One of the fastest, most dramatic ways to update your decor is to try out a new paint color! Dabbling with paint pallettes is a fun way for homeowners to try a fresh look.
But did you know that other forms of wall coverings are making a comeback in a big way? Wallpaper isn’t a dated, dirty word any more. In fact, with all the new fresh options available, some designers are beginning to really champion it!
“You just don’t get the same feeling with paint as you do with wallpaper,” says Gina Shaw of York Wallcoverings, available at more than 50 Atlanta-area retailers, including Wallpaper Plus and Wallpaper & Stuff. “Wallpaper patterns—whether bold or subtle—can make a room warmer, more inviting, and more visually interesting than any paint.”
Linda Castle, owner of Decorated Designs, recognizes that, for a while, the popularity of wallpaper significantly declined. But, “as with most things in life, what is old is new again,” she says. “Wallcoverings are becoming very exciting and varied as the trends in decorating evolve. Wallpaper has now returned in popularity with many more options available to suit everyone’s lifestyle and taste.”
Half Bath, Full “Wow” Factor
Every expert that we spoke to about wallcoverings all pointed to one room as THE place to design to the nines. The dining room, you ask? Perhaps the bedroom or foyer? No, they directed our attention to a small but mighty candidate: the powder room.
“Powder rooms are like the jewel box of a home,” says Kass Wilson, creative director and decorative artist for WallsTreat Studio. “It’s a place people see both at a distance and very close up as well. When guests go into a powder room, you have them as a captive audience. While they’re in there, they’re looking around, and what do they see? The walls. It’s such a small room.”
Castle agrees, noting that the powder room is “an easy area to get a bit ‘out of the box.’” Because it is a smaller space, she recommends selecting a dramatic pattern or intense color “to make a real statement.”
“An oversized pattern in a small space makes a big impact,” Shaw adds.
Master the Moisture
In the second-smallest room in the home, wallcoverings and treatments are also popular in full bathrooms, such as the master bath. However, Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole, owners of Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs Inc., warn of the moisture issues that are common in bathroom wallcoverings. “We’d like to believe that bathrooms are well vented, but in the event that they aren’t, vinyl is a good option for durability,” they say. “There are some fabulous patterns—vinyl doesn’t mean ‘dated.’”
Another option is to hire an artist to create a faux finish rather than hang wallpaper that can become damaged by the room’s moisture. “Humidity can create a problem for even the best wallpaper,” Wilson explains. “Bathrooms, being smaller rooms with many angles, are best served with a hand-applied finish. With new products that are available, a good artist can duplicate any of the wallpapers that are available. This even includes some of the exotic textures, metallics, glass beads, crystals, raised patterns, grasscloth and more.”
Answering the “What” and “Where”
“I rarely have a request for any kind of wall treatment in a living room,” Wilson says. She explains that due to the trend of open floor plans, the size of the wall surfaces alone can make installing wall treatments cost prohibitive. As a result, most designers turn their attention to spaces that are adjacent to the living room, such as a study, dining room or keeping room— “where a wall treatment can be more about quality rather than quantity,” she says.
Kandrac and Kole recommend solid grasscloth wallpaper for bedroom, dining and keeping rooms. “This is something you will not tire of,” they say. “It gives the right amount of texture, especially in a monochromatic room.” Castle agrees, explaining that grasscloth is usually handcrafted and made of jute, linen, sisal or other natural fibers. “This product suits most styles and can look very dressy or casual, depending on the selections,” she says. Kandrac and Kole also note that geometric patterns are being incorporated into grasscloth as an updated look.
Another natural option is cork, which creates a comfortable environment. “Cork is a wonderful natural covering,” Castle says. “It adds a warmth with texture that is not competitive with most fabrics or furnishings, and can be used on an accent wall only, such as a fireplace wall.” She also points to wood, whether planks or paneling, done in a staggered format or mixed with brick, stone, or tile—in any format, this makes for a strong accent wall. “The wood could be finished with a rich stain for a dressy look, or done with a casual technique.”
Cheryl Draa of Cheryl Draa Interior Designs, likes to make fabrics into a drapery that covers the wall behind a bed. “Fabric walls are always the best insulation of noise, allowing for a quieter experience in the bedroom,” she says. She also notes that this solution works well when a bed is placed in front of a window, for lack of a better location in the room. This way, the fabric covers the window and the entire wall.
“Florals are still used in the wallpapers that are current today,” Castle notes, “but they are more fresh, bold, abstract and colorful—not your mother’s florals!” She also points to faux leather and suede wallcoverings. “These are so beautiful for offices and recreation areas,” she says.
“I’m excited about the usage of other materials, such as wood, stone, or scraps of wood that are put together in a jumble of mazes,” Draa says, noting that the new Bjork Studios location in Atlanta is an amazing showcase of this trend.
And you shouldn’t limit your design ideas to the vertical walls only. “All too often, we forget about the fifth wall—the ceiling!” Shaw says. “Wallpapering the ceiling is a great way to add depth, drama and visual interest to a master bedroom.”
Draa agrees, noting specifically that Anaglypta, a paintable textured wallpaper, may be out of style for walls, but “put it on the ceiling and WOW!”
Focus on the Focal Point
“Accent walls are an idea from the ’70s that have come back,” says Chris Murphy, president of Paperhanger Ltd. “A bold print, wacky motif or even a digital print can add a lot of interest, drama or become a room’s backdrop to great effect.”
Afraid that you’ll grow tired of your “wacky motif” accent wall? Shaw explains that, for the first time ever, you can actually experiment with wallpaper. You’re probably thinking: Experimenting with wallpaper? And with good reason—wallpaper is seen as a semi-permanent decor option, as it is not easy to remove and replace. Fortunately, York Wallcoverings is changing that with its SureStrip technology. “These are easily installed with York’s new sprayer method and enhanced adhesive technology,” Shaw explains, adding that clean removal is 100 percent guaranteed. Now you can incorporate trendy designs that are easily installed and removed at focal points in the room to add pop and personality.
The Latest and Greatest
“Digitally produced wallcoverings are becoming more and more popular,” Shaw notes. “They are seen more as ‘art for your walls,’ and the future of digital design holds immense potential for customization and personalization.” Murphy agrees, adding that he has completed projects where artists’ drawings and prints or customer photos have been turned into wallpaper. “Basically anything that can be turned into a .pdf or .jpeg file can become a wallcovering, on many different substrates,” he says.
Draa uses this practice for her customers as well. “A photorealistic background can transport you into ‘another world,’” she says, noting that online photo libraries, such as Getty Images, require a small fee but offer thousands of scenic landscape images that you can download and blow up to make a stunning background. “The world has gone digital. The Internet and all its resources make having something original in your home an easy possibility,” she notes, adding that you can also zoom in on art or turn your favorite picture into a graphic design to personalize before turning it into fabric or wallpaper.
A Beautiful Coat: Which Paint Works Where?
Maybe you need a bright accent wall to complement your new wallpaper. Maybe you just prefer paint! Either way, before you head to the paint store and sift through swatches, you need to understand what finishes work best in different areas of your home.
FLAT: Great for concealing flaws, not so great for frequent cleaning. Use this finish on ceilings, closets, formal spaces like living rooms or dining rooms.
SATIN & EGGSHELL: This is the most popular finish choice, due to its durability and subtlety. Perfect for highly trafficked areas like hallways, kids rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.
SEMI-GLOSS: Still easy to maintain and wipe clean, this finish provides a bit more shine. Suitable for trim, cabinetry and other woodwork. (Note: This sheen is particularly great for bathrooms and kitchen, where moisture is an issue.)
GLOSS: Think of this as the “spotlight” of all the sheens. Because of its ultra-shiny finish, anything you apply this finish to should be pristine, scratch- and flaw-free. The good news it’s also the easiest to wipe clean. Ideal for trim, molding, doors and any architectural detail.
BUDGET: Did you know that the glossier…the costlier? Every “step up” in sheen gloss could cost you an extra dollar or two per gallon. So make sure to factor that into your paint budget!