Try This: A 30-Minute, No-Mess Wallpaper for Any Room

It happened when Ken was out of town.

3am, to be exact, when the toddler was in one of his weird sleep patterns, the kind where he wakes hungry and vibrant in the middle of the night, running wildly around the kitchen island, banging pots and pans, bunting golf balls, hollering nonsense after nonsense and crashing into a heap just before sunrise (just as, of course, his sister bounds from her bedroom, up and at ’em, asking for eggs).

A full night’s sleep, in our home, is a particular fable.

And so: it was somewhere between the golf balls and the pans that I became dissatisfied with the state of our kitchen wall. The entirety is coated in dry erase paint – a once-hub for dinner party entertainment, for grocery lists or love notes, for dentist appointment reminders. But the paint was fading and the marker difficult to erase, leaving behind a near-constant smattering of smudged words and incoherent phrases.

It began to bother me is all, and while I am generally one to frown upon making rash decisions while the moon is still high, it occurred to me that a simple solution was just one room over in the office.

An old book of quotations, a new roll of masking tape.

book wallpaper in kitchen

That’s a saying, right? If you can’t beat it, cover it?

Scout took a break from his colander ballad to aid in tearing out page after page of Bartlett’s and after a short half hour I’d hidden the dirty dry erase wall with wise literature, witty remarks. There’s no tutorial, because the fact of the matter is that the project works with anything at all – recipes, letters, children’s artwork – all of the above.

wall of quotes

The solution is entirely temporary, of course. In our home, the bottom third (up to Scout’s precise height) has been tugged and pulled from every direction, re-taped in every pattern imaginable. But I like it.

I like walking by and catching a glimpse of Emily Post’s heed, of David Foster Wallace’s mind. I like that guests come into the kitchen, raise an eyebrow, wonder aloud what sort of experiment it might be. I like that the kids are surrounded by the greats, able to eavesdrop on an era or two while peeling their morning clementines.

book pages wallpaper

And so it is with many-a-thing: the simple becomes surprising, resourcefulness its own reward.

As with Arthur Ashe’s words now taped to my kitchen wall, in matters of life and decor, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

wallpaper from books

Tell me: what mini-makeovers are you tackling in your home? I’d love to hear!

  • Moving small pieces of furniture. File cabinets move to the living room to become end tables. Chests of drawers move to the entry to hold hats, gloves, scarves. Trunks move to the children’s room to hold dress-up clothes. Etc. Suddenly the whole house feels new.

  • I love this! So simple, so resourceful, such a celebration of what we already have, lying around us.

    Erin, I just wanted to say – the other night i was awoken by a particularly jarring nightmare. I couldn’t get back to sleep or pack away the anxiety, so I opened your blog and started leafing through. It reminded me that there are good, small, slow things, and that I was safe. It got me back to sleep. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Much love,

  • I just spiffed up my office which is really a tiny corner in the living room of our very small house. I put up a few hooks (so I’m not constantly running over my bag with my desk chair and my umbrella doesn’t keep falling over), bought a second monitor (which helps my work flow and makes my space feel more enclosed), and moved my son’s toys which were living permanently in my space (perler beads!). Now there is a little more sanity and ease in my work day.

  • I feel like we’re in a constant state of house-tetris as Forrest gets older and the types of furniture he needs (no more rocker, yes to a storage cubby) changes. It’s an ongoing process. = )

  • Currently I’m sprouting (for eventual planting) everything I can lay hands on: ivy trimmings, herbs left over from a dinner party, carrot tops. It reminds me that spring will come and nature is wise.

    I love your kitchen wall!

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