How To Make Intensely Patterned Wallpaper Work In Your Space

bedroom with floral wallpaper and pink bedding

Design by Emily Henderson Design; Photo by Sara Tramp

Scrolling through Instagram, it's impossible not to notice the abundance of seriously intense wallpaper patterns filling up the homes of all our favorite interior designers and influencers. From floral and fauna to abstract designs, and even animals, bold, vibrant, and attention grabbing wallpaper can transform a space from drab to fab in an instant—just like a great patterned piece can do for any ensemble.

I think one big mistake people make is in the choice of the wallpaper design itself

However, in the same way, there are so many things that can go awry when you introduce lots of colors, shapes, and designs into the mix, according to Los Angeles-based interior designer Mark Cutler.

“A lively patterned tie can really take a guy’s outfit to a new level but a suit of the same material would make him look like a clown,” he points out. “So approach intensely patterned wallpaper with the same mindset” 

Here are a few tips on how to make intensely patterned wallpaper work. 

Start With Your Wallpaper and Design Your Room Around it

floral wallpaper with a pink chair

Design by Emily Henderson Design; Photo by Sara Tramp

“I would start with the wallpaper and design around it especially if it is very bold,” advises Joyce Downing Pickens of JDP Interiors.

Make Sure Your Paper Ties Into Your Design Scheme

living room with red patterned wallpaper, a red sofa, and a colorful gallery wall of portraits

@dazeyden and dazeyden.com

“Try and pull elements out of the wallpaper and tie them into your design to balance it,” says Pickens. For example, if used in a living room, upholster your sofa in a fabric that ties in one of the colors in your wallpaper.

Lean Toward Prints That Look Hand Painted

bedroom with wallpaper behind the bed

Reena Sotropa

Shy away from generic wallpaper prints, Pickens encourages. “I think one big mistake people make is in the choice of the wallpaper design itself,” she says. “Personally I lean towards paper that looks hand printed or painted versus computer-generated. I feel it brings in a sophistication that's lacking these days.”

Try it in a Powder Room

powder room with wallpaper featuring line drawn faces

Anne Sage

Don’t be afraid of using wallpaper in a super small space, as it can make a huge design impact. “I love using an intense pattern in a powder room as a little surprise for your guests!” says Pickens. 

Use it as an Accent Wall

bedroom with a wallpapered accent wall

Erin Williamson

Instead of filling an entire room with an intense print, Cutler suggests using it as a feature wall. “As a rule of thumb I like to use it on walls at the back of the space so it really draws you into a room,” he says.

Avoid Shock Value Designs 

wallpaper above a chair rail

Interior Design: Bespoke Only; Photography: Ty Cole

There are lots of completely out-there prints available, ranging from bugs to blood splatter. However, Cutler warns against selecting a wallpaper for its shock value. “A shock only lasts so long and then it just looks trite,” he points out. “That's why I think using this kind of design sparingly and with restraint makes the most of a very powerful weapon.”

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