Winning With Wallpaper

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dining room area rug wood floor wallpaper

Wallpaper is the Rodney Dangerfield of interior decorating: It just don’t get no respect.

The most memorable rooms I grew up with were all thanks to wallpaper, not paint. There are folks with some pretty mad painting skills, but the at-home wall-painter will never match the design oomph from a great wallpaper.

It’s easy to dismiss wallpaper as a garish all-over design, and that’s a travesty. With a proper whole-project vision, the average homeowner could find some amazing applications for bringing some, or even a lot, of wallpaper into their scheme. From accent walls to entire rooms, wallpaper has come a long way, baby.

Here’s why you should consider wallpaper for your next big decorating project.

Not Your Granny’s Wall Treatment

My mother had bold and crazy pink wallpaper in our dining room. Giant 4” psychedelic flowers. Even 35 years ago, that wasn’t your granny’s wallpaper. Today, however, you can get all kinds of wild designs, stately patterns, and bold inspiration, whether it’s from your local paint shop or you’re ordering custom.

What’s that? Custom wallpaper, you ask? In the era of large-format printers with amazing publishing and layout programs, more firms than ever before are offering custom wallpaper designs printed just for you. Or, more likely, created just for Starbucks, Pier One, and other fancy retailers and businesses that can afford the high-stakes world of individuality.

Whether you want wild and crazy or just modern graphic treatment, or you’re even a fan of ancient textiles you’d like to recreate for your walls, there’s a lot you can do. Look for innovative paper companies online, or consider researching for  a custom-printing company who fit your budget.

wallpaper sofa arm

It’s money, baby

It can be pricey to use wallpaper, but if you’re looking at a feature wall and it’s a design you love, a quality vinyl wallpaper can last 15 years or longer. They’re easy to wipe clean and maintain for the long-term.

It’s definitely more expensive than paint in the outset but if you add up the time and materials you might spend over the next decade with painting upkeep versus needing to just wash your wallpaper, that’s where you pocket the money long-term.

Flaws? What flaws?

If you’ve got cracked or damaged walls, it can be really hard to repair them flawlessly for paint. Anyone who’s ever spent all afternoon sanding a Spackled wall only to have it still be discernible after four coats of paint is nodding in bitter agreement, I bet. Here’s where wallpaper really does a great job taking your damaged walls from “Rustic Crack Den” to “Stylin’ Pad.”

If there’s a lot of damage or it’s an uneven/warped wall, some patterns might highlight those flaws, so it’s good to know what patterns can do for you. This is where you might want to talk to an actual professional and not just some $10-an-hour staffer who doesn’t live and breathe design.

modernist bedroom wall paper sunny

If flaws are what you’re looking to disguise, stay away from straight lines and look instead for patterns with curves and other graphic patterns that aren’t so straight-and-perfect looking, so you can disguise that warped or cracked wall.

Looks tougher than it is

Like any skill, it can be daunting to watch a wallpapering pro at work, but it’s also something people have been doing for literally centuries now, inspired by things like tapestries and block-printing. I’m pretty sure those people through the centuries didn’t all take Interior Design 101.

If anything, wallpapering is getting more user-friendly and DIY-capable than ever. It’s still tough to remove, of course, but some companies are offering paints that do a good job of covering wallpaper, so that’s something you can investigate if you’re unsure you’d like to long-term commit to wallpaper. But hey, my mom removed her wallpaper just fine with an old-school steamer, so it’s really about having some good music to listen to, a weekend to do the work, and the patience to get it done right.

dining room wallpaper stairs french doors

Today’s self-adhesive and pre-glued wallpapers make it easier for the amateur to get their walls looking “done-by-a-pro” great. With patience and an eye for detail, you might wind up with a space that looks like it’s straight out of a magazine.

Wallpaper for oomph and awesomeness

Even if you stick to a single accent wall, it’s mind-boggling how much style and pizzazz a wallpapered feature wall can lend your interior. Punchy patterns and the right placement of accessories and furniture can combine for an eye-popping look paint could never, ever achieve.

When you’re looking to really change your space up, don’t forget to consider a little wallpaper in your final design. Go scour the web or the sample books in stores, and see what you’ve been overlooking. It’s time we design fiends gave wallpaper the respect it deserves.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.