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  • Writer's pictureHeather Holcombe

The Transformational Power of Wallpaper

Thibaut wallpaper
Wallpaper by @thibaut_1886

If you feel like your walls need something more than paint, try wallpaper. It can transform any room. That's a pretty big - but accurate - proclamation. You can use wallpaper to add texture, color, or pattern to a room. Paint can add color and interest, but on its own, it doesn't add a pattern or detail like wallpaper - unless you're using specialty paint with texture.

"I absolutely love wallcovering! It has a truly profound way of creating a mood and elevating a space in an instant," says Carmen Reitnour of Romo Fabrics and Wallcoverings.

The History of Wallpaper

Wallpaper is believed to have originated in the 16th century, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum of London. These early wallpapers were used "to decorate the insides of cupboards and smaller rooms in merchants' houses rather than the grand houses of the aristocracy."

Until about 1840, wallpaper was produced by hand using a very labor-intensive block-printing process. A wallpaper printer was patented in the early 20th century, and mass production began.

Wallpaper began to make its way across socioeconomic incomes and throughout various spaces in the home, including hallways, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms.

The Role of Wallpaper

The role of wallpaper is a bit like using beautiful, high-quality bed linens or a lovely sofa throw for texture, color, and interest. It's a finishing touch that can have high wattage interest. Here are some things wallpaper can do for your space:

  • Add color.

  • Add pattern.

  • Add character to a room through its design.

  • It can add texture.

  • It can highlight an architectural feature. For example, wallpapering a ceiling or an accent wall.

  • It can hide minor defects on a wall or surface.

  • Wallpaper can affect the sense of space in a large or small room.

Wallpaper by Romo
Wallpaper by @romo_fabrics

Where to Use Wallpaper

You can use wallpaper pretty much anywhere! Typically, it is used on walls in any room, from laundry rooms to foyers to living rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms.

You can use wallpaper in closets, cabinets, bookshelves, and ceilings. (I transformed some built-ins with wallpaper in the photo above.) You can paper walls and ceilings for a beautiful effect. You can even match the wallpaper with identical fabric patterns. (If you do that, you'd better love the design you use!)

It can feel a little intimidating if you've never used wallpaper before. I recommend starting in a smaller room like a powder room or a laundry room. Most people feel more confident going bold with wallpaper in a smaller space. I opted for wallpaper in our mudroom, which makes a big difference!

Selecting Wallpaper

It's vital to coordinate wallpaper with the other elements in the room. It's the same design process as when selecting paint, fabrics, or furniture. Components need to blend like puzzle pieces, or you end up with a room that feels disjointed. However, which feature you choose first can be tricky, so working with an interior designer can be enormously helpful. For example, suppose a client wants to use a particular fabric. We'll begin with it as we work through the overall design plan and selections.

What's on trend these days? Chinoiserie wallpapers and murals are popular, especially in dining rooms and bedrooms. I also see more papered ceilings.

"It (wallpaper) is artwork for your walls with the ability to stop people in their tracks to admire its beauty," says Carmen. "In my opinion, no home is complete without it!"

Professional installation

A quick word on installation. Professional installation (by an experienced professional) makes all the difference to the results. If the walls aren't prepared correctly, it will be noticeable once the wallpaper is applied. Well-prepped walls will make it easier to remove the paper later on. The paper must be cut correctly and at the right place in the design run, or that will also be noticeable.


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