Wallpaper – Is It "In" or "Out?"

Several times in the past few weeks, I have been informed by clients that wallpaper is “out.” I would hate to see this source of exciting decorating ideas abandoned and suspect that the “out” response is more from fear of the unknown than any kind of practical decorating sense. Of course, decorating is just like fashion, there is a need to have trendy styles that come and go. However, wallpaper has been around since 200 BC so the Chinese must have been on to something with this “trend.”

There will always be a demand for wallpaper for those who are decorating historic homes or wish for a period look to a room. The Victorians truly loved wallpaper; and lots of it. There are Art Nouveau and Mission style borders, reproductions of wallpaper from famous historic homes and from antique wallpaper design books. For the rest of us, wallpaper is extremely helpful in creating a unique room.

Faux paint finishes are very ‘in’ but they require a skilled or deft hand in application to avoid an amateurish look. The same textured effect can be achieved by using wallpapers. Some papers are actually textured. There are grass cloth, cork, and split bamboo papers, as well as 3D paintable papers and borders. One of my favorite rooms has a 36″ high paintable border which looks like antique tooled leather wainscoting. It is elegant, unusual and was extremely easy to apply.

On the practical side, paper can be used to disguise a less than perfect wall surface, to cover patched cracks, and even old style paneling. Clever use of faux architectural borders can add height or interest to a room and give a charming trompe l’oeil effect.

You can mix paper and painted surfaces. I’ve seen a very clever wall done with a wallpaper frieze and columns framing a painted mural of the Greek countryside. Individually cut and pasted grapes climb the columns and a couple of pottery wine jars set in front complete the picture.

You can purchase faux columns, tiles, carvings, windows, and doors. These are not meant to look genuine, but to create a feeling of whimsy and surprise in an ordinary room. They are excellent to add interest to a dull apartment. Make sure they are strippable. When you leave take them down, wipe the wall and you are ready to go.

Covering a wall is not the only use for wallpaper. You can apply cut pieces to lampshades, screens and boxes. The special effects are limited only by your imagination and your budget.

You don’t need to be an expert to hang paper. Patience, some basic and inexpensive tools and boundless imagination are the only things needed to create a wonderful effect. If you are nervous start small with a border or wallpaper cutouts. Once you get a feel for the technique you can branch out. Textured papers requiring little or no matching are easiest for an amateur to apply. Papers requiring a match are easier if the match is a small one; 3″ to 7″. However, beware of vertical stripes if your walls aren’t perfect. Striped paper and the walls of an old home are a short trip to insanity and broken relationships.

If you find a paper that you love and are nervous about the size of the job, call in an expert to hang the paper. If nothing else, watching wallpaper being hung is fascinating and you will learn some techniques for your next DIY project. Theses cautions aside, have fun. The nice thing about patterned papers is mistakes are easily hidden. Before you do your next room, take a trip to your nearest store that sells paint and paper, or get a book from the library on uses for wallpaper. Once you’ve worked with this fascinating decorating source you’ll be hooked.

Contributions for this article provided by ON THE GO 4 U design consultant, Suzanne Copenhaver who has had years of experience decorating the less than perfect space.