Mother Earth Living

Try This: Phonebook and Recycled Paper Bag Collage Wall Treatment

Recycled those old paper goods into a textured wall treatment.
By Natural Home Staff
July/August 2005
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If these walls could talk, they’d tell you an eco-secret: Recycled paper bags collaged on a bare wall have a texture and look not unlike antique leather or stucco. The character they add to a hum-drum space is priceless—literally. This stunning wallpaper treatment will cost you ­nothing but a bit of patience and a little elbow grease.

Here’s a variation on the theme: Collage the Yellow Pages onto the walls and soften with a layer or two of tissue paper. It’s tactile and interesting, and it answers the age-old question of what to do with outdated phone books. The phone numbers show through just enough to give the wall a fun, graphic edge, and the muted yellows and grays are surprisingly sophisticated. Maybe this is just the thing to bring back the wall phone.

Collage Wall Treatments

1. Crumple and scrunch pieces of paper grocery bags or kraft packing paper, then tear them into pieces a little bigger than a business card. Avoid any areas on the bags that are heavily printed, as this can show through on the wall. Crumpling the paper softens it so it takes the glue better, and also gives the finished wall “veining” that will add to its character.

2. Prime your wall surface and mask off the edges. Mix 2 parts water with 1 part white glue. Using a stiff paintbrush, paint a section of the primed wall with the glue mixture and apply a piece of paper. Thoroughly coat each piece with the glue mixture, pressing firmly with the brush to get rid of air pockets. Add another piece of paper, overlapping each new piece slightly over the old and making complete contact with the wall surface. Work this way over the entire wall. This technique is very forgiving; you can stop in the middle for a rest and pick it up later.

3. The Yellow Pages wallcovering requires pretty much the same technique, but you do not need to crumple the paper or press as hard to get the lightweight paper to adhere without air pockets. Work over the entire surface with torn pieces of the Yellow Pages. To keep the palette simple and tasteful, try to use pages that don’t have a lot of color photos or overly large type on them.

4. To soften the acid-yellow color, ­collage over the Yellow Pageswith torn pieces of white tissue paper. These can be a little larger so the collaging goes very fast. Don’t cover the area too perfectly; let layers overlap so that you get a pleasing mottled affect. Start with about 2 layers of tissue, let them dry, then see if you want to add more. The tissue is barely obvious when wet, but once dry, its softening and whitening effect is quite dramatic.

The nice thing about this technique is if you ever have a stain or tear, you can just go over it again with a quick patch. If you want to give the wall a layer of protection, a nontoxic clear finish or beeswax would be just the thing. Test it first on a small area to see if you like the effect.

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