Dont Fear the Wallpaper

Wallpaper in dining room
Photograph provided by Fontaine Home

Wallcoverings have come a long way since the traditional repeating patterns and cutesy borders of the '70s and '80s wallpaper designs. The term wallcovering encompasses the wide variety of products and textures available to the homeowner today. Products are more sophisticated than the old paper products, which were difficult to install and often became quickly démodé.

The Laura Ashley look is no longer. Ten to twelve years ago, everything had to be neutral in terms of color scheme because the general public wasn’t educated about how to use color. Television home and garden shows have changed this by informing people about the great colors and products available. But be careful. These shows are meant to appeal to the masses and may not have the best advice for your particular home. Achieving visual harmony requires careful thought and an eye for color and pattern balance, which doesn’t come naturally to everyone. It’s best to consult a design professional when incorporating the bolder, more modern products.

There are a couple of common misconceptions about wallcoverings based on people’s experiences with the old products.

  1. Many think wallcoverings are limiting, and that they make hanging artwork and working with patterned furniture and accessories difficult (they’re afraid to put pattern on pattern). But it’s simply a process of rethinking what’s near or combined with the wallcovering, and there are a few basics to help when mixing patterns.

• The overall color scheme of the room and the balance of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors within it.
• The scale of the patterns you’re using and the balance of small, medium, and large motifs. A mix of scales works best.
• The layering of patterns and how the eye is naturally drawn from element to element within the room (i.e. visual progression from a sofa with accent pillows to the console table behind the sofa with lamps to the wall behind it with framed artwork).

  1. Another misconception: installing wallpaper is a lot of messy work. Then when I want a change, it’s an even bigger job to remove it, and I could damage the walls. There have been many technical improvements in products that make installation and removal less daunting. Today’s product range includes strippable wallpapers, which are designed with easy removal in mind. This product innovation does not compromise durability even though one might think it would naturally be more prone to peeling. It is, however, still recommended that you hire a professional to remove the paper.

One of the newest products is Tempaper®. It’s literally temporary wallpaper. Installation can be described as peel and stick, and you can save and reinstall the wallpaper elsewhere at a later date.

Fabric can be converted into wallcovering too. Rolls or bolts of fabric can be sent to a company that will apply a special backing that allows the fabric to be used as a wallcovering. Fabric-covered walls can add a touch of elegance, richness, or warmth to a room.

Current wallcovering trends reflect their usage in place of a painted accent wall. Modern motifs that are popular now include:

• Darker, bolder colors
• Strong patterns and geometrics
• Larger scale floral and organic patterns
• Ethnic art patterns
• Textures, such as grasscloth and brick
• Wallpaper murals of complete scenes or landscapes on an accent wall
• Residential interiors incorporating more commercial looks and products, such as 3-D wall panels

With all the options available to the consumer, how do you determine what’s best for your home? Start by knowing what you don’t like. Study home magazines and make lists of what appeals and does not appeal to you. And keep in mind, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. It's not just about what's right for your home, it's about what's right for you.

Barry Avery is owner and curator at Fontaine Home.

Photographs provided by Fontaine Home.

Fontaine Home
7535 Hubbard Avenue
Middleton, WI 53562