Wallpaper 101: Your Ultimate Guide to Statement Walls
When faced with the task of redecorating a room, nothing packs quite as much punch as wallpaper. Right there next to paint, it’s the quickest, most transformative way to initiate a major change. But unless you’re an interior design professional or utterly fearless (we envy you!), taking the plunge into statement walls can be nerve-wracking. To make sense of the design do’s and don’ts and inspire confidence, we enlisted the help of two experts: Norinne DeGal, owner of Los Angeles-based wallpaper retailer Walnut Wallpaper, and Estee Stanley, interior designer and Domaine editor-at-large. Their advice just may make a believer (and achiever) out of you… Read on!
If you’re a wallpaper novice, do you homework before you get knee-deep in the options. DeGal recommends digging into Pinterest to find great install pictures and hone in on your aesthetic. A wallpapered interior is new territory, so knowing whether you like big, bold patterns or smaller, more delicate ones is something you’ll have to figure out. DeGal also suggests bringing your favorite images into your local showroom to share with the salespeople—as she says, “Clients can never be too specific.”
“It’s important to make the room about the paper, either for pattern or for texture,” says Stanley. This will ensure that a room’s design is cohesive and complementary, rather than cluttered and competitive. To achieve this, Stanley recommends designing according to the paper: “If your paper is all about bold print, try and keep everything else in the same color palette and on the simpler side. If it’s a textured paper, feel free to go nuts on the design of the room.”
“There is so much expertise that goes into hanging paper,” says DeGal. Which is why she strongly recommends hiring an experienced hanger who specializes in wallpaper, instead of going the DIY route. This will ensure that the paper is seamless. If you absolutely must hang the paper yourself, be sure to purchase a paper that is pre-trimmed, meaning that the selvedge edge is already cut, so you only have to trim the top and bottom pieces of the panel.
Different rooms, depending on their size and function, demand different considerations. For example, if you’re going to use wallpaper in a bedroom, Stanley reminds us that this is where we sleep, so you want to have some tranquility.
And while you might think small spaces are dangerous territory for wallpaper, they’re actually a great opportunity to experiment. Stanley particularly likes the impact in a small space, noting that it makes the “room feel special and like a treasure box.”
Wallpaper in a bathroom is another recurring subject for both Stanley and DeGal. DeGal says that if it’s a powder room—or even a guest bath with only occasional showering—then you can use almost anything. However, it’s best to avoid wallpaper in a bathroom where there will be regular showering, as steam will cause it to peel. In particular, DeGal says to “stay away from any natural fibers like grass cloths or linens,” which are absorbent and cannot be cleaned. Instead, DeGal suggests seeking out brands like Cole & Son, and Osborne & Little—they offer wipeable papers that should hold up in bathrooms without any problem.
Wallpaper isn’t just for extremely feminine or maximalist spaces. If you’re of the less-is-more mindset, Stanley recommends exploring wallpaper options made from “fabrics, silks, and textures that are still incredible in transforming a room without loud prints.” You can also experiment with a chair rail or a border high or low on a wall.
An accent wall, according to DeGal, is another fun way to dip your toe in the wallpaper look, without making a full commitment. Behind beds, bookshelves, built-ins, and ceilings are all great places to create a focal point.
For a more masculine vibe, consider subtle or tonal papers that have either a natural and rustic texture or a simple, geometric motif. DeGal likes “Aquatic" by Geoff Mcfetridge, and “Sophia” from Madison and Grow. If you’re a guy considering wallpaper, follow Stanley’s rule of thumb: “The subtler, the better.”
“As with the fashion industry, the rulebook has been thrown out the window,” notes DeGal. This means basically anything is fair game. So long as you keep in mind your color palette and patterns, you can experiment wildly. What about having a direct relationship of scale (as in, big prints for big rooms; small ones for small rooms)? DeGal notes that while it’s often regarded as a tenet to uphold, bold, oversized patterns can work wonderfully in small rooms, and conversely, small patterns can feel quite magical in large rooms. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to play with scale and room size, and be confident.
According to DeGal, we’re about to be seeing a lot more artist-driven papers that have the impact of an entire wall’s worth of art. Three notables who are capturing her attention are abstract painter Jessica Zoob, wallpaper brand Timorous Beasties, and muralist Susan Harter, whose stunning designs could pass for custom art installations.