A beautiful fabric wall covering starts with starch and your walls - just add fabric!

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Your fabric wall covering starts with the right fabric plus starch.

You can choose to cover all the walls, one wall, or maybe just the area below a chair rail. In any case, measure (height and width) the area you want to cover.

Pick a light-to-medium weight fabric in a solid color or a print that has an easily matched pattern. Buy a bit more than you think you need to allow for shrinkage, and buy even more if there is a pattern to match.

Always pre-wash to get any shrinkage out of the way. If you decide to remove it at some point, you can wash the starch out and re-use it later without facing the unpleasant surprise of discovering that your fabric wall covering has shrunk and no longer fits your wall.

Wash your walls with a mild detergent to remove dirt or film and rinse well.

Tape plastic to baseboards and put down absorbent drop cloths to protect floors from any dripping starch.

Cut several lengths of your material to the vertical measurement of the area you plan to cover plus a couple extra inches at the top and bottom and take care to match any patterns. Cut off the selvages from the sides of each panel. Cut straight!

The material should hang straight to look good. To begin, measure the width of each panel. Then start in an inconspicuous corner and measure out from the corner about 1/2 inch less than the fabric width. Mark this point. Do this near the ceiling and the floor (if you're covering the entire wall) and one or two places in the middle. Connect all these marks with a lightly drawn pencil line and you should end up with a straight vertical line as a reference for placing your first length.

Pour liquid starch into a tub about the size of 12 quart pot or a bit larger.

Wear gloves to protect your hands - the starch can dry them out - and submerge the first panel into the tub of starch. Swish it around to make sure it is well coated with starch. Pull it out and lightly squeeze off some of the starch, but not too much or the fabric won't stick to the wall. Did I mention that this can be a bit messy?

Take the first piece to the corner that you measured from. I'm going to assume now that you're starting at ceiling height. Smooth the fabric on the wall starting from the ceiling corner out to the vertical line you drew. You can use a few tacks to hold the top in position until everything is lined up just right. Remember that you've got some extra material at the top if you need it, in case you have one of those irregular walls. This will be cut off later.

Use a sponge or your hands to smooth everything out, just like wallpaper. Smooth out any bubbles, but be careful not to squeeze out so much of the starch that the fabric won't stick. One edge of the material should overlap the corner. If you are covering all four walls, it will be hidden by the last panel. If you are not doing the adjacent wall, the extra will be cut off later.

Continue with each panel, butting it up to the previous panel and matching the design if necessary. Remove any tacks as you go.

Allow about 1 inch of overlap at windows and door frames.

Once fabric is completely dry, trim at the floor and ceiling and around windows and doors with a sharp (sharp!) utility knife. A utility knife and scissors work well to cut around outlets and such.

When it's time for a change, simply dampen with water and peel it off. Wash the starch off the walls with mild soap. Wash the fabric and save it until you're ready to re-use it.

I've heard that this same technique will work on furniture. I'm guessing it would work best on a simple piece with clean lines and you probably should experiment on an inexpensive item. Garage sale or flea market, anyone?

This is a fairly inexpensive wall covering, depending on the fabric you choose, and is especially good for renters who are limited in what they can do to the walls.

Here are two good places to find just the right fabric for your beautiful room. Fashion Fabrics Online and joann.com.

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