Tutorial – how I updated an IKEA cupboard with custom printed wallpaper

Tutorial – how I updated an IKEA cupboard with custom printed wallpaper

When we moved into our house two years ago, we found two beautiful second hand solid wood cupboards we wanted to use as storage in the office and as a wardrobe in the girls’ room. Then, the day we moved in, we realised our stairs were too steep, and with the cupboard on its side, at the top of the stairs, we had exactly 1 cm too little space to fit it through the stairwell. Pushing and shoving didn’t work, and we didn’t want to break the wall, so we needed a different solution. In the end, the two wooden cupboards became our dining room storage, and the two white ikea cupboards with glass doors fit up the stairs and into the office and bedroom.

While its theoretically nice to be able to see piles of folded and colour-coordinated kids clothes on display through the glass doors, the reality is that its usually a bit of a mess. I decided to use one of my wallpapers to cover the glass and add a bit of colour and pattern to the girls’ room. To match the butterfly curtains I had sewed for them, I wanted to use my butterfly damask pattern, but wasn’t sure which version. I’ve been playing around with this design for a few years, and I have a vector version, watercolour version and most recently linoprint.

Three versions of a butterfly damask pattern

In the end I chose the linoprint and using photos of the original golden / bronze ink linoprint, I created a repeating pattern that flowed well and at a scale that would work on the small surface of the cupboard doors. The project took me about an hour, and in case you’d like to try transforming an old piece of furniture in the same way, I’ve created a step by step tutorial.

First, a word about the wallpaper itself. All my designs are available on three different types of wallpaper: commercial grade type II isobar wallpaper, woven peel and stick PVC-free polyester textile wallpaper, and smooth FSC-certified water-activated paper wallpaper. (Coming soon: a blog post describing the different kinds of wallpaper in detail). I decided to use the smooth paper wallpaper, its a bit thicker than the peel and stick wallpaper, and I liked the smooth texture on the glass. I think the peel and stick wallpaper would have worked well too though, and would probably be a bit easier to install. Since this was such a small project, I didn’t order a proof as I have in the past, but just measured the height of the glass doors and ordered three feet of wallpaper.


Step one: I ordered a custom length of wallpaper which came as one roll three feet long and two feet wide.

Step two: Measure the width of the glass doors, and add a tiny bit of extra width so that you can tuck the edges under the wooden trim (but not too much, because you’ll have to trim it off later! See step seven).

Step three: I used a quilt ruler and cutting mat to make sure I was cutting at exactly 90 degrees and measured and cut the two panels of wallpaper (this may go without saying, but make sure the two panels will line up, so that the repeat continues across both doors).

Step four: This is a water-activated wallpaper, and it needs quite a good amount of water to activate the glue.

Step five: To give the glue time to activate, make a book fold and let it sit a few minutes, this means the wet glued sides are touching each other. Try to line up the edges exactly so they don’t dry out.

Step six: Carefully line up the wallpaper and attach it to the glass door. The trickiest bit will be to get the corners just under the wood frame while keeping everything aligned (this is why its important not to have too much overhang). Smooth out all the air bubbles, apply more water to any bits where the glue might have dried out or you didn’t have enough water, and then tuck in the edges using your thumbnail.

Step seven: I had a bit too much overhang, so trimmed it off with an exacto knife. This also gave a nice straight finish.

Step eight: You’re done! This instantly changed the feel of the room, and is an easy way to add colour and pattern to your room. Since its also removable, you can always take it off after a few years (like if we ever manage to get a proper wardrobe in here).

Tutorial to update an ikea cupboard

What do you think? I’m loving the splash of pattern and also the way I could use the original linoprint and preserve the look of the ink and texture.

ps. See this pattern or all the wallpaper designs available in my shop. This week you can get 15% off an order of 3ft or longer!


I'm a fabric designer fascinated with the intricacies of seamless repeats. I enjoy creating vector designs as well as working with linoprint and watercolour. I've lived in 5 countries and love to use special places and memories in my designs.

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