Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wallpaper, continued

I’m currently working on a top floor room that has very large exposed beams in the ceiling and on the walls. Unfortunately this beam is off center on the bed wall. We want a headboard but this 8 inch wide vertical beam throws everything off center and out of balance. Back to design principals: If you have an architectural element you don’t like you can ignore it, accent it or camouflage it. We can’t ignore or accent this beam so I’m opting to camouflage it by either painting it out or wallpapering the entire wall. Voila, off-center beam gone. I’d like to use a good textured paper and put a fantastic upholstered headboard against it.

Wallpaper has many uses. It can help conceal troubled walls, it can make a small room appear larger or a huge space appear more intimate. It can draw attention to the focal point, or it can be the focal point. It can establish a theme.

In a small bedroom consider wallpapering the bed wall only. In a really tiny bedroom ( or powder room), consider wallpapering the entire room and ceiling too. Remember the contrast guideline? Contrast is what makes rooms appear cluttered and small. The consistency of walls of all the same paper will increase the perceived size of the room, not decrease it.

If you like to change your decor a bit by the seasons, put wallpaper inserts in a headboard, or use it as a large piece of wall art. Totally removable papers make this easy. Wallpaper just the insides of the china cabinet or closet. I’ve seen wallpaper used on the risers only of stairs but I’m not sure about this one. The contrast rule comes into play here too and when I looked at the stairs all I could see were the risers. Not sure this is what was intended.

Remember tin ceilings? Anaglypta and Lincrusta were the original vinyls that replicated these ceilings and are still available but much less expensive paintable papers are readily available to fit every decor style. A leather wall? Why not. These paintable papers are so effective if done properly it’s difficult to tell them from the real thing. They also make wonderful dados.

As with so much in fashion and home decor, styles evolve and come back over and over again. Welcome back, wallpaper.

What's new in Wallpaper

When I worked at Chintz and Company in Calgary, the Crown Wallpaper showroom was just down the street. I used to love going in there, just to spend a few hours looking through the books, putting fabrics and papers together, designing imaginary rooms. Like a new coat of paint, wallpaper can dramatically change a room and unlike buying a purple leather sofa it can be changed when we change our minds. Wallpaper is making a huge comeback in the interior decorating world. I was a bit trepidacious about this trend at first ( remember the borders that were everywhere??) but after looking at the new papers and how they can be used, I think I might have changed my mind.

As with so much else, new technologies have made new wallpapers. Gone are the paste brushes and non-stick ‘prepasted’ papers. I like the fact that there is a truly removable paper now, it comes off easily and does not damage the surface underneath. No steaming or scoring required. York has SureStrip and Easy2; Sherwin Williams has the EasyChange paper. Renters, are you paying attention? The Wallpaper Company has produced wallpaper ‘tiles’ in 24 colors, again totally removable; available in some Home Depots. is the place to look at 2 dimensional wallpaper tiles that are constructed from bamboo pulp.

I also like the fact that the the layer of the covering that lies against the wall in many papers now is breathable, so no more moisture or mildew problems. Many of the papers are also made with Eco friendly products and some of the new adhesives do not off gas. And wait till you see the patterns and textures. Everything from soft, hardly noticeable classics to vibrant, huge prints in every color and decor style imaginable. Just for the fun of it, check the Crown Wallpaper site ( Farrow and Ball shows paper designs in black and white, you click for the colors you want to see. will custom make your wallpaper. Flavor-Paper does hand silk-screened papers, custom designed too, that are like no other papers I’ve ever seen. ( scratch and sniff... no kidding).

Along with all these new papers and tiles come what we used to call decals and are now called wall art. Even tromp l’oeil murals. So, new products, new styles and new ideas. Next column will be a bit more about the use of wallpaper in the home.