There’s an old phrase for when you want to hide poor workmanship: “We’ll just paper over that.” And really, for a very long time wallpaper was how you finished every room, since it could hide things that paint couldn’t. Folks didn’t even need fancy paper; they would paste up newspapers rather than leave a wall bare.
Construction is a lot better now, of course, and architects and builders love to show off their designs by painting everything a stark white, and putting minimalist furniture around.
But I want to tell you that wallpaper is anything but old-fashioned. There are hundreds and hundreds of great paper designs out there, from the subtle to the outlandish, and from muted to colorful. Done the right away, wallpaper can be a timeless choice (which is good, considering how hard it can be to strip wallpaper).
Here are a few guidelines for finding the perfect wallpaper.
- Make a statement, but not too much of one.
Don’t be afraid of a bold or colorful pattern, but consider that having it on every wall might be a bit much. If you’re in love with a risky pattern, put it up on one wall — and don’t be afraid to break it up with mirrors or artwork.
- Check for clashes.
Since wallpaper covers an entire surface, it’s often going to be visible from other areas of the house, particularly in hallways. What may be a perfect match in one room might clash horribly with the room next door — especially if it’s papered as well.
- Mix your patterns
If you choose a perfectly respectable pattern — something small and muted — don’t applaud yourself for making a safe choice. Instead, take that as license to pick something bolder for another room. In many homes, the furniture and décor are all of a similar style, but you can really make rooms distinct from each other by changing the mood of the wallpaper.
- Remember texture.
With paint, you just have to worry about satin and gloss. With wallpaper, you have possibilities from glossy to embossy, textured papers like linen and grasscloth, and even flocking. That’s great for visual interest, but be sure to look at your paper in a variety of lighting situations. You may find that the feel — and even the pattern and color — seems to change radically as lights go on and off.
- Don't rush into it.
You can put paper over paint, but you can’t put paint over paper. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t be bold in your choices (in fact, I say the opposite of that!), but don’t just take home a couple of sample books and pick your favorite. Each season brings wonderful new designs from amazing artists. You just need to be patient and keep searching until you find your perfect look. Or, of course, you could hire a designer.
As a designer, it’s my job to be delighted and to share that delight. My latest great wallpaper moment was in the hallway of a really good friend’s home. I’d gone there to look at her collections (more on that later), and one of the most special items to me was stuck right on the wall!
How do you feel about wallpaper? We’ll be hanging in the comments!
Mary Spalding is a Nashville based interior designer with over 30 years of experience. She has overseen countless home revitalizations, renovations, and restorations. She can be reached with your projects and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.