Nautical Restaurant: Fabric Wall Re-Do

As a follow up to the Nautical Restaurant post I did a few weeks ago, we finally figured out how to re-do the fabric walls. Almost every wall in this place was foam board, wrapped in fabric, and trimmed out (basically built into the walls) so it was going to be almost impossible to re-do them completely without ripping them out.

Fabric Wall Before

Before: Blue, stained and 15 years old.

Brainstorm. Option 1: Paint the walls. I read countless articles on painting fabric, and all you need is acrylic paint, fabric medium like this one, and water. Seemed easy enough! Problem: fabric medium comes in a 6 oz bottle and we needed to cover over 300 square feet of wall space. The cost wasn’t feasible. I also read countless articles on the difference between Floetrol, a paint conditioner for helping paint go on easier and lengthen dry time, and the paint medium. Didn’t seem like too much of a difference other than a few ingredients, so we tried to paint part of the fabric wall using a mix of Floetrol, water, and paint. Result? It took too long, (the square below took an hour) the paint soaked into the wall like a sponge, and it looked kind of choppy. It needed 2 coats. We also thought that if we did 2 coats, it would lessen the ability to absorb the sound, and with live music playing there, they needed to absorb sound.

Seas paiting walls

Matt painting the fabric walls. The taping alone for the whole restaurant would have cost an arm and a leg, and taken all day.

Seas fabric painting

It’s not a BAD option. But we can do better.

Option 2: Cover the fabric walls in fabric, without taking the old fabric down. We went shopping for the fabric all over town. We LOVED the look of linen, but it’s a natural fiber and would absorb stains too easily and the wrinkles would be hard to get out. It was also $11 a yard, and at 35 yards, it would add up quick.

Linen for Wall

The lovely linen. (above, from Hancock Fabrics)

We then decided to do a test strip. (below)

Seas fabric testing

We tested a part of the wall with some tan broadcloth, at only $5 a yard. The color variation wasn’t quite there, we hoped for something that would hide spots, and this was too one toned for our liking. But it went up easy with just some fabric adhesive spray, and we used plastic putty knives to tuck the fabric behind the molding. This was the winning option!

The Plan: Scour the internet for a good deal on fabric.

Linen we got for walls.


We shopped online and found an awesome faux linen (100% polyester) for just $7 a yard! It was durable, textured, and looked awesome. Plus, for just $10 extra in shipping we got it in 2 days. I seriously recommend this website for inexpensive fabrics. Honestly. I’m going to use them to re-do my tables for the craft fair.

Seas new walls 3

It only took 14 hours for 3 people to do ALL of the walls, but they look amazing!

The Process: we had one person measuring and cutting the pieces, and Matt and I did the attaching. We sprayed the walls one section at a time with spray adhesive (made for fabric, from Hancock fabrics) and then lightly stuck the fabric at the top, and smoothed it all the way down with our hands or an extra wide putty knife, then worked the fabric into the cracks and under the trim. We had a few wrinkles to get out, which we used a heat gun to do so. Be careful with those things! The fabric is polyester after all, a kind of plastic, and guess what melts under too much heat? Plastic. You guessed it!

Seas new walls 4

A vast improvement for sure! The walls still absorb sound, and are soft to the touch. And at only $7 a yard for the fabric, and the fabric spray was about $14 a can (we used 3 cans) it was a financially successful investment for the restaurant.

Seas new walls 1

A big improvement over the dated blue-gray walls! Next: new bar stools, booths, and lights above the bar. Stay tuned!


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