Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).
Wallpaper: Back in the Game
It’s not your grandmother’s look any more. Find out why wallpaper has a growing appeal among trendsetters and younger buyers.
October 21, 2014
In recent years, wallpaper played a minor role in home décor, relegated mostly to powder rooms and otherwise pushed aside by paint, which has been considered the cheaper, faster way to freshen a room.
Wallpaper also didn’t fit the more modern aesthetic that gained hold in the last dozen years or so, says Paula Berberian, creative
But tastes change. Many younger buyers don’t remember their parents’ and grandparents’ homes covered in floral, striped, and velvet papers and are now gravitating to wallpaper as a chic update choice. “They consider it quite cool, along the lines of Mid-Century modern,” says Berberian.
It’s even catching on in parts of the country far from the trendsetting coasts.
There are other reasons for wallpaper’s growing appeal:
Easier to hang and remove: Papers have been vastly improved, and are easier to hang and remove without damaging walls. Some are fabricated on a nonwoven substrate, so they make it easier to hide surface imperfections, too, says Berberian. Jackie Just’s Murals Your Way, based in Minneapolis, are made to peel and stick, making them easier to apply, remove, and reuse elsewhere.
Patterns are hipper and fresher-looking: Buyers should focus on overscaled geometrics including kaleidoscopes, Asian-inspired themes, trompe l’oeil photorealism shots of materials such as weathered wood and brick, horizontal and chevron patterns rather than traditional vertical stripes, and faux leathers, says Jon Sherman, owner of manufacturer Flavor Paper in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Texture has become more pronounced: Metallics and crystals are being incorporated, as well as bits of suede, gels, beads, and cosmetic-style powders that change with light and as people move past them, says Sherman. Even ’50s grass cloth has returned, but with a contemporary edge and in more than earth tones.
Price points vary: Some companies like Berberian’s offer single rolls from $40 up, and Just provides a fully customized 8-by-0-foot feature wall mural for between $500 and $800.
But since not all buyers yet are fans of wallpaper, professionals recommend that home owners weigh choices carefully unless they plan to stay for years. Here are more tips:
- Dip a toe in slowly: If your clients are new to using wallpaper, they might want to start small, such as an accent wall in a bathroom, says Chicago designer Lisa Wolfe, who is a huge wallpaper fan. She also recommends it to break up large areas, or in a bedroom, entry hall, cozy den, breakfast room. Using it in a kitchen requires restraint since many equate to the dated kitchen paper of the past. Today’s buyers are still more inclined to tile backsplashes or paint. But if a home owners likes the idea, they should consider a perky, modern pattern.
- Wallpaper borders are out, says Wagner of Osborne & Little.
- A wallpaper whitewashing is a no-no: If an entire house is wallpapered, sellers might consider removing some before they list. And they should definitely clean or take down dirty, worn, or torn wallpaper, which is a huge turnoff.