Wall coverings may be expensive, but they don't have to be. Repurpose materials you already have around the house, or from craft and home improvement stores, for a creative homemade take on wallpapers and other wall coverings.
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Bag It Up
Plain brown paper bags or contractor's paper serves as a faux leather wall treatment when torn into random shapes and adhered to the wall, decoupage-style. Crumple each piece of bag, and then smooth it back out again for a crinkled leathery texture. Apply overlapping pieces to the wall with wallpaper paste or a watered-down school glue, saving straight-edged pieces for the wall perimeters. A foam brush may be used to apply the adhesive to the paper. This technique is quite forgiving; any paste or glue leaking out after you smooth each piece down helps adhere adjacent paper pieces and seals the paper wall covering, and it dries clear. For a different look, use bits of non-bleeding tissue paper, all in the same color, but take extra care because tissue paper tears easily.
Create your own wall decals or entire mural-style scenes with colored contact paper or shelf paper. You can remove this type of covering without harming the wall, so it's a viable option in a rental home as well. Draw shapes or words on the contact paper's backing based on your desired plan -- such as a series of trees, birds and small animals for an outdoor scene for a child's bedroom, or a city skyline for a teenager's room -- and then cut the shapes out with scissors. Designs drawn on the backing paper show up in reverse on the contact paper, so keep this in mind if you want to create text.
If you like the existing color of the walls but want to jazz them up a bit, apply strips of colored painter's tape in a desired design, such as stripes or chevrons. Create zebra stripes by tearing the straight edges off strips of tape, then applying the strips to the wall in a somewhat parallel fashion, copying an image of zebra fur. The tape serves as the decor in this case, instead of as a temporary barrier for wet paint.
Give your walls an offbeat, playful treatment using recyclable or discarded materials. A series of container lids, painted all the same color or in two different shades for variety, add playful shapes and dimension to your wall treatment. Corks cut in half or cut into flat discs offer another option if you have access to an abundance of corks. Cut flat panels from plastic laundry soap containers and other colorful plastics, turning them into tiles for a funky wall mosaic. Construction adhesive or hot glue holds plastics and cork to the walls. Plot your layout on the ground or by using small pieces of painter's tape to hold each piece in place first to make sure you're happy with the design before securing it permanently.