Paint vs Wallpaper — Which of These Two Wallcoverings Is Really Best for a Stylish and Practical Home?

From a quick lick of paint to a fully wallpapered room, or a combination of both — what’s the best update when it comes to paint vs wallpaper?

A neutral bedroom with built in decorative wall storage and wall lights
(Image credit: Deisgn: West of Main)

The decision between wallpaper and paint is often made on style alone, but when you're considering a practical, beautiful home, there's a fair few factors to take into consideration.

If you're DIYing, that may play a part in your decision-making, while cost and durability may also be something you're concerned about.

So how can paint ideas for walls stack up against wallpaper? We asked the experts to break down the differences.

Is Paint or Wallpaper Easier to Apply?

A light blue hallway with an open front door

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Paint is often seen as the easy option in comparison to wallpaper. It’s a quick turnaround and a super versatile tool that either you can take on yourself or employ a tradesperson to refresh your home. Depending on architectural details, colors and textures, a lick of paint can hugely impact a space and how it’s styled, the possibility are endless.

‘A great tactic to change the impression of a room is to highlight particular features or areas, an accent wall in a bold shade works well to draw the eye and create a focal point. If this sounds a bit too bold for you, a pop of color can also be added via furniture and accessories such as chairs,’ advises Helen Shaw, Director of Marketing at Benjamin Moore. A small change like this can be enough to fulfil a much-needed update, not only does it spruce up a piece of furniture, but adds total individuality to a space potentially acting as a good conversation too.

Wallpaper differs in that it’s a much more fiddly application method meaning you’ll want to get it right the first time to prevent any mistakes, so you may feel it’s more efficient to have it installed professionally.

Which is most durable?

A green wallpapered background with a white chest of drawers styled in front of it

(Image credit: Design: Allen and James Home)

There are some vital things to take into consideration before reaching for the paintbrush to conjure up a change. Sanda Stojakovic, Founder of Stojakovic Design warns that paint may highlight imperfections on the wall surface, particularly if not properly prepared before painting, ‘Without any architectural details, it can feel plain and boring, and paint is prone to wear and tear,’ Sanda says.

Chips, scratches and stains are usually all the more obvious on painted surfaces and you may find the space needs touching up regularly to maintain its look. Wallpapering is a little more complex than painting yet it may conceal minor imperfections and the durability is said to be years and years with little deterioration.

Which is more expensive?

A close up of the image of the bedside area with bedside drawers, a mirror, and grasscloth wallpaper behind

(Image credit: Design: Maximizing Tiny Interiors)

Paint is a low cost, quick fix to a space compared to wallpaper but that feels obvious due to the durability of a good quality wallpaper.

Bynn Esmond, Founder of Bynn Esmond Designs is all for the wallpaper, ‘Using wallpaper adds an element of texture and pattern that isn't always achievable with paint. Adding the right wallpaper can liven up a room but it does come with additional cost.’, so considering the budget is a key factor and whether you think it’s worth it or not. You must also take into consideration who is doing the work.

It may feel logical to give these jobs a go yourself but may end up costing more long term if there do happen to be any DIY mistakes. Asking an experienced professional is potentially the better option, but this of course comes at a price.

Which has the most impact?

A traditional living room seating area with bold blue paint and a neutral white patterned wallpaper

(Image credit: Design: Stojakovic Design)

When it comes to wallpaper, some people love it, whereas some feel it’s a thing of the past. Not only can it bring life through pattern, but also texture and a palette of colors you may not have necessarily put together yourself, but can now draw from to style the space further.

‘I personally love wallpaper, I think it can be so unique and stylish for any space,’ says Patti Allen, Co-Owner of Allen + James Home, ‘It’s the perfect way to give your space that extra wow factor’. There are infinite designs to choose from, so honing in your personal style is easier than ever, and it can be a fun combination to pull colors from wallpaper design to use in painted areas, creating a totally cohesive scheme.

‘In open concept areas where fluidity and adaptability are paramount, I often lean towards paint,' Sanda Stojakovic says. 'It allows for seamless transitions between spaces and accommodates potential layout changes and evolving furnishing preferences.’

How to decide between paint vs wallpaper

A peach bedroom with green details, a mstriped headboard and styled bedside table

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

It’s best to assess things like existing design elements, ceiling height, flooring material, budget and the overall goal. Ideally, if you want to elevate the space's existing details you’ll have to channel these features and work with them.

If you’re going to alter the interior architecture, consider your budget first to avoid disappointment in the long run. If you’re feeling playful, include both paint and wallpaper for a unique finish. If you’re new to the DIY game, seriously consider getting professionals in to take on the work to avoid disappointment and extra costs.

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.