Reader Questions, Rooms

Reader Q: German Tapete – Help!

September 19, 2007

Cry for help from Germany! I hope that those of you tuning in from Deutschland and other countries where installing thick tapete (wallpaper) is common in rentals can help. For those of you unfamiliar with tapete, in Germany you are not allowed to paint directly on the walls, but you can paint on this thick textured paper called tapete. Yeah, really. I think most that rent in Germany hate this stuff.

Reader Q: German Tapete - Help!
All the tapete I’ve come across is textured, which makes it a pain if you prefer the look of a smooth surface like I do. Reader Juliette recently relocated to Germany from the Boston area and absolutely hates it. She painted it a pretty blue, but she’s not keen on the texture and is curious if she could apply wall decals on it to give it life. From my experience with textured anything, you cannot apply decals to it as they will not adhere.

I do have a question to all you Germans in the haus. Is tapete available without texture? Certainly it must be. I’d hate to think otherwise, as I can’t bear textured walls with paint, I agree with Juliette when she said in her email, “It’s just something I really hate hate hate!”.

Reader Q: German Tapete - Help!
Although at a distance, it’s not so obvious…

Juliette asked for help decorating her living room, if you’re up for it. You can view the apartment that she’ll be occupying for the next two years on flickr.

Her challenge room is the living room. Since they’ve had to start at zero when they relocated, bringing almost nothing with them from Boston, they’ve already spent their bank account on all the necessary things, and since they can’t afford Habitat right now, IKEA is their only option. Juliette is scared that her home will soon take on the look of an IKEA catalog, so she needs some advice on ways she can warm it up and add personality without breaking the bank.

Reader Q: German Tapete - Help!
This is what her space looks like today. Some points to consider:

1- The green sofa will be relocated to their office when they have the money to purchase a new one. In other words, don’t design the room around the sofa, it’s not staying. Any advice on what color sofa she should go with?
2- The lamp and coffee table need replaced since she doesn’t think they work. Any tips?
3- The chairs… Any advice? They are really comfortable so Juliette hates to toss them.
4- She loves the rug but it “only covers half the floor and we need to cover the whole floor (long story) and I’m not sure what would be in harmony with it and not divide the room in half. It would fit perfectly in the office, which is where it will likely end up as well. I wish we could just super-size the rug since I really love it with the blue and it pulls in an old look that I adore.”
5 – She plans to place the map shown below over the sofa.

Reader Q: German Tapete - Help!

Do you have some advice for Juliette? What would you do if this apartment belonged to you? I’ll chime in as well here are my first thoughts:

Relocate the rug to the office and use the map as inspiration for the color palette. Blues, greens, creams, and a bit of mustard yellow as your accent color. I’d love to see you play around with the current floor plan, move the sofa to the wall facing us in the photo.

I can imagine a textured rug on the floor (maybe the Tarnby or the Indo Berber), curtains that aren’t so dark and heavy – opt for something light and bright, and I’d keep the sofa table and chairs and put your money into a rug and sofa — those are most critical in my eyes. The table can be dressed up with a tray, some books and accessories, or you can paint it, and the chairs with a few throw pillows in fun patterns.

Add texture to the space with pillows, a soft blanket, a natural basket beneath the coffee table with magazines stacked neatly. Add candles for soft light, perhaps sconces on the wall or candles on a floating shelf, find a lamp with a shade that is linen or perhaps faux bois or in a soft pretty pattern. Think relaxing, calm, warm. Your walls read very cool right now, so you need to add texture to the space and a few warmer tones to balance things out so that during the cold winter months, you wil want to hang out in this space.

View more apartment photos here.

(images from juliette)


  • Reply Sam September 19, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Holly,

    We have the same stuff in Sweden. You can most definitely get a smooth one – we’ve used it in two apartments now and it looked fantastic both times (we have an AMAZING painter who we used for both apartments, I don’t really like the idea of trying to apply that stuff myself). And I totally agree, that textured stuff is awful.

    I’m not sure what the smooth one is called here, but I don’t think the Swedish name would be so much help to you anyway!


  • Reply Anonymous September 19, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    This type of wallpaper is called “Raufaser”, and it comes in various grades. There is one (I think type Erfurt 75) which still is “Raufaser”, but has close to no structure, in case your client wants to keep it on the lower budget end. Though low-budget, Raufaser is quite versatile; it’s just important that you know which type to choose for your project.

    Other than that, your client may want to check out home improvement stores like Obi, Hagedorn, Praktiker etc. These have quite some selection of wallpapers, with and without structure and patterns.
    And then there are always the high-end manufacturers, of course, and the select agents.

    So – yes, we here in Germany do have all the things you in the US have, too. We’re not as backwards, fashion and desiginwise as people often think. :)

    Greetings from Germany,
    mlle a.

  • Reply Michele DeVous September 19, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    My ideas for your room:
    -Purchase a sofa with simple lines, straight, only two back cushions in a cream or very light beige.

    -Paint the coffee table and chairs black, gloss or satin finish

    -Replace the curtains with the light curtains you currently have in the kitchen.

    -move the blue curtains to the kitchen.

    -Cover the chairs with cushions (back and seat) that are close to the new sofa color. (Similar to the color of the cushion on the straight back chair.)

    -To help hide the wall in the living room–use two of your bookcases, one on either side of the sofa. You have lots of books and bookcases–spread them throughout the apartment instead of in just one room.

    -I love the foyer rug, maybe use that in the living room under the coffee table, in front of the sofa and then use smaller solid color rugs throughout the room in the colors of the circles. move the red rug to the office. If you use the foyer rug in the living room, you could make giant cirles in the colors of the rug and hang them on the wall as art. Just an idea!

    -kitchen tile: this is a temporary solution, but get contact paper and cut it the same size as a tile and cover the patterned tiles either in a color close to the existing tile or in a color–maybe blue to match the blue curtains from the living room.

    Hope any of this helps. Good luck!

  • Reply Nat September 19, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Hey- tuning in from Germany, Hamburg- and I am also working as a paralegal for a rent-law lawyer ;-) First – you can paint your walls during your living in the apartment in whatever color your wish. Only when you move out – you have to paint it back white – meaning – it should be a color that everybody can live with – and this is white they say. LOL.
    Second- you don’t need to have this structure wallpaper on the walls – also called Raufaser or in English Ingrain Wallpaper – she can just have plain white walls or can paint them as I said. I never had Raufaser since I so hated that – so outfashioned. And in your apartment now we don’t have it either – so tell her this – I guess she will be doing a happy dance ;-)

  • Reply Justine September 19, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    If decals are not feasible find a pattern you like and photocopy it onto a clear transparency paper. Using an overhead projector, project the image onto the wall and paint the pattern or design fllowing the projection.

    I really think you should go with Holly’s suggestions for the map colour scheme — creams would warm up the blue.

    You could paint the chairs, but the wood tone is nice, so you could add throw pillows. I think you need some large-scale pieces on your wall. For easy artwork find some pretty material and stretch it over a canvas. That could achieve some colour and texture.

  • Reply juliette September 19, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for all your comments everybody! Having fresh eyes see things can be a big help! yep, we used contact paper to cover the kitchen tiles; only white to keep my options open (also easier for my mom to mail from USA since German stuff is all perm.).

    The curtains actually were a huge process, we will be keeping them there since we need some serious light-blockage and insulation help in the winter—but yes, typically I would go for light and airy here!

    Good to know about the tapete — I will keep that in mind for our next German apartment…there is hope!

    Thanks again!

  • Reply Tara September 19, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Just a small comment on the “non-Ikea decorating” issue… I don’t know the situation in Germany, but when I lived in Holland, there were flea markets in most towns a couple of times a month. People tended to snub many of the shabby vintage-y items (as opposed to the fancier antiques), and so I often got great deals.

    My apartment is still full of old storage tins (from cocoa, coffee, etc.) that I picked up at about 25 cents each — they’re colorful, cute, and great for small storage!

  • Reply PolkadotParadise September 19, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    i absolutely agree with nat, you can just remove the stupid raufaser!
    everybody does it, it’s just important to paint it white again before moving out. i guess it’s an 80ies thing ;-D

  • Reply volksfaden September 20, 2007 at 6:39 am

    There is a wallpaper here in Germany which is used by professional painters called “Vliestapete”. This creates a smooth surface and painters prefer using it if the walls are older, cracked and/ or uneven. We used it in our apartment and were more than satisfied. It comes in colors I think, but we used white and just painted over it. Very practical for an “altbau wohnung”.

  • Reply Lillian September 20, 2007 at 8:28 am

    so there?s no thing like raufaser in the u.s., this is interesting. good for you! but, yeah, just get rid of it! your landlord will be happy you did in most cases.
    ps: hi polka! ;-)

  • Reply Anonymous September 20, 2007 at 9:04 am

    I actually like the textured white walls Rauhfaser gives you. I like my color more temporary. The thought of getting all the furniture out and repainting the walls every year or so lets me shudder. I had a great green wallpaper as a child, after 3 years I couldn’t see it anymore, but sure my parents were not keen on replacing it, because it would cost to much. Painting would have been the same.
    So white textured for me. Much better backdrop for the large paintings I prefer. If I want color up goes the fancy colored fabric. Easy up, easy down.

  • Reply susan September 20, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Glad to see the tiles are now covered! Yes, good idea to put curtains in front of the shelves in the kitchen. I’d think about putting one long countertop over both the taller and shorter shelving piece, the height of the taller piece, of course, and stopping just short of the window. I’d put another shelf or two all the way across above the countertop. This will better unify these areas. The downside is, yes, you’ll have a little countertop and shelf protruding into the window, but it’s just a bit. I think the benefit of the long pieces (countertops and shelves above) will outweigh this detail, especially if you put something nice at the ends near the window.

    Good luck!

    The wallpaper…in Denmark it’s more of a cross hatch type of pattern they’ve used forever. I really love it, it’s sort of a weaved look.

  • Reply Sue September 20, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    1. It is not strictly forbidden in Germany to paint on walls. Depends on your contract with the owner of the house.
    We don’t have any wallpapers at home….

    2. Go and search at Bauhaus, Obi, Praktiker, Hornbach, etc.

    3. Check:

  • Reply Sheree September 21, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    I have definitely seen “regular” walls in rental units here. Seems the texture is just in–they seem to like it alot–maybe going for that old world look–who knows. We just left ours white. I am gradually adding color with self made art and treasures we find during our travels–and of course our pics we had on the walls at our house back in the US. If she sews, she can really stretch her dollar and make herself some amazing items for her home that won’t be cookie cutter. And Habitat has sales all the time–the prices definitely get close to IKEA with alot of items. Also, depending on where she lives in Germany, sometimes it is frugal to go over the border! We shop alot in Holland, Belgium and France since we live close to the borders. We found alot of amazing furniture in Holland at wonderful prices. And the Antiques in Belgium and France can be found at just unbelieveable prices! There are alot of big flea markets in all these areas and there are online sites you can go to to browse new pieces and to check show dates and locations. They usually have links to read the sites in English too. You can go a long way with English in alot of these countries, also, so that is certainly a bonus.


  • Leave a Reply

    Scroll Up