Not Your Grandmother’s Wallpaper

If you still think wallpaper is dated, think again. Wallpaper is back and this time it’s got attitude.


We asked two interior designers, Kenneth Walter and Shelley Johnstone, for their thoughts on the best ways to transform your rolls from dowdy to dandy.

Start small

Wallpaper a powder room, small foyer or focal point wall—“jewel box” spaces where it’s easier to take a risk.

Johnstone frames a gorgeous pattern or antique glass with simple Home Depot stock molding to create wall panels—a perfect option for adding a punch of pattern and color without committing the whole room.

To get the look without the cost, have a roll of your dream pattern framed, mounted or turned into a screen. That way, even if you move you can still take it with you.

Opt for texture over pattern

If you can’t commit to pattern, there are a myriad of wallcoverings that add depth and texture to bland sheetrock walls, are comparably priced but more durable than fine faux painting.

Textural wallcoverings can add depth without competing with art and accessories.

Walter turns to Maya Romanoff, Phillip Jeffries and Innovations in Wallcovering, as his go-to’s for quality and aesthetic diversity.

Traditional doesn’t have to be dowdy

The trick is to balance it out. Johnstone introduces other elements that add a modern edge like lucite, bright accents in unexpected colors and masculine lines to counter a feminine pattern. Think of it as the yin and yang of style.

Many design houses offer fresh color palettes and revised patterns to their traditional lines. Johnstone’s new favorite is Brunschwig & Fils Chiri on Jute, a formal gold Chinoiserie motif printed on the casual texture of jute.

Get it right before you order

Just like with paint, Walter urges clients to tape up wallcovering samples to see how it looks at every time of day, in every kind of light.

Don’t just look at a sample. Have your designer or retailer order you a cutting of the paper. Dye lots can change from run to run, and the color that’s on the swatch may not be the exact color you get.

Have your professional paperhanger measure the space and give you an exact estimate of how many rolls you’ll need. The last thing you want is to be one roll short.

Order a couple extra rolls in case you need to fix a patch later on (this ensures you’ll have an exact match, even if the dye lots change or the pattern is discontinued).

Cheap usually looks cheap – be it paint or wallcovering. So invest your money wisely.

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