Maybe your negative opinion of wallpaper is based on the fuzzy, maroon-coloured fleurs-de-lis you remember from your grandma’s parlour. Or, worse, maybe you had a bad experience removing acres of it. You’re forgiven if these experiences drove you to live with off-white latex paint for a few years. But now that the bad feelings have receded, it’s time to look at your walls with fresh eyes.
“Wallpaper has been making a comeback for a number of years,” says Brenda Brix, owner and principal at AMR Design. An interior designer with several years of experience, Brix set up her own shop a year ago. Over the years she has also bought, renovated and flipped many houses, chiselling back more than her fair share of seriously stuck-on wallpaper, sometimes excavating several layers. It would be enough to put most of us off ever buying a roll of the stuff again. “But it has come a long way,” she says in defence of today’s wallpaper. “It’s really easy to use.”
New wallpapers are easier to apply and, when put on a properly prepped surface, they are easier to peel off than their predecessors. It adds up to an upsurge not just in the use of the stuff, but in the variety of designs. Knowing that they are not committed to a certain look for years makes many of Brix’s clients more amenable to using wallpaper in the first place.
In small spaces, “go big,” Brix advises. “Or, select a feature wall in a larger space and go for it.” Your grandmother may have been more inclined to paper all four walls but, increasingly, people want to use dynamic patterns on just one wall of their homes.
That was Lori Anaka’s approach in her Hazeldean-area home. She and her husband wanted to make the dining room stand out, so she chose to paper one of the walls. (“Actually, my mom did it,” she says. “She’s had lots of experience.”) She wallpapered a wide wall with an orange and gold weave. “It adds a lot of texture to the room,” she says. “We wanted to do something different. It’s very vibrant.”
“I’m seeing a lot of weaves,” Brix says. “Grass cloth, for example, really adds warmth and depth.” Also popular are geometric shapes with tone-on-tone colour. “It’s not a huge contrast and gives a softer look.”
“But really, you can do anything,” Brix says. “Wallpaper can make or break a space.”
Gone are the days that you’d see the same design of paper in house after house. Brix guides clients in creating custom-made paper. And there’s even a new take on the floor-to-ceiling mountain scene that adorned 1970s rec rooms. “We are seeing city skylines now,” Brix says. “People can even have their own photographs blown up and made into wallpaper.”
Even easier to apply and remove than wallpaper is the wall decal. Usually made of adhesive-backed vinyl, decals can add interest to a room with little commitment. They can be custom-made, repositioned and, while there is a big price range, a decal can punch up a wall at a fraction of the price of art.
If you do have some stunning signature pieces of art, you might think you should avoid wallpaper. Not so, says Brix. She advises art lovers to use matting between a painting and its frame, to provide relief between the wallpaper and painting. “The more you layer,” she says, “the more personality you bring into a room. Wallpaper adds a depth that you just can’t achieve with paint alone.”