Understanding your own personal style is the first step to selecting wallpaper. Photo: Farrow & Ball
Using pattern can be daunting, but even in a smaller room, bold wallpaper can be used to great effect Photo: Thibaut
Understanding the room’s purpose and visibility will help you in the design process. Photo: Blonder Home
Incorporating a Mural
Wallpaper murals can be used effectively in most rooms of the home, says Tom Williams of Carmel, Calif.’s Hale-Williams Interior Design. “In dining rooms, I have used murals mounted over chair rails to define a specific wall and, on one occasion, the whole room.” But, he adds, the scale and proportion rules still apply. Be sure to take a careful look at the whole scene to ensure a proper fit for any given space.
The A-B-Cs of Wallpaper
Learn the essentials for designing with today’s wallcoverings.
- by Nancy Christie
If it’s been awhile since you’ve considered wallpaper as a design choice, take heed: it’s not your mother’s wallpaper anymore! As a matter of fact, designers and manufacturers alike refer to this category as “wallcoverings” since the variety of materials now available go far beyond paper. From cork and bamboo to velvet flock or crystal applications and even three-dimensional selections, it’s all about texture and dimension.
“[My] clients definitely do not want what was in style while they were growing up. Everyone has a vision of that wallpaper!” says Marianne Buckman, owner and senior designer at CocoBello in Hudson, Wis. “But when I go over the variety and innovation in wall coverings today, they usually go along with it and are extremely pleased with it in the end.”
As for color trends, Laurey Banker, Marketing Director–Wallcovering for Blonder Home in Cleveland, Ohio, says, “The economic downturn—and the environment—both are influencing color palettes for the home. Neutrals always play an important part in home furnishings, now tinged with hints of blue, green or gray tones. Greens continue to gain in popularity as a function of the connection to eco-consciousness; similarly, mellow earth tones and fruit/vegetable hues are in favor. Attention-getting, rich purples are the new statement makers; while black with white, red and fuchsia gain in popularity as well.”
Selecting the right wallcovering, from what can seem an overwhelming range of colors, textures and designs, is as simple as A-B-C.
“A” is for Ambiance: Understanding your own personal style is the first step, says Buckman. “If you don’t like a lot of attention, then stay clear of the bold colors and patterns. Go for a wallcovering that has a subdued color tone, but texture. If you are an extravert and love attention and drama, go for that in a wallcovering.”
Then, consider the feeling you want to create. “If you are trying to create a fun and whimsical feeling in a space, go for bold colors and patterns,” suggests Cathleen Williams, interior designer and owner of CW Design Group in St. Louis, Mo. “On the other hand, grass cloth wallpaper is a great choice for providing subtle texture in a room. It's much more interesting than just a plain painted wall, but still subtle enough to remain sophisticated.”
For a sense of luxury and escapism, Banker suggests using lustrous metallics and spicy tones. Or to create a comfortable, soothing effect, choose soft blues infused with gray and indigo and sapphire paired with browns (from chocolate to taupe).
“B” is for Basics: The proportions of the room are also important factors in the design equation. “A good understanding of scale and proportion are important when using wallcoverings,” says Tom Williams of Carmel, Calif.’s Hale-Williams Interior Design. “Wallcoverings with a very small pattern, for instance, are not usually a good choice for larger spaces [while] the opposite applies to large patterns in most small rooms.”
But as any good designer will tell you, rules are made to be broken. “Using pattern can be daunting, but even in a smaller room, bold wallpaper can be used to great effect,” says Sarah Cole, director at Farrow & Ball of Toronto, Canada. “If you are wary of using a bold or large pattern in a main area of the bedroom, why not consider using it in a smaller space off the main area [such as] a dressing room or en-suite cloakroom. Bold papers are ideal in small spaces such as these. They can make a small dark dull space into an intimate stylish space.”
“C” is for Category: Understanding the room’s purpose and visibility will help you in the design process. While travel-weary guests might prefer a restful and serene guest room, children are more likely to want a “themed” room (such as a jungle or safari) with exciting images and bold colors.
Entertaining spaces such as dining rooms are also great choices for wallcoverings, says Stacy Senior Allan, marketing director for the Newark, N.J.-based wallpaper firm Thibaut. ‘That’s where you host guests, so you want it to be special and have more impact.”
But even utilitarian areas such as pantries, mudrooms or laundry rooms can benefit from a wallcovering design boost.
Try it On
Experts recommend ordering a wallcovering sample to see the overall impact its color, pattern and texture will have on the space. Then, go with what you love, says Cathleen Williams. “Be it a certain color, motif or texture, you want to make sure you choose a pattern and color that you can live with over time,” she says.