Upholstery Fabrics as Wall Cladding

Recently, I had to help a friend decorate an old farmhouse for a wedding reception. The venue was less than stellar, and there were unsightly cracks on the plaster walls, too. It would have been fabulous if we could have painted the walls, but there was no budget for that and the farmhouse wasn’t ours to paint. Now what? 

Luckily, fabric can solve many problems as wall cladding. From creating sculpted banners and drapes to covering the walls with sheer curtains and even gluing fabric to walls, there are many ways to dress up a wall.  

What Is Wall Cladding?

Wall cladding is usually a term used for large-scale marble tiles or PVC shower sheets. However, you can as easily use large pieces of fabric to cover the walls and create a great decor scheme for your home. 

6 Methods to Dress Walls Using Fabric

Walls can be dressed up in more than simply painting them. With upholstery fabric, and even with some curtaining, you can easily create unique and interesting ways to cover walls, make feature walls, and stretch a tight budget for a rental space. 

1.  Upholstery Fabric as Wallpaper 

With a great quality wallpaper glue, you can also attach upholstery fabric to your walls just like you would wallpaper. There are a few considerations to ensure you get a great result. 

For starters, ensure the fabric you choose is fairly lightweight as heavier fabrics won’t adhere to the walls, as well. 

It’s a good idea to pre-stiffen and preshrink the fabric to ensure you have a slightly less flexible fabric to work with, which will settle on the wall better. Having loads of helping hands will also make light work of this task. 

2. Upholstery Fabric as Wall Panels

If the thought of hanging whole sections of fabric on walls intimidates you, then using wall panels may be much more up your alley. This involves a bit of carpentry, as you need to make a wooden stretch frame to cover with the fabric

Making wall panels is a great way to use beautifully printed upholstery fabric or landscape prints. Simply select your fabric, decide on a suitable frame size, make the frames, cover the frames or get a professional upholsterer to assist you, and mount the frames securely to the walls. 

Sets of at least three frames are a good idea. Pair the frames with painted backgrounds to ensure the frames suit the decor scheme perfectly. 

3. Curtaining Fabric as Curtain Walls

If you have loads of fabric, you can do what we did to the farmhouse for the wedding. Simply cut the fabric to cover the walls from ceiling to skirting board. Sew in a tab to run a tensioned curtain wire through the bottom and the top. Next, install eyelets or cup hooks along the ceiling and floor. Attach the end hooks of the tension wire to the cup hooks. 

You will probably need to include some additional hooks on the wall to spread the load of the tension wire and prevent the wire (and fabric) from sagging. Evenly spread any pleats. Gathering your fabric to at least two or three times the length of your walls is a good idea as this will create a more natural effect. 

4. Upholstered Padded Wall Panels

Ever seen the richly paneled walls of some Victorian-era homes? You can also create this effect by cutting thick plywood or MDF boards that create a tiled appearance on the walls. 

Once you have brackets installed to mount the panels, you can take them down and begin to pad and upholster them. Start with a layer of foam or thin sponge, followed by a layer of polyester batting. A staple gun is a great way to secure these. 

Next, cover the padded panel with the upholstery fabric. Take extra care to cover the corners with professional pleats as you don’t want the corners to be bulky and push the panels off the wall. Again, use the staple gun to secure the fabric, fixing any corner pleats and securing any extra fabric. 

Now for the real eye-catching feature. Use upholstery nails or nailhead trim to create a tufted appearance. If you use a reasonably thick board for the headboard, you will have loads of support to hammer the nails into, so don’t be afraid of adding loads of padding for a nice full tuft. 

Ensure you follow a pattern, measuring for each nail’s position once the other nails are in. Don’t pre-dot the nail positions as the foam will distort the overall distance between points. 

5. Upholstery Fabric Faux Art

Another clever way to occupy large walls is to match the “artwork” of some large-scale picture frames with the fabric of your furniture. If you cover your sofa with some geometric fabrics, then use the same upholstery fabric to “frame” a section of fabric on the wall as if it’s art. 

6. Fabric Dado Rails

A dado rail, for those who don’t know, is a wooden rail installed to a wall, running parallel to the floor at a height of 35 inches off the floor. The wall below the dado rail is usually painted or treated differently from the wall above the rail, which enlarges the space on a visual level. 

Using upholstery fabric, you can easily cover the wall below the dado rail, creating a colorful wall treatment. The fabric can be nailed on, stretched, or glued down. A benefit of using a dado rail and upholstery fabric is that your wall can be protected from those accidental bumps and scrapes when you move your furniture. 

Upholstery Fabric Wall Cladding FAQs

Question: How do you temporarily apply fabric to walls when you are renting your apartment?

Answer: If you are renting, you can’t make any permanent changes to the space. However, with laundry starch, you can “gum” fabric to walls, creating a new and exciting look, without making any holes or buying any expensive paint. When you’re ready to move out, simply use a wet sponge to moisten the starch and release the fabric. The walls remain undamaged by the starch “glue.” 

Question: Can you use vinyl to create wall cladding? 

Answer: Vinyl makes for excellent wall cladding, and with the exceptional wipeable surface, it is also easy to maintain this wall cladding. 

Question: How do you maintain your fabric wall cladding?

Answer: When a fabric is mounted on walls, it can be exposed to dirt, dust, and other particles. Cleaning it may require a careful approach. Start by using a soft-bristled brush to gently clean the wall cladding with a smooth brushing stroke. Work in one direction to avoid pulling the fabric. 

Next, you can use a brush attachment to your vacuum cleaner to gently vacuum the fabric panels. In case of stains or transfer of particles, using a soft foam sponge can help remove any stains, followed by spraying the cladding with clear water and then dabbing at it with a paper towel. 

The Final Cladding

If you decide to clad your walls with fabric, ensure you pick the best fabric you can afford. Hanging fabric from frames or by using glue can be time-consuming, and it may also cost quite a bit for the hardware to hang the fabric panels. Choosing quality fabric will mean you don’t have to redo the project again. Since the surface area is quite large for most walls, consider purchasing fabric from Kovi’s online catalog with discounts on bulk sales.

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