Transform Your Space With Wallpaper

If you want to completely change the look of a room, you may not need to replace furniture or artwork.

One of the easiest and most stylish ways to update a space is decorating with wallpaper.

“One of first things I try to get my homeowners to do is get on board with wallpaper,” HGTV “Design Star” winner Tiffany Brooks says. “It adds so much style and versatility, and you can cut down on your accessories budget because wallpaper makes such a statement and covers more ground.”

If “wallpaper” conjures images of a prissy print in your grandmother’s bedroom, think again. Wallpaper has made a major comeback in recent years and today’s styles are thoroughly modern.

Kay Govostis, owner of Highland Park’s Paper Dolls, says she’s seen a big increase in wallpaper sales. She says her top seller is grass cloth paper, which gives walls a textured look. Metallic wallpapers and saturated colors like navy blue are also in vogue, Govostis says.

Jenny Rossignuolo, owner of Chicago design studio Urban Source, says wallpaper designers are modernizing classic patterns like damask by reimagining them in bold colors and oversized scales. Wall murals made from photographs also are popular.

“We have murals of walls in Brooklyn, where they’ve taken exterior elements and turned them into a mural with graffiti on it,” Rossignuolo says. “It’s almost like a painting that is blown up to cover an entire wall.”

So, how can you choose the wallpaper that’s right for you? Chicago designer SuzAnn Kletzien says the most important guideline is to pick a pattern you love. She says large, colorful prints work best in spaces where you spend small amounts of time.

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Tiffany Brook eased her client into wallpaper with a classic stripe in a neutral palette. The wallpaper works with the current traditional furniture, but could also complement more contemporary pieces if the client decides to redecorate. Courtesy of Tiffany Brooks

Brook suggests selecting floor coverings first, because area rugs are harder to find than wallpaper patterns. As for where to hang the paper, anything goes.

“I haven’t met a surface I couldn’t wallpaper,” Brooks says.

Govostis says powder rooms and dining rooms are prime spots for wallpaper. “They are special rooms and should be different from the rest of the house, so I always tell people to start there,” she says.

Rossignuolo suggests wallpapering the foyer because it’s a high-traffic area that guests will see, but it can stand apart from the rest of your décor. If you’re not ready to commit, try Tempaper, peel-and-stick temporary wallpaper you can install yourself.

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Try out the wallpaper trend by covering the backs of bookcases, as SuzAnn Kletzien did here. This design trick lets the mantle shine as the focal point of the room. Courtesy of SuzAnn Kletzien

Expect to pay about $40 for a roll of mid-range wallpaper, Govostis says. Prices go up from there. Hand-painted Grace wallpaper can run $1,000 or more per roll. The good news, Govostis says, is that there is such a wide selection of wallpaper on the market that if you find a design you like, similar looks are probably available at many price points.

Designers don’t recommend hanging your own wallpaper. Rossignuolo says professional installation typically costs about $300 for an accent wall, $500 for powder rooms and more for larger spaces.