Choosing a Border for Your Wallpaper

Wallpaper borders come in every size and style imaginable, and they are a cost-effective and easy way to add architectural detail to an otherwise plain space.

Much like crown molding serves to draw the eye upward, a wallpaper border can be hung at the top of the wall to achieve the same function. An important element of an interior design scheme is to help people "see" the room -- or at least see what we want them to see. If all the decorations are at eye level or below, a room will feel low or stunted.

Size Matters

Many people are under the incorrect impression that drawing attention to a low ceiling will bring it down, but that's actually not true. The size of the border can make a difference, however. I am generally of the opinion that when it comes to borders, bigger is better. A small 3"-4" border can be very cheap-looking (much like too-small crown moldings). One thing to remember is that when you look up to view a border at the top of a wall, it  will look smaller from below. A 6" to 8" border on a standard-height room is a good size to consider.

Location, Location, Location

A wallpaper border can also be applied at some point midway up a wall. While it serves to draw the eye upward and can work well in a shorter room, a border applied at standard ceiling height in an overly tall room will serve to bring the space down to human proportions. For example, when you have a vaulted ceiling of perhaps 12 to 16 feet, applying wallpaper and border up to the 8 to 10 foot level will rein in the height a bit. If you've been feeling lost in your room, this may be a great trick to bringing the space down to earth.

A border can also be applied at chair-rail height, which is usually about 30" off the floor. This creates a nice division on the wall and anchors the lower half of the room well. The one place never to hang a border, however, is exactly midway between floor and ceiling, thus cutting the wall into two equal parts; this results in a very static and stunted-looking space. 


A wallpaper border allows you to use two different patterns or finishes above and below. Paint the wall below the border with wallpaper above, or vice versa, as a great way to use a touch of wallpaper without overwhelming your space or budget.

Often, we're concerned with how to mix and match patterns. A great rule of thumb is that big mixes with small and opposites attract. Two big patterns conflict and cancel each other out, and two small patterns will look too busy and nervous. A bold stripe with a floral pattern is a great combination and a tried-and-true case of opposites attracting. However, a plaid pattern and a similarly sized floral will cancel each other out and look like a big mess. All the major brand wallpaper companies produce borders that coordinate with their wallpapers, which makes pairing the border to the paper an easy choice.

Use the above guidelines to pick the right wallpaper border for your space. A simple strip of paper can turn your room into something very impressive.

Find expert help with your interior decorating project. 

Updated July 23, 2018.

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