Furnishing

Wall coverings: a new look for living rooms and bedrooms

Torben Schröder

Bare concrete – pretty unattractive. Woodchip wallpaper – uninspired. Wood – better already. Just as you have various options when choosing a floor covering, you have several alternatives when designing the walls. Try something daring and enhance your living room or bedroom with a stone look or even a vertical garden. In this article we explain how to cover a wall.

View of a living room with a white sofa and a wall with a stone-like appearance.
© Getty Images / Saso Novoselic

In this article

Why a wall covering?

In rooms you spend a lot of time in, especially bedrooms and living rooms, uninspired wall design can quickly become boring. That’s why we decorate, rearrange furniture and declutter. With too much visual monotony, it can feel like the walls are closing in on us.

The walls play a key role in the overall appearance of a room. They can visually shrink or enlarge a room, underline a certain style of interior design, and separate areas from each other. White walls that are decorated at most with woodchip wallpaper or a small border don’t attract the eye. That’s where bright colors can help (they have been proven to affect people’s moods). Alternatively, you can cover the wall and give it a completely different look. The advantages are obvious:

Unique look

Natural panels just like those in a rustic ski lodge, high-quality slate slabs in the style of a bold cellar bar, or real plants similar to the ones in the entrance area of a stylish advertising agency – cover the walls however you like, even with quite exotic material.

Covering old walls

If it’s time to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, skip this step and opt for a wall covering instead. In many cases, the covering is placed directly on the wall by means of a substructure, so repairing the “real” wall beforehand is not necessary.

Good acoustics

If you choose wooden wall paneling, for example, this will automatically give the room completely different, much more subdued acoustics. If you want to reduce unwanted noise in an even more targeted manner, you can use what are called resonance absorbers. These are installed in front of a wall in the form of free-swinging plasterboard or plywood panels. The resulting empty space is filled with insulation material. This structure is the ideal way to absorb sound.

Hide anything you don’t want to see

Heating pipes running in front of the wall can be cleverly concealed behind a wall covering, as can the cables of a home theater system or any other items you no longer want to see. As long as they’re not too big.

A man is taking care of a green area that is vertically attached to an indoor wall.

A vertical garden on the wall enables you to create a fresh, natural atmosphere.

Wall coverings: here are your options

We present the different options below.

Natural fiber wallpaper

Wallpaper made of natural fibers such as jute, raffia, cork, sisal and hemp has long been available on the market. With these special surface structures, you can bring both an exotic and eco-friendly look to the walls. As a rule, the basis of natural fiber wallpaper is paper that has been coated with the appropriate fiber during production. Thanks to state-of-the-art processes, more and more natural fibers are being added to the range, including silk, rattan, palm leaves, Alcantara leather and even diamond flakes.

Benefits at a glance:

  • Wallpaper, but different
  • Exotic look
  • Wide selection – from silk to diamond flakes

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Plants

Plants? On the wall? That’s right. This type of wall covering is called a vertical garden. The term hits the nail on the head, because in principle you are “planting” a garden that has been turned by 90 degrees inside your home. The result may look unusual at first, but it won’t fail to have an effect, both visually and functionally. Plants in the room not only lift the mood, but also improve the air quality. If you don’t have green fingers, you can opt for artificial plants.

Benefits at a glance:

  • Unusual eye-catching feature
  • Living wall – not only in terms of color
  • Improved air quality

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Slate

This sedimentary rock formed by heat, pressure and movement over millions of years is often used in construction and decorating thanks to its premium look and feel. Slate is very robust, which is typical of natural stone. It makes a good floor covering for patios in the form of slabs, for instance.

Thin slate panels are suitable as wall coverings. As the name suggests, the panels are extremely thin, in addition to being very light and flexible. Panels with a size of three square meters weigh only 4.5 kilograms. You can easily cut the panels with a utility knife and attach them with a special adhesive.

Benefits at a glance:

  • Strong, resilient material
  • Also suitable for wet rooms
  • Individual panels can be replaced

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Wooden panels

Wood is one of the popular materials of all, especially in interior design. The main reason is the warm, homely flair that wood lends to a room. To make the most of this atmosphere, you don’t necessarily have to live in a remote ski lodge. Wood is also perfect for your own home – as paneling on the walls.

The core of these wooden boards is often made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). This is coated with layers of plastic or resin-impregnated paper. Thanks to this production method, you can choose from a wide range of colors and designs. Depending on the direction in which you lay the panels, you can also influence the overall appearance of the room – to visually enlarge or reduce it, for example.

Benefits at a glance:

  • Homely atmosphere
  • Sound and heatproof
  • Easy to install

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Stone carpet

A wow effect is guaranteed with a stone carpet as a wall covering. It also provides a natural look and is particularly robust and durable. Stone carpets consisting of several colors look like real works of art.

But what exactly is a stone carpet? Laying a stone carpet is similar to laying the supporting floor: pebbles are placed on a bed of quartz sand and compacted with a special binder. This creates a seamless yet open structure that gives the carpet its typical sheen and silky shimmer. When applying to the wall, i.e. vertically, a steady hand and speed are required.

Benefits at a glance:

  • Impressive appearance
  • Robust and easy to clean
  • A large selection of stone types

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A step-by-step guide: covering a wall with profiled wood

Profiled wood is a very popular wall covering material. Unlike wooden panels, profiled wood is made of solid wood such as spruce or larch. Its characteristic feature is the profile on the surface that gives it its name. In a similar way to wooden panels, profiled wood on your walls is sure to create a warm and cozy atmosphere.

Thanks to the user-friendly assembly system with a tongue-and-groove connection, you can try your hand at covering your walls with wood yourself. We explain the most important steps below.

Attach the substructure

The first step is to prepare a substructure to attach the profiled wood to. If you want to create a horizontal wood pattern, then the substructure must be placed vertically, whereas if you want the wood pattern to be vertical, the substructure must be positioned horizontally.

It’s best to use planed roof battens for the substructure. These don’t look particularly nice, but that doesn’t matter since they will ultimately be covered by the profiled wood. Now drill holes to screw the roof battens into the wall. Choose the distance between the roof battens in such a way that you can attach each end of the profiled wood to a separate batten.

Saw the wood to size and attach

Saw the profiled wooden boards to size so that they cover the desired area and fit on the substructure. Next, attach the boards to the substructure using screw claws for tongue and groove profiles, known as profile board claws. These small metal plates hook into the profile on the long side of the wooden board and are then screwed to a roof batten on the substructure.

These claws have the advantage of creating a small space between the roof battens and the profiled wood. This is important because, as a natural material, wood “works”. Under certain climatic conditions, it expands or contracts. If you screw the board on too firmly, you run the risk of cracks forming.

Close-up of a person cutting a piece of profiled wood with a jigsaw.

As it is so thin, profiled wood is very easy to cut.

Connect the profiled wooden boards to each other as intended using the tongue and groove system. Gently tap the boards as you position the wall covering. Use a rubber mallet or insert a block of wood that you can hit with the metal hammer.

Stumbling blocks when covering corners

Attaching the profiled wooden boards to the substructure shouldn’t be very difficult. Hurdles will arise, however, in the form of transitions at the corners. Here are few more tips on this.

You will inevitably encounter inner corners in the room where you want to install the wall covering. There will usually be four of them if the floor plan is rectangular. Some rooms are laid out more intricately and also have outer corners. For both vertical and horizontal installations, you can simply butt the pieces of profiled wood flush with each other at a 90-degree angle for inner corners. Proceed similarly for outer corners, except that here the visible cut edges of the boards should be sanded down a little.

Tip: if the cut edges don’t look very nice, applying angle trim on the corner will ensure a more attractive result.

Conclusion: a new look for your wall

You don’t always have to stick to white paint and woodchip wallpaper – an original wall covering will create an unexpected ambiance in your bedroom or living room. Choose between more familiar options such as profiled wood, or exotic ones like a stone carpet or a vertical garden.

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