Former Natural Home & Garden art director Susan Wasinger showed me how simple it is to give walls texture and soul by collaging them with scraps of newspaper and Yellow Pages several years ago. As soon as I learned this neat trick, I started covering surfaces—not just walls but also old shelves and a desk whose particleboard surfaces had been making me cringe. Collaging walls or other surfaces with torn-up bits of brown paper bags gives them a texture and look like antique leather or stucco. Using scraps of Yellow Pages, softened with a layer or two of tissue paper, is a great way to make use of a resource whose usefulness is dwindling. “The phone numbers show through just enough to give the wall a fun, graphic edge, and the muted yellows and grays are surprisingly sophisticated,” Susan points out.
This project is time-consuming, but it costs nearly nothing. What surfaces in your home could use a little flair?
Using scraps of kraft paper shoping bags gives surfaces a distressed leather look. Photo by Susan Wasinger
Repurposed Decoupage Wall Treatments
1. Crumple and scrunch pieces of paper grocery bags, kraft packing paper, newspaper or Yellow Pages. Tear into pieces a little bigger than a business card. Avoid heavily printed areas, as this can show through on the wall. Crumpling the paper softens it so it takes the glue better and gives the finished wall “veining” that will add to its character.
2. Prime 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 surface. Work this way over the entire surface. This technique is very forgiving; you can stop for a rest and pick it up later.
3. If using Yellow Pages, 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. To keep the palette simple and tasteful, try to use pages that don’t have a lot of color photos or overly large type.
4. To soften the acid-yellow color, collage over the Yellow Pages with 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. Once dry, the tissue’s softening and whitening effect is quite dramatic.
If your surface gets a stain or tear, simply go over it again with a quick patch. To give the wall a layer of protection, coat with a nontoxic clear finish or beeswax. Test it first on a small area to see if you like the effect.