I had the crazy idea to hang burlap on my walls and call it wallpaper- turns out, it actually looks pretty good! Come learn how to hang burlap on walls!
I love Houzz. It’s my favorite place for planning out my home. Pinterest is great for learning how to do projects, but Houzz is really where I get the most inspiration.
So of course, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my living room, I browsed Houzz. After saving about 10 pictures of vastly different living rooms, I came across this.
I loved the walls; specifically the contrast between the burlap-y texture and the wainscoting. Now, since this was professionally done with a designer and everything, I guarantee this look was accomplished using real shiplap and custom burlap wallpaper.
I am not that fancy. I took one look at this photo and decided I could accomplish this with some plywood and budget craft store burlap. Go ahead and check out how I did the wainscoting if you’re interested in that too!!
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- Burlap-Colored Nail Polish or Paint Sample
How to Hang Burlap on Walls
Step 1: Make the “Glue”
I attached the burlap to my wall using a cornstarch/water mixture. There is a right way and a wrong way to make this mixture.
FYI, I made it the wrong way for the majority of this project. When I figured out the right way, I felt dumb. Very dumb.
Boil four cups of water. Add
1/2 1/4* cup of cornstarch. Whisk. Whisk some more. When it’s still super lumpy, take out the hand mixer and beat for a minute or two. It will still be lumpy. Strain out the lumps. Use the strained super-watery liquid.
Boil four cups of water. In large bowl, add
1/2 1/4* cup of cornstarch. Then, (very) slowly add the boiling water to the cornstarch, whisking as you go. Be happy about your nice, lump-free glue.
* I used 1/2 cup of cornstarch, and that was perfect when half of the cornstarch was being strained out. But if you’re mixing the cornstarch the right way, this results in a glue that dries unevenly, and leaves cornstarch blotches behind, as a reader discovered.
To avoid this problem, simply use 1/4 of cornstarch instead!
Step 2: Prep the Burlap
Measure the first space, and cut your burlap appropriately. I have a whole post on how to cut burlap (as done by the nice people at Joanns; I watched carefully!) over here, go check it out!
Then, using pushpins, pin the burlap into place. It will be saggy and generally poor-looking. That’s okay. If you have plaster walls like me, pushing the pushpin into place will be difficult, but not impossible. You can do it!
Step 3: Glue on Burlap
I used a thick 3-inch paintbrush to brush the glue onto the burlap. I typically started in the top left hand corner and worked my way down and across. The key is to always move your brush in the same two directions, else you’ll create air bubbles under the burlap.
You might notice above that my burlap has creases where it was folded. I didn’t worry about this, instead making sure to brush those flat as I applied the glue.
In some places, a discoloration was still visible after the glue dried, even though the burlap was flat against the wall. Washing the burlap before you start could help, but I didn’t try that so I’m not going to guarantee it as a solution.
I started from the top-right corner this time, since that’s where the corner of the room was!
Cutting Around Obstructions
Since burlap is see through, I waited until I had the burlap on the wall to cut holes for outlets or switches. I cut the hole once I glued the burlap close enough to the hole that I could tell exactly where it would be.
Using scissors, I then cut the hole in the burlap.
Step 4: Finishing Touches
I intentionally cut my burlap a little longer than necessary to make sure I always had enough to cover the entire space.
After the burlap was dry, I cut the extra burlap off with a rotary cutter.
Finally, I tried to disguise the seams between two pieces of burlap. In some places, the paint was visible beneath the seams, making them even more obvious than they already were. I went through and painted these with a burlap-colored paint.
Then I was done! But I have one more thing to talk about before I show you all the pretty pictures…
Dealing with Seams
As you probably noticed in the pictures above, the seams on the burlap walls are 100% noticeable in my final product. As I went through this project, I tried 3-4 different ways of gluing the pieces together. The seams were equally prominent no matter my method, so I’m not going to detail the different things I tried.
So knowing that, this project is really best in rooms where there won’t be that many visible seams.
One nice thing about my living room is that it has multiple doors, huge windows, built ins, and a giant fireplace. Because of that, there are really only two places with obvious seams (both are visible in the photo above.) It will be easy for me to put artwork/decor pieces up that will distract from the seams.
If you’re thinking of installing burlap walls in a room with many large stretches of wall (and therefore many seams,) it might be worth considering if you can find larger pieces of burlap than what is sold in craft stores. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but it’s worth researching.
Can you paint burlap walls?
Yes, you can paint over these walls, but be aware that the burlap texture will bleed through.
Honestly, though, using the cornstarch method means the burlap pulls off with very little effort. I think it’d be easier to pull off the burlap then paint rather than paint on top of the burlap walls.
Can I burlap over paneling?
Yes, I see no reason why the burlap/cornstarch mixture wouldn’t stick. But beware, the burlap is relatively see through, so you’ll probably be able to see the gaps in the paneling through the burlap.
Can I do this with other fabric, or does it only work with burlap?
So, the starch-as-glue method was originally used to secure normal fabric to wall! You can use any fabric you’d like!
What burlap did you use for this project?
I got my burlap at Joann Fabrics in the “natural” shade.
Could this be used in a rental, or will it leave residue when it comes off?
So once you pull the burlap off, yes, I expect some residue will remain. But that residue is just cornstarch and water – easy to clean up with a little soap and water!
Given you’re willing to wipe the walls down with water before you leave, yes, this is rental friendly.
Could I burlap my bathroom walls, or will the humidity cause an issue?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I’d put up a test piece and see how it does for a week or two. If all seems well, go for it!
What does the finished room look like?
Go check out my finished living room here! I think it looks fantastic, and the burlap walls were the perfect thing for it!
Overall, even with the visible seams, I am thrilled with how the burlap walls turned out. I was really nervous before I started, because putting burlap on the walls seemed like a crazy idea. But it really adds interest and character to the room, which I love.
The other thing I love about this project was that it was cheap. Really cheap. Paint is cheap too, but at $2 a yard for the burlap, this only cost me around $30.
A gallon of quality paint is well over that amount, so this option was a money-saver as well as an interest-adder!
The final plus about burlap walls? They’re super easy to remove. I can easily pull the burlap down anytime, and some quick soap and water will get the rest of the starch off the wall. Win!
I love the way it turned out, and am so happy I was brave enough to try this project. If you like it too, go ahead and save it to Pinterest so that other people can find it too!
Saturday 4th of July 2020
Ok so I did a big section yesterday, clear glue, laid flat, no bubbles.. but the glue dried differently in places.. I assume it from where residue was more on top of the burlap than other spots.. it looks like I have lots of blotches throughout.. wondering if it just needs more time to dry (it feels completely dry) and maybe now I scrub those spots with warm water. Hoping I can find a fix.. I did half my basement!
Saturday 4th of July 2020
I think the solution is to use less cornstarch in the properly mixed glue. I updated the post to reflect this! Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention!
Thursday 14th of May 2020
The burlap wall looks gorgeous in your living room! I am about to move, and one of the bedrooms in the house has some wood panel walls. Do you suspect that your cornstarch glue would work on wood paneling, and could be removed as easily as on a plaster wall? I was thinking of stapling burlap over the panels with a staple gun, but I love the staple free, super smoothed look of your walls. Thanks in advance for any speculation!
Thursday 14th of May 2020
Thank you! I'm guessing using the cornstarch on the wood panels will work, but you could always do a test piece first to be sure! My bigger concern is that since the burlap is somewhat see through, you'll be able to see the grooves in the panels through the burlap once it's up. It could look totally awesome - I don't know - but it's something to consider (and maybe test an area and see if you like it before you do the whole room!)
Saturday 28th of March 2020
I have 2 walls with years old paneling. I hate it but always worried about a major job if I was to rip it down. Do you think I could do this over the paneling? I love what you did and think this would look nice
Saturday 28th of March 2020
I'd put up a test piece and see what you think. I'm pretty sure the spaces in the paneling will show through the burlap - but it could look good that way!
Thursday 5th of March 2020
I am going to try this in my next place, Lindsay, I like the texture and color. I think I'll slip-stitch the pieces together to see it that would avoid a gap between pieces. Yours is the best blog I've found in ages because You are really doing these things. I'm so tired of women's DIY blog when they say they "do" it but there are a man's hands in all the photos. And, then they mention, their decorator, their contractor and their painter...give me a break!
Friday 6th of March 2020
Slip-stitching the pieces together is an excellent idea - I never even thought about that! And I know what you mean; DIY blogs where "hubby" does the hard work are pretty easy to find. That said, there are some other awesome women out there doing great things. Check out Anika's DIY Life, The Handyman's Daughter, and Woodshop Diaries if you haven't already!
Thursday 6th of February 2020
Did the burlap smell ever go away?
Thursday 6th of February 2020
So, I don't think the burlap had much of a smell to begin with (I got it from Joann's,) but I certainly don't smell anything now.