Works For Me: Paper Bagging Walls


I wrote yesterday about my bathroom drama, and the journey we’ve made to bring the decor out of the 1980’s.  I was, at first, skeptical that this "paper-bagging" technique would accomplish its purpose.  But I am, for the most part, pleased.

First, I’ll show you the websites I looked at to get some guidance:  check here and here.  I also talked to a couple of friends who had tried it (including this one…thank you, AM!).  I piece-mealed all this advice and here’s how I did it:

  1. Though this technique is called "paper-bagging" you don’t actually use paper bags (or you might end up with something like this).  Instead, buy a roll of contractor paper.  It only took me about 3/4 of a roll to do this whole bathroom.  Rip paper into random-shaped pieces.  I used a dinner plate as the general size guide.
  2. Wad up pieces tightly and let them sit for a while, so the crinkles will "set in"
  3. Un-wad and coat one side with wallpaper glue (I used the kind that is NOT for pre-pasted paper).
  4. Apply to wall, and firmly smooth with a tool like this one.  No matter how much you smooth, wrinkles and bubbles will reappear.  This was the point in the project where I panicked.  But the wrinkles will smooth out as the glue dries (at least, mine did).  Some wrinkles are a good thing–it adds to the texture.
  5. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat about a bazillion times until your entire wall is covered.
  6. The finished product in our bathroom can be seen here.

Really, that’s it.  It wasn’t hard, just time-consuming and messy.  Some people recommend covering the finished product with a glaze mixture or polyurethane.  We experimented with several different techniques, and none of it worked for us.  So we left it as it is, and if it falls down in three weeks you will hear hysterical screaming from the general direction of Oklahoma. 

(Special thanks to my faithful friend Chilihead who gave up an entire evening to apply a little additional elbow grease, and who talked me out of giving up!)

If you have a WFMW tip to share, please leave your link below.  Remember to read these guidelines before adding your link!

62 thoughts on “Works For Me: Paper Bagging Walls

  1. Rabbit says:

    Ignoramus here as well, not only did Mr Linky double post me again, I forgot to add my parentheses. Mine’s about dog food storage. This is what happens when I try to blog after 10 pm. Shannon, your brown bag walls look beautiful!

  2. Katrina says:

    I really, really stink at home improvement projects, but I’m going to keep this one in mind for if I’m ever feeling adventurous. Your bathroom turned out great.

  3. Dawn says:

    Love your bathroom wallpaper idea! The finished product is really beautiful! I personally don’t like wallpaper, but that story is for another day at my blog.

  4. Cyndi says:

    Looks great! If there’s ever a way to wallpaper with plastic Walmart and Target bags, I’m set. LOL Have a great day!

  5. Randi says:

    So, with all this good decorating advice, do you also provide any painting-for-hire services (plain old painting, of course)? My daughter and I are painting my craft room this weekend and I am wondering what on earth I was thinking! It’s huge!

  6. Shereen says:

    Wow, your bathroom came out great. Way to go. I might have to try that one out. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for hosting WFMW.

  7. Pieces says:

    Thanks for the info on that great technique. I’m thinking of doing it in a very small bathroom. Here’s my question: why did you not like the sealers you tried on top? I have boys that frequent the bathroom I’m considering and my walls need to be very, very washable. Maybe the paper isn’t such a great idea for that room.
    Yours looks fantastic!

  8. mopsy says:

    It turned out great! I predict a rash of paper-bagged walls popping up from coast to coast now. Contractors will be scratching their heads at the sudden shortage of their paper, whatever it is.
    FYI—I just did my very very first WFMW post.

  9. LaughterThoughts says:

    I’m new to WFMW, but I had a tip on keeping all those appliance cords untangled… but unfortunately I posted on it back in April. So, I’ve linked you to an old post rather than a new one for today. That’s okay, though, because it’s STILL working for me!!
    (and apologies– I broke the rules and did not put my topic in parentheses the first time and had to re-link. Sorry!)

  10. Shanlila says:

    Well, you said in your email last week that for no apparent reason, “delete link” shows up by some of the links. Mine did it again this time, too, despite trying twice. Hopefully, I’ll figure out what causes it one of these days.
    Shannon, that picture your friend put up of your “first try” was so funny!

  11. Bev says:

    I’ve used several ideas from here that were really helpful. Think I did all the links, etc. right this time. Let me know if I didn’t. I’m willing to keep at it til it’s right.

  12. Katherine says:

    It is so gorgeous! I’ll offer you a spot on my hide-a-bed when you come for the bloggers’ lunch in October if you help me do my teeny guest bath. Deal?

  13. Kristen says:

    It looks really great, Shannon! And I have to say you have much more patience than I do. I don’t think I could do it.
    Also, I wanted to tell you that WFMW has made me stretch my brain and come up with ideas that work for me. Thanks for doing this!

  14. Kristi says:

    Thanks for hosting! I just put a little WFM blurb in that most of you probably already have your own version of, but it definitely works for me!

  15. An Iowa Mom says:

    This is my first WFMW post I’ve done. I really enjoy learning other tips and I hope some of you benefit from my chore chart idea.
    Thanks for doing this! Great idea!!

  16. Meredith says:

    I love this technique! I used to work for Christi Proctor from “Trading Space” and she used to do this for clients. It gives walls great texture. I have also done this for a friend for her little boy’s room where we burnt the edges of the paper before putting them up on the wall. It gave it an Old West look. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  17. janet says:

    I’m with the blogger pieces when she asks about a small bathroom with boys. I was also wondering about that same small bathroom and the two showers every day. Hmm, maybe I should do our bedroom instead but then I’d need new carpet. Oh, if you give a mouse a cookie…
    Really though, what do you think about small bathrooms, boys and showers and why didn’t you like the sealent?
    Also, does it come off as easily as wallpaper?

  18. Bessers says:

    I found your website through a friend who participated in Works for Me Wednesday and I love it! I have really enjoyed all the tips on Wednesdays and I enjoy your stories. After reading your blog and several others I recently decided to start my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. Barbara H. says:

    This is my first WFMW, too! Hope I did it right. I often have to do the wrong thing every way possible before the right one dawns (what kind of learning style is that? 🙂 )
    I don’t remember how I first found your blog, but I’m enjoying it.

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