Textiles 101

Your Guide to Paper-Backed Fabric Wallcoverings

Have you found the perfect pattern for your walls, only to discover that it’s a fabric and not a wallcovering? Schumacher has a solution! We offer a paper-backed fabric service that can turn our fabrics into wallcoverings. We spoke with Patterson Flynn Creative Director (and former Schumacher VP of Design) Pam Marshall to get the rundown on how to drape a wall with fabric: from the best types of fabrics to use for paper-backing to tips and tricks on how to incorporate them into your space.

Blue and White Dining Room by Shelley Johnstone Draped in Paperbacked Fabric Wallcovering

A magnificent dining room decorated in Bunny from top to bottom! Design by Shelley Johnstone

Max Kim-Bee

Which Types of Fabrics Can Be Paper-Backed?

According to Pamela, the best fabrics to use for paper-backing are “tightly woven prints, textures or embroideries.” If a fabric isn’t tightly woven, the paper-backing can show through, distracting from the design; this is particularly true with lightweight and sheer fabrics. Many designers ask about paper-backing velvet fabrics, and though this isn’t impossible (see below), velvet tends to mark easily, so it’s not recommended.

However standard or unusual the fabric, it’s always a good idea to test a few yards to see how your fabric of choice reacts to the paper-backing process. Interested? Schumacher’s fabric and wallpaper experts can handle any paper-backing test or project—just email your Schumacher sales rep to inquire. Not only can you bypass the workroom, but we know our fabrics inside and out and will handle fabrics with the utmost care and precision.

Rachel Chudley London Bathroom

In the bathroom of designer Rachel Chudley, walls draped in a duo of Schumacher velvets—green Empress Performance Velvet and Bezique Flamestitch Velvet—are an unexpected luxury.

Paper-Backing Care

The care of paper-backed fabrics is very similar to regular fabric care.

“When we paper-back fabrics at Schumacher,” Pamela explains, “we apply a stain-resistant finish that protects the fabrics not only during install, but also for years down the road. Much of the upkeep is taken care of with that finish, but if the wallcovering does spot or stain, you should treat it as you would upholstery or curtains, following the guidelines for the specific fabric. In general, a damp cloth can be used to brush dirt away.”

The one place where even the highest upkeep might be futile is using paper-backed fabric in the bathroom. Humidity from showers can have an ill effect on fabrics. Pam recommends either avoiding installing in bathrooms, or “adding wainscoting so splashes stay far away.”

A Note on Installation

Bathroom With Paper-Backed Fabric Wallcoverings and Ceiling

A dreamy bathroom adorned with Indian Arbre above the wainscotting and on the ceiling.

With paper-backed fabrics, most of the same installation rules apply as for traditional wallpaper, with one exception: Pamela advises testing a few yards to see how the finished product will look, and to ensure there’s no reaction to the fabric from paper-backing.

Be careful with paste. “It’s important to know that paste used during install can damage the face of some paper-backed fabrics to the point that it may not come off,” says Pamela. “Because of this and other risks, I always recommend using an experienced installer.”

With just a handful of steps, Schumacher fabric can be transformed into a statement wallcovering that can last for years to come. With our wallcoverings and fabrics at your fingertips, the design possibilities are truly endless.

Interested in paper-backing? Contact your Schumacher sales rep to get started! Don’t have one? Apply for a Schumacher trade account today.

Shop a few of our favorite selections for paper-backed fabric wallcoverings below.

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