The right pattern and scale can create a much-needed focal point
Wallpaper used to be an indicator of wealth – the more you had, and the larger the pattern, the better off you were.
No wonder it fell out of favour when the modern design esthetic became popular in the last few decades. Partly homeowners were thinking resale, so they’d decorate for the widest variety of tastes. And partly it was a reaction to the cabbage roses of days gone by.
It is a good thing, then, that wallpaper designers and manufacturers sat up and took note because they’ve come out with some beautiful new papers that enhance today’s home decor. Think luscious charcoal grey geometrics, whisper-pale silk-screened Chinese artwork, subdued toile, touch-me grasscloth and faux Victorian tin or bead board looks.
Personally, I’m glad of the change. It’s fresh, workable, and used sparingly — on an accent wall, alcove or inside bookshelves — wallpaper can provide a much-needed focal point especially in a small space like a condo. If your home is older, it can also disguise a multitude of sins, including badly proportioned rooms, a low ceiling or uneven plaster.
Now that we’re not moving as much as we used to, and we’re decorating to stay, wallpaper is gaining in popularity as a great way to express individuality and personality. It’s much more dramatic than paint, and really transforms a space.
However, it is possible to overdo. So learn a few tips on how to use pattern properly and you’ll be successful.
First, the scale and balance of a wallpaper pattern must be right for the room. A basic rule of thumb is small prints and light colours work well in a small room, while bolder patterns and darker shades work better in a large room. That said, if you want drama hang a bold dark paper in a small area like a powder room or entry hall.
Generally, in a smaller room, even if it’s just on one feature wall, choose a loose, open naturalistic pattern, for example a William Morris Arts & Crafts pattern. The motif isn’t set in regimented lines, so the wall doesn’t get chopped up. A small subtle damask pattern, or a small paisley motif, or a tight geometric grid pattern in lines, though, works because it doesn’t create big blocks on a small wall. Busier smaller patterns work on a wall that is broken up with windows or doors.
Stripes need to be handled with care. The way our eyes work, vertical lines make a space feel higher and horizontal lines will make the space feel wider. So decide what the aim is and then work towards that.
Wallpaper must complement your home’s style. If you have a country cottage theme going — white slipcovers, pine harvest table, kilim rugs — an elegant paisley pattern with sheen probably isn’t going to work. But a contemporary home will look great with some high gloss geometric hits. A romantic home works with muted damasks and florals, a country home looks great with pale grey or blue toile, and a traditional home can take stripes and damasks, but check out the updated versions. Generally speaking, stick with quieter patterns in bedrooms and more energetic ones in the principal areas.
If you already have some pattern in the room – pillows and rugs and such – and you’re not sure what will work, create a swatch storyboard to make sure the end result is harmonious.
- Flocked paper has a soft finish, comes in modern designs and is textured for touch.
- Metallic papers will reflect light around the room but these papers show every flaw in the walls.
- Vinyl is thicker, more durable than other papers, and easier to hang.
- The new removable papers can be hung then easily peeled off, like stickers.
- In a child’s room, consider painting the walls and applying decals for interest. They peel off easily without damaging the walls.
- Wallpaper isn’t impossible for a DIYer with a steady hand or if you’re using the peel and stick types. But for more traditional wallpapers, especially ones that need to be glued, might better be applied by a professional.
- Decide where it will go. A simple fresh paper won’t overwhelm a room when hung on all four walls. A bolder paper can stand on its own as a feature wall – behind a headboard, or a bathtub, or instead of a backsplash in kitchen or bath. And for the ceiling there are a variety of faux tin papers that can also be painted and cost nowhere near the real thing.
Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com). Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel. Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.