Contact Paper Decorating Hacks That Will Liven Up Your Space

Contact paper is a versatile and transformative vinyl-based and waterproof paper with an adhesive backing that can be used for a variety of different purposes. It comes in a multitude of different colors, patterns, and lengths, and is removable but generally not reusable. Contact paper is great for DIY projects, like upgrading a kitchen backsplash or zhuzhing up your bathroom vanity. Home Depot states that adding a backsplash can cost anywhere from $700 to $1000, while upgrading a vanity top will put you back, on average, at least $1,500, per Home Advisor. If you go the contact paper route, you're looking to spend anywhere from $5 to $50 per roll, and because it doesn't damage surfaces and leaves no sticky residue, renters can use contact paper to upgrade less-than-stellar-looking appliances and spruce up outdated cabinetry.

Contact paper allows you to be your own home designer (all without hurting your wallet). People often use it to line shelves and drawers, but it's a product with way more potential. Faux tile, faux laminate, glass, marble, stainless steel, and chalkboard contact paper are all real options, per Astek. So the sky's the limit in terms of how you want to use it. If you're looking to add a pop of color to your office, or to renovate your flooring, your answer is contact paper. If you're seeking some inspiration, or just looking to hide some nasty scratches on your kitchen table, we've got you covered (pun intended) with some ideas below.

1. Redo your cabinet door covers

If you want to try a different color or wood grain before actually committing to renovating your kitchen cabinetry (and that massive upgrade price), stick with contact paper. If you already like your cabinets but are tired of cleaning up the cooking residue and sticky messes that somehow manage to appear on the paneling, you can use clear contact paper (window cling) as a protective coating. This also protects the wood from staining and scratches.

2. Give your windows a treatment

Glass-specific contact paper also goes under the guise of window cling. It's a great option for adding a bit of stylish privacy to your windows or glass shower doors. Because this type of covering adheres using static, it's easy to apply (or reapply) and adds a fair amount of coverage. Window clings come in flat frosted, frosted patterns, and also stained glass (for those of you who really want to make a statement). They tend to be reusable. (Contact paper generally is not.)

3. Spruce up a room divider

If you have an old room divider that's seen better days, perhaps it's time to give it an overhaul. If your room divider has screen partitions, use contact paper to cover both sides for a nice color pop. Privacy screens that have slats or tiny partitions might take a bit longer to work with, but just imagine the possibilities. (How epic would it be to do a rainbow gradient?) You could also upcycle old records by covering them in contact paper, stringing them together, and making a faux wall.

4. Update your tables

It goes without saying that contact paper does wonders for old tables. Because this stuff is vinyl, you can easily clean up any liquid messes. Go for a bold and bright solid color, or try something more natural, like distressed wood or faux marble. It's an easy way to get the expensive stone countertop that you always wanted, without breaking the bank.

5. Decorate your trashcan

Trashcans get gross real quick. They're also pretty boring to look at. You can fix up a dented steel trashcan and make it look spiffy and new by covering it in "steel" contact paper. Or, cover the dent with a patterned paper or bright color for a modern and fun edge. Who says trash cans have to look utilitarian?

6. Convert wire shelves to something more solid

When it comes to organizing smaller items, wire shelving spells disaster. Bottles and cans just don't want to stay put and end up toppling over. With the help of contact paper and foam board or cardboard, you can create a beautiful shelf that not only stabilizes the items you're storing but also beautifies the entire shelving unit, too.

7. Give your office some color

Stop and think about all the flat, plain, and boring surfaces that surround you in your office. Your desk, filing cabinet, and maybe even printer could all benefit from a bit of patterned love. To give a calm or zen feel to your surroundings, opt for greens or blues, which are supposed to be the most relaxing colors out of the spectrum. Shades of yellow make people happy, so if you're looking to brighten your office, go the sunshine route.

8. Create uniform storage boxes

Perhaps you have a bunch of boxes that would make great storage bins, but they all look pretty darn gross. (No one wants to see an old Huggies box sitting in one of the cubbies of your TV console.) The solution? Add contact paper, of course. Keep your boxes uniform by using solid colors, or experiment with patterns. Wood patterns give a more rustic feel, while primary colors bring about a sense of playfulness (or a sense of Mondrian, via Guggenheim).

9. Upgrade your appliances

Perhaps your dishwasher has a few dents, scratches, or even some rust. Maybe the same holds true for your washer and/or dryer or refrigerator. Whatever the reason, it's nothing that a little coverage can't fix. You can use contact paper that looks like steel to create a whole new appliance (almost), give it life by adding a bold floral design, or even cover it in chalkboard contact paper, so you can write out the day's to-do list.

10. Keep your fridge shelves clean

Refrigerator shelves are notorious for getting dirty. Spilled milk, cracked eggs, crumbs, and even hard water deposits all can get crusted onto the surface, giving it an aged and unappetizing appearance. If you like the idea of clear shelves, use frosted window clings as shelf protectors. Or embrace your creative side and add some color that corresponds with each of the food groups.

11. Add labels to your kitchen items

When label makers aren't big enough, and sticky notes won't stay stuck, it's time to use chalkboard or clear contact paper to make your own personal pantry signage. You can cut these to shape using a Cricut machine, scrapbooking hole punch, or just do it by hand. Use paint or chalk markers to prevent your labels from accidentally wiping away.

12. Give your books a nice standout backdrop

Give your books or tchotchkes a nice background by using patterned or solid-colored contact paper applied to the back panel of a bookshelf. This makes everything in front of it stand out, almost like you're looking at museum displays of ancient artifacts. If your bookshelf is white, try a solid black, black and white, or floral pattern. If it's blue, try floral or paisley.

13. Add a kitchen backsplash

If you're sticking with just contact paper, you can go regal by adding marble to the walls in your kitchen. If you're looking for something a bit more eclectic, opt for embossed adhesive stickers (alias adhesive tiles). These are easy to apply and easy to remove, and just like contact paper, won't damage the surface underneath.

14. Fix your bathroom vanity

It's already been established that replacing a vanity top is not an inexpensive undertaking. Because contact paper is water-resistant, it's the perfect option for a quick and easy overhaul (that also looks pretty darn cool). Have you always wanted marble or granite bathroom counters? Well, now you can have them. Take it one step further and use contact paper on the frame, too. If you're worried about the durability of regular contact paper (it's pretty tough), PVC contact paper is hardier and will stand the test of time. 

15. Create a chalkboard

Of course you can slap a piece of chalkboard paper on your fridge and call it a day, but why not get a bit more extravagant? Try lining the outside of your cabinets, so you can list what you're missing from each pantry area. Or just go big and cover an entire wall. Your new floor-to-ceiling chalkboard can be used for making grocery or to-do lists, breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, or even holiday-themed imagery. (Plus, it keeps little hands nice and busy.)

16. Make an accent wall

Accent walls are often the focal point of a room and are meant to draw your eye in. If you have a blank wall and are feeling gutsy, then perhaps it's time to create your own contact paper version. Just be sure to choose complementary or similar colors that fit with the rest of the room. (That means don't go with a bold, patterned red if the rest of the room is pastel pink.) Remember: don't be afraid of a little pattern.

17. Spiff up your flooring

PVC contact paper comes on a giant roll and is made specifically for use on floors. It's also removable (but not reusable), waterproof, and comes in more colors and patterns than you can imagine. Try going with a neutral solid color for a more mellow vibe, or perhaps look into an American farmhouse motif with distressed wood like cherry or eucalyptus. If you really want to go bold, try out a patterned contact paper that makes your floors look like Moroccan tiles.