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Your Guide to Wallpaper: It’s Back and It’s Bold

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Wallpaper is back on the design scene in a big way. But the wallpaper of today isn’t the stuff from your grandmother’s house, with visible seams, tiny designs, coordinating borders and top-to-bottom paper in every room. Designers are using today’s pattern options to make bold statements, even in small rooms.

The Whys of Wallpaper

With all the emotions associated with wallpaper, it might take a bit of convincing to go that route again. But wallpaper offers some unique design options. While art only covers a small portion of the wall, wallpaper creates a larger focal point. Wallpaper allows you to bring pattern into a room, and to use the walls as a canvas. There’s no getting around the luxury of a good wallpaper; the walls come alive with texture and welcome you into the room.

When it comes to incorporating pattern, wallpaper is also the efficient way to go. Compared to a mural or trompe l’oeil painting, wallpaper is easier to change. Walls that are painted with stripes or designs create painting ‘seams’ that are nearly impossible to erase, whereas taking paper off leaves a blank slate.

Wallpaper options are far more enticing these days than they were even a decade ago. The current wallpaper trend involves covering only one wall as an accent in a room, or, to go to the opposite direction, fully papering one room in an oversized print.

The New Wallpaper

Metallics are big right now for wallpaper, especially on matte textured papers. Combined with large-scale floral prints, from giant peony blooms to palm leaves, the pops of shine entice the eye to move around the wallpaper instead of being overwhelmed. While floral prints carry with them a bit of the nostalgia of the wallpaper of the past, graphic prints are also popular these days. Graphics, such as stripes, Greek keys, or simple intersecting lines, are also visually interesting.

Metallic wallpaper is undeniably glamorous in this space.

Dark colors are also hot in wallpaper trends, a stark contrast to the light chintzes of the past. Black or navy backgrounds are perfect foils for the brights of tropical scenes or metallics. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a larger design and/or a darker background in a small room such as a bathroom can make the space seem visually larger. The eye expands to the scope of the pattern, so a large floral tricks your eye into thinking there is more room.

Wallpaper is also a way of instantly texturing you walls. From the expensive woven seagrass or sumptuous silk wall coverings of Philip Jeffries to the bead-board wallpaper that easily creates the look of wood, you can create just about any effect using wallpaper. Faux-snakeskin or leather are options, too. Don’t forget faux-marble, which is particularly effective in a bathroom, and much more cost-effective than the real thing.

Textured grasscloth wallpaper is a subtle way to add dimension to walls.

Even renters can take their plain walls up a design notch or two with the use of stick-on wallpaper. These are essentially giant sticker sheets that remove without damaging the paint beneath, and offer the design options of wallpaper with the convenience of easy removal. The best source for removable adhesive wallpaper is Tempaper, and you can order samples online to be sure the design works for your space. Sherwin-Williams is also a leading source for removable wallpaper.

The Investment

Cost is certainly a consideration when it comes to wallpaper. Today’s high-quality papers are luxurious –and priced to match. While it is likely more expensive to purchase wallpaper than a few gallons of paint, installation is generally on par with hiring a professional to paint a room. Of course, you can DIY hang the wallpaper, but it’s a potentially frustrating and expensive foray. A professional wallpaper installation is preferable for a seamless finish that lasts for years.

Sourcing contemporary wall coverings may be the hardest part of all, with many high-quality companies only available to the trade or overseas. Visiting a local interior designer’s showroom will give you ideas and sources. If that isn’t possible, there are online options. Shop at Decorator’s Best for a wide selection, or find your favorite designers, such as Jonathan Adler. Try searching online for the designer’s name and the term “wallpaper” — you may discover they have designed a collection for a manufacturer.

Graham & Brown has a gorgeous selection for US buyers. If you’re looking for monochromatic dreamy scenes or bold black-and-white stripes, check I80West, Anthropologie has many beautiful types of wallpaper, including Scandinavian-inspired prints and a pineapple print that blends a retro feel with modern metallic touches.

This birch print from Anthropologie, is an example of the modern prints that are available today.

When it comes to making a statement, wallpaper is the way to do it. The landscape of the new wallpaper means designers are using the old-fashioned wall covering in fresh ways that excite designers and the spaces they design alike. Wallpaper is back, and it’s bold.

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