How to Remove Wallpaper, Our Mail-Order House, and Big Changes for the Swoon Family

How to Remove Wallpaper, Our Mail-Order House, and Big Changes for the Swoon Family

How to Remove Wallpaper, Our Mail-Order House, and Big Changes for the Swoon Family

When we decided we wanted to buy a home, we used the same approach I have with Swoon Rugs: get creative. 

We weren't planning on moving in the middle of a pandemic during a year that has caused most of us more stress than we can manage well. But we got word that a house on our street in Clintonville (a neighborhood in Columbus) was going on the market. We jumped at the chance to stay in a 'hood we love but, unfortunately, we got outbid. And then we got outbid again and again. So we decide to take a different approach.  

We were looking for a well-built older home that had good bones but needed a ton of work so we could make it our own. A fixer upper without any structural problems. After months of searching all over the city, we started to get frustrated. We had to think outside of the box––and outside of Columbus city limits. 

That was when we found a 1910 Sears Roebuck American Foursquare and fell in love.

American Foursquare Home

The American Foursquare-style house was one of the most popular home designs from the late 1890s to the 1930s in part because they were easy to build and affordable. Before the internet, shoppers bought from mail-order catalogs like Sears Roebuck and they sold nearly everything a family at the time would need––including kits to build your own home. The kit included all the pieces you’d need, everything from boards to nails, for you to construct your own American Foursquare. All for under $2,500 in 1910 money.

These homes were a historic DIY kit and a modern DIYer’s dream. I could not wait to get started. The first thing we did (just hours after closing) was rip up the old carpet and then we moved on to the wallpaper. 

Wallpaper Wall

And this wallpaper wasn’t just one cute little accent wall. It wrapped all the way around the room, as did the striped wallpaper in the adjacent room. 

Wallpaper in our new home

The wallpaper just kept going.

Wallpaper wall by the bay window

And going.

Wallpaper in the front room

And going.

Removing wallpaper is enough to make even the most patient person cuss, so learn from what we did to streamline the process and make your life much easier. 


First, prep! Don’t skip out on the prep, otherwise peeling the wallpaper off will be so much harder than it has to be. 

Water dissolves the glue that keeps the wallpaper on the wall, but before you can go to town spraying, you have to make sure the water is actually able to penetrate the paper. That’s where using a scoring tool like this comes in handy. It pokes little holes in the paper so when you start spraying the water will actually be able to get to the glue. 



Make small circular motions with your scoring tool (six to eight inches in diameter) in a horizontal line across the wall.

This is the part where you really want to take your time. The more you score the paper, the easier it’ll be to peel. You also don’t want to press too hard and break the scoring tool (like we did). 

Wallpaper Scoring Tool

Stretch out your arms, put on your favorite playlist, and go to town making gentle wax on, wax off motions. If you’ve got little ones, this is the perfect way to let them help. They can get the lower parts of the wall and save your knees!  

Next, it’s spray time! 


STEP 2 (repeat 3 times):

Spray the entire wall with water. We used a regular spray bottle, which cramps your hand after a short while, and realized we probably should’ve used an industrial sprayer like this

Set a timer for 15 minutes and let the water soak in. This is the perfect time to grab a snack and let your arms rest. But don’t get too comfortable because you’ll want to do the soak and wait two more times, for a total of three, to make sure the paper really loosens from the wall. 

By the third time, you’ll start to notice the seams of the wallpaper starting to come off the wall. 

Now, the fun part.



Peeling the wallpaper! 

After taking our time with the prepwork, the paper peeled off easily! It’s so satisfying when a big sheet comes off in one big sheet. 


The beautiful thing about old houses is that they never stop surprising you. Just when we thought we were finished peeling wallpaper, we discovered more wallpaper under the top layer. 

And when we removed that, we found signatures from the house’s original occupants penciled on the walls. 

Wallpaper off the wall

Signatures on the wall

If you’re like me and prefer your cool decorative patterns under your feet instead of on your walls, check out the latest one-of-a-kind rugs at Swoon