When we first spoke to famed antiques dealer and collector John Rosselli about the living room of his New York pied-à-terre, we were surprised to learn that its gorgeous textured wallcovering wasn't a high-end grasscloth or silk, but plain old burlap. "It's a little trick of the trade," he told us. "It's inexpensive and makes hanging and rehanging easy."
We did some digging and found out and discovered that burlap is, in fact, an 0ld-school hack used in rooms where wall art is regularly moved around, since the nubby texture easily hides nail holes. Legendary art collector and Barnes Foundation founder hung his his trove of Cézannes and Renoirs and Picassos on burlap-covered walls in his Merion, Pennsylvania mansion; when the museum moved into more modern digs in downtown Philadelphia in 2012, so did the burlap walls.
As for the inexpensive part of the equation, a room can be "wallpapered" in burlap at a fraction of what a paper-backed linen or grasscloth might cost: a single 40-by-360-inch roll from Home Depot costs just $43 and covers 10 square feet of wall space.
While a professional wallpaper installer will obviously give you the best results, burlap walls are also totally DIY-able. Blogger Lindsay Fay of A Butterfly House used a cornstarch-and-water mixture to adhere burlap panels to her dining room walls (check out the full tutorial on her website) with impressive results. One thing to note: the seams are pretty visible; for the most seam-free look, Fay suggests using the widest panels you can find (this one comes in a 60-inch width). Painting the walls a color similar to the fabric will also help seams blend in.
For the finishing touch, take a page from Rosselli's playbook and glue or tack a thin piece of ribbon or trim around the edge of the wall.
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