may be ready to tackle hanging wallcovering. Seek out lots of advice from experts and study do-it-yourself articles and videos to gather an abundance of tips and accurate how-to information.

Whether you decide to paint or wallpaper, patience and precision are key to accomplishing a great look. Plan to set aside a day to prepare and paint a 10x10-foot room, or a weekend to wallpaper a similarly sized room, unless you have a lot of experience and a helper.

Budget objectives

Be realistic about how much you want to spend to dress up walls.

One gallon of quality paint costs about $25-$30 and will cover four walls with one coat in the average 10x10-foot room. Keep in mind, you'll also need to purchase supplies, such as a stepladder, drop cloths, painter's tape, and brushes and rollers. Don't forget the ceiling—it may be due for a fresh coat of paint as well.

According to, the average roll of wallcovering costs between $25-$50 (designer coverings can run $60 to $250 and up per roll). The average 10x10-foot room will require seven or eight rolls to cover all four walls. Like painting, a DIY wallcovering project requires some tools and supplies, such as a measuring tape, straight edge, paste, a paste brush or roller, utility knife, level, and stepladder.

Whims of change

If you aren't happy with the results or have grown tired of a look, it's fairly inexpensive to repaint a room another color for a fresh start.

Wallcovering requires more effort to change. You may be able to paper over the old wallcovering, but more likely, you'll need to remove it before applying the new rolls.

For more home design ideas and advice, check out:

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