Get ideas to update your dated wallpaper that you’re not ready to remove! You can give old wallpaper a fresh new modern look with just a few tricks and techniques.

When we purchased our lake cottage, there were a lot of things to love and a lot of things that needed some work. In fact, the first thing we said is “we have to get rid of all of this wallpaper.”

A white bedroom with dated floral wallpaper.
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Wow! I can’t believe it’s been so many years since I initially mentioned our dated floral wallpaper in the lake cottage. It seems like a subject many people were interested in!

Could you live with wallpaper you don’t love? Is it worth it to make it work? For us, it’s been a surprising adventure and I am happy to share with you that we still have some of our original wallpaper, five years later!

We’ve now updated so many spaces in this home. Take the full before and after tour, along with a modern bathroom update, a nautical bathroom, and the lake living room. You can even see our incredible new vinyl deck right here!

A bedroom with dated floral wallpaper and a bed.

Dated Wallpaper

When we first stepped into this house for a tour, the amount of floral wallpaper was a little overwhelming. In fact, the pattern in the kitchen is what my sister had in her kitchen a couple homes ago and the basement bath had a pattern that a friend of mine had from her childhood. That’s a few more years than I care to admit.

However, once we moved into the home, we began to appreciate the cottage for what it is, rather than taking it at face value. It’s a lake front home, with beautiful views of the water in a peaceful setting.

Suddenly, it didn’t seem to matter quite as much and I decided that rather than spending a significant amount of money to remove this wallpaper, we would embrace it.

First, a few before photos…

A dark bedroom with dated wallpaper on the walls a large windows.
Primary Bedroom Before
A dark bedroom with dated wallpaper on the walls and several windows.
Primary Bedroom Before
A dark bedroom with dated wallpaper on the walls and several large windows.
Primary Bedroom Before
A bedroom with floral wallpaper and a window, showcasing the charm of dated wallpaper.
Guest Bedroom Before

Seven Ways to Work Around Dated Wallpaper

A couple neighbors warned us that their wallpaper (which was installed when the homes were built) was difficult to remove because it was applied directly to the drywall.

Eek, right? I was brave and took the chance in the kitchen and girls’ bunk bed room, but for our primary bedroom, I decided to take a different approach.

First, we re-positioned the bed to embrace the view. It really opened up the room and allowed the view to be front and center, changing the entire focus of the space.

A dated blue dresser with floral bedroom wallpaper and a mirror.

Add Texture

Adding more pattern to a room with dated wallpaper is difficult. In our case, the floral wallpaper in both rooms is so busy that we needed to simplify. With that in mind, I kept the decor simple by integrating texture.

We brought in a little neutral texture by integrating this rattan headboard. It makes the space feel fresh and modern while adding to the vacation vibe that plays well with the floral background.

It is the most significant piece of furniture in the room, so it provides a little balance as well. Read more about Rattan Beds here, and learn about The Best Mattress for a Guest Room here!

For the lower bedroom, we found a textured pendant light on clearance at Pottery Barn Kids, and added the rattan X stools at the foot of the bed.

A bedroom with dated floral wallpaper and a dresser.

Choose Flooring Wisely

We lived with the original carpet for several years but I didn’t love it, but we couldn’t afford to replace it yet. For a few years, we placed a large wool rug over the old carpet in a soft green tone.

This was an effort to make the room feel lighter and brighter! We guide you through this in our guide: Can you Layer Rugs On Carpet?

We initially placed the rug under the bed so that it extended for the length of the room and on each side of the bed. Later, we replaced the old carpet with fresh new patterned carpet in all our bedrooms for more of a modern update!

A white bed in a bedroom with [dated] floral wallpaper.

Add Contrast

If your wallpaper is floral, add something modern. If your wallpaper is modern, add antiques. Striped wallpaper? Add curvy pieces of furniture.

To balance out the floral cottage style of the wallpaper, we went with modern, clean-lined dressers. I like the way they play against each other, it creates interest and makes the space fun!

Adding those modern lined against our cottage style floral paper keeps the room fresh. The vintage furniture, though it was cute, contributed to a more dated look in the space overall.

We also added a mirror just above the dressers in both rooms, to reflect light and add a little height. Of course I try to add fresh flowers or a plant to bring the room to life whenever possible. It just brings a space to life!

Read on for more of my favorite tricks to create warm and cozy vibes in your home.

A bedroom with floral dated wallpaper.

Statement Lighting

One way to distract from dated wallpaper is to upgrade the other important design elements in the room. It doesn’t have to cost a lot! Choose pretty overhead lighting and lamps that help your eyes focus on other elements in the space.

A statement light fixture (like this $60 pendant from IKEA) accentuates vaulted ceilings while drawing the eye away from wallpaper.

A bedroom dresser with a floral wallpaper and a mirror.

Quiet Art

Art can be difficult with wallpaper. We’ve found that mirrors are great in our rooms with wallpaper, and we also love quiet, low contrast art pieces that “pop” off the walls.

We recently updated our primary bedroom with fabulous Textured Wall Art. It’s a great quiet art moment that anyone can create, and plays beautifully against this bold patterned paper.

Below, you see it with a laurel wreath on top. I love that this art is so quiet, but interesting enough to stand on its own against the pattern.

A bed with floral wallpaper.

Incorporate Solid Fabrics

This can happen with your furniture upholstery, window treatments, pillows, bedding and more.

It was really important to us to have a calm and cozy retreat to escape to, so I kept the bedding soft and simple, selecting a white duvet that conforms to you. It’s so soft!

Truthfully, we aren’t really sticklers about making a bed, and this duvet looks beautiful, fluffy and cozy when it’s messy. I complemented it with shams, hemstitch sheets and a striped Amazon pillow cover for a little pop of color in our master bedroom.

While I love a little pattern mixing, I really wanted to make sure that we didn’t let this space become too busy, so solids were the best choice for this bed!

A white bedroom with dated green floral wallpaper.

In our lower bedroom, we knew that breaking up the pattern with contrast would make a big impact. I added an upholstered bed to help break up the pattern around the bed and give a visual rest in the space.

Similarly, we used a solid bedding in the downstairs guest room as well. It truly works like magic: texture and cozy white bedding helped to break up all the busy pattern!

A bedroom with a blue dresser and dated floral wallpaper.

Match Furniture to a Color in the Wallpaper

While we were lucky to keep the large dresser that came with the house for a while, we wanted to update this space with a more modern chest, for contrast. We painted an Ikea dresser in Benjamin Moore Slate Blue and we love the fresh contrast.

We chose this color by debating paint samples that we studied next to the wallpaper. I love how it pops off the floral paper, but still looks so clean and new!

Again, choosing textures like these stools and light fixture help to draw the eye away from the slightly dated wallpaper. It helps the whole space feel fresh without the time or expense of changing the walls themselves!

A blue dresser with bedroom wallpaper and a mirror.

Suddenly the 90’s wallpaper feels like it belongs in a current catalog and I feel at peace with it. What about you – are you dealing with dated wallpaper?

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30 Comments

  1. I just love that you didn’t take the wallpaper down. You show such a great example of how to make it fresh. I am soooooo tired of the usual blog formula– talk about how terrible the old outdated style is, rip it all out, and replace it with linked and sponsored products that all look the same. I am loving your blog because you provide great examples of how to work with what you have and make it elegant and new. The result is unique and creative design and truly useful inspiration. Thank you! And I’ve also got some wallpaper here in our temporary house and I think I made it look very nice by updating the company it keeps!

    1. Thank you, Jody! You made my day! I truly appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts. Sometimes I rip things out, but I love finding ways to embrace what we have, when I can. I hope you have a day as bright as you made mine.

  2. So you might not know this- but the furniture was in fact yellow (it was my sisters bedroom furniture from way back in the day too) and when she was tired with yellow she painted it that grey color when in her teens (now late 40’s!). Just proves everything comes back just needs some some time to get a new life, or re-purpose. Thanks for showing us how you have updated the home and yes the wallpaper was a task (hence why we never took it down) and for us it was more about being outside than in. πŸ™‚

    1. Agreed, Cathy! We absolutely love it here. It’s such a beautiful home filled with love and charm. We’ve been spending most weekends here. Actually, I knew that it was yellow, but only because my sister had the identical set growing up! I hope I make you proud πŸ˜‰