Dining Room Design Accents: Wallpaper within Shadow Boxes

Moving now into the final phases of the dining room trim work design, the original vision for the room is becoming a full-blown reality.

What started as a nice (but somewhat stark) dining area is now taking on a completely different overall personality. To me, this is the power of architectural trim work – and in this article and the video that follows below, I’ll focus on the accents within the dining room wall frames which were achieved using a carefully selected wallpaper.

Our Dining Room before Trim Work

If you’ve seen some of the previous articles on this project, you’re familiar with the original room. If not, though, below are a few chronological links to articles and videos as the work unfolded – along with some “before” photos.

This dining room renovation has been going on, overall, for months! And while my original goal was to complete the room by Christmas, my wife can attest to me being on the ladder doing some final touch-ups while simultaneously cooking on Christmas Eve.

Shall we call that success?? ;-)

Some chronological links to past articles & videos showing the progress of this project:

And some “before shots” of the dining room as well:

Dining Room Before Trim Work

Dining Room Before Wall Frames and Wall Paper

Wallpaper or Faux Finish within the Wall Frames?

This question had been in mind since I decided on the essential dining room design.

It really could have gone either way. Since this article focuses on wallpaper, it’s quite clear which way I decided to go, of course, but it was really “floating” pretty-much until I reached the point of having the dining room completely trimmed out and painted outside of the shadow boxes as shown below.

Dining Room Shadow Boxes and Pre-Painting

In the video that follows, I describe why I personally opted to go with wall paper for this room – and also show some examples of painted wall frames.

In addition, I give some tips to consider when selecting wallpapers overall…

Dining Room Wallpaper Tools and Preparation

Once I had ordered my wallpaper, I was told to expect a 1-2 week delay in arrival. This is extremely typical in my experience, and so I then turned to some basic preparation for the effort. There are a few tools that are really critical. Not too many, but a few.

Wallpaper Tools for Dining Room Trim Work Design

I’ll summarize briefly in the following sections and provide some product links, where warranted, to show exactly what I’m talking about:

A Snap-Off Razor Knife

Absolutely critical. I mean – NOT negotiable! There’s a nice snap-off razor knife pictured here. And even more, you want to have plenty of extra blades as well. With each piece of paper you hang, you’ll want to use a brand new blade tip, which means you “snap off” the old one with pliers before you start trimming the new wallpaper section. If you try to trim wallpaper with a dull razor blade – you will quickly become unhappy. It won’t go well.

A Wallpaper Tray

If you buy wallpaper that’s pre-pasted, you’ll need to soak it for some period of time in water using a wallpaper tray; this is a must-have as well. The amount of time you soak the paper will be specified by the wallpaper manufacturer; it’s important to look at the instructions that come with your wallpaper closely.

A Wallpaper Trim Guide

When getting ready to razor-cut your applied wallpaper, you need to have a precise wallpaper trim guide in hand. This is also critical. This is the edge you’ll be following with the snap-off razor knife to achieve the clean cut you must attain every single time.

A Wallpaper Table

This might or might not be necessary depending on your work area. I made all of my cuts and let the paste set up right on my carpet. But – that’s because I knew I would be replacing the carpet afterwards. Getting a dedicated table for this provides a clean and convenient workspace. You want to stay as organized and meticulous as possible with this project.

Wallpaper Paste

If you purchase wallpaper that’s not pre-pasted, you’ll need wallpaper paste along with a paste brush for the application.

Additional General Items for Wallpapering

Some other tools & supplies you’ll want to have in anticipation of your wallpaper day:

  • A Ladder
  • A very sharp pair of Scissors
  • Piers
  • Paper Towels
  • A Bucket & large Sponge

And Perhaps the Most Important Item Needed for Wallpapering

Hot coffee to stay focused. The choice of mug is completely optional.

Stay Focused Drink Coffee

Installing the Shadow Box Wallpaper

The very first thing I do every time I receive a wallpaper delivery, before even leaving the hardware store if possible, is check that the lot numbers are exactly the same for every roll. If the lot numbers are different – you may have color-matching issues at the seams. The lot number will be printed on the label; give this a careful validation:

Ensure All Wall Paper Rolls from the Same Lot

Every wallpaper piece is measured carefully as I work through each wall frame – and I try to add about 3-4 inches of waste on the top and bottom for trimming. Not too much more than that, as it can get a little sloppy if there’s too much to trim.

While I show this measurement (and make this cut) on the carpet below – keep in mind, I’m planning to replace the carpet so I’m not terribly worried about it. If you need a wallpapering table to protect your floor, be sure to get one in advance!

Cutting the Dining Room Wall Paper

Each wallpaper piece is soaked for the time specified in the manufacturer’s instructions (on the label with the lot number usually) using the wallpaper tray as shown. When removing the paper from the tray, be sure every part of the backing is indeed wet.

Folding the pre-pasted areas on to themselves as shown below is called “booking,” and I usually let this sit for a couple of minutes. The paste sets up nicely by doing this…

Booking Wall Paper for Dining Room Trim Work Design

Since I’m wallpapering within the wall frames, it actually makes my life a tiny bit easier than wallpapering an entire room; each shadow box is a truly separate area.

In the shot below, I’m trimming one of the lower shadow boxes.

Take a very close look at the lower left corner. Note how the bottom (untrimmed) piece of paper fits into the corner perfectly? That’s because I made what’s called a “relief cut” with my very sharp pair of scissors before using the wallpaper trim guide (also shown below) on the left side of the wall frame.

Making these relief cuts, I’ve found, is a critical technique when wallpapering to any corner.

And with this project – there are LOTS of corners…

Trimming Dining Room Shadow Box Wall Paper

The panels are wallpapered, one after the other – and the room starts coming together…

Wallpapering within the Dining Room Shadow Boxes

Dining Room Trim Work with Wallpaper in Shadow Boxes

With any wallpaper project, there will be “tricky” items to deal with. Below you can see how I manage a central vacuum port. The trick here is to cleanly slice the paper right to the opening (using my scissors), knowing you’re going to subsequently piece it back together.

In some sense, this is nothing more that a “customized” seam, and when done right – it’s nearly invisible…

Wallpaper Cut around Central Vacuum

Wall Paper Seam by Central Vacuum

Finishing Touches – Electrical Items

Given the time I’ve invested in this project, you better believe I’m going to get the final touches just right as well! I found some outlet covers that matched the paint I used quite nicely; these were installed throughout the room.

Choosing the Dining Room Trim Work Design Accents

Furthermore, the switch plate cover I liked really required a different color electrical switch as well to match properly.

Below you can see how I validate the voltage at the switch; this which must be shut down at the breaker panel. (It’s true that if the light isn’t working – the switch should be dead, but I like to be extremely anal-retentive when it comes to electricity.)

Using a Voltmeter on a Live Switch

Replacing the Dining Room Light Switch

Switch Plate Cover Dining Room Trim Work

The Final Trim Work & Wallpaper

While I still need to replace the dining room carpet with a hardwood floor (which is next on-deck), this is where I get to declare the “trim work” and “wallpaper” portion of this renovation as being DONE!

Some additional shots of the room from various vantage points…

Dining Room Wall Frames with Wallpaper

Dining Room Trim Work Ideas - Centered Outlet Cover

Dining Room Shadow Boxes with Wallpaper

Dining Work Trim Work Design with Wall Paper Finish

Overall – this has been a great project and I’m really happy with the outcome. It took longer than I expected, but overall we’re now looking forward to getting that floor in, putting the room back together and eventually having some friends over for dinner.

And I “sort of” made my Christmas deadline by a few hours. Well, kind of… Right?

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  1. Nicholle Olores says:

    That was really a great kind of design and it is truly impressive. The idea of putting Wallpaper in shadow boxes is beautiful and I hope I can do this in my own dining room. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.
    Nicholle Olores recently posted..Natural Disasters and the Aussie Spirit

  2. Another well done project Mark – I’m sure you could probably do wonders on our little box on stilts here in Australia! Also have to agree Xmas and Halloween don’t quite get together, but hey, sometimes you have to go with the flow :)

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