The renewed joy of wallpaper

Honest. It's back.


This story appeared in the first 2019 edition of Our Country Home.


The word strikes terror into the hearts of all who have watched that “I Love Lucy” episode. You know, the one where she and Ethel redecorate and Lucy ends up covered in paper and paste and, really, there should have been an intervention before the paper was chosen. Such stories are as much a part of the Grim Reputation of Wallcoverings as your great-grandmother’s floral paper nightmare. But there is no need to be ruled by the horrors of the past. Modern wallpaper is nothing like the old stuff, except for the basics: it too goes on a wall.

“Wallpaper is just another tool in the tool box, if you will, that doesn’t get the reception it should from homeowners,” said Laura Terry, designer and visual coordinator for Hemlock Road Design in Roscoe, NY. “Over the years, I’ve used various techniques and products to add personality to walls. Wallpaper in particular adds visual weight and, depending on the selection, texture to a room, unlike traditional painting.” Moreso than an entire kitchen/dining room decked in the stuff, wallpaper has become a statement piece for interior designers—“a fashion item,” said Anna Hernandez Garza, project manager for Wallquest in Wayne, PA. “It can be used in a dramatic way as a feature wall, to add a splash of color, or to make a statement…[or] to add warmness and style to a room by using grass cloth, linen, or beautifully subtle designs such as whiteon-white shapes with raised inks."

This funky tiled wallpaper is from Spoonflower.

For ideas, study the wallpaper products in the books Sherwin-Williams keeps on hand, or consult Crystal Achey, assistant manager at the Sherwin-Williams store in Honesdale, PA. “You can put wallpaper anywhere,” Achey, who has a design degree, said. “Accent walls, formal sitting rooms, dining rooms.”

Or talk to Jessica Patten at Cover Your World Flooring, also in Honesdale. Despite the name, they sell wallpaper too. You can even use laminate flooring on the wall as an accent. Patten said she’s impressed with the patt erns and potential effect of the new papers. “It’s making a comeback in the past few years.” Patten keeps rolls and books on hand for customers to look through. Even with all the modern styles, she said, “a lot of the old patterns are coming around again.”

Terry added that large-scale prints are gaining popularity, “and are a wonderful way to bring ‘art’ into your space. Wallpaper can tell a story about who you are through the choices you make. It is defi nitely seeing a resurgence as of late.” The product itself is diff erent than it used to be. “Gone are the days of wallpaper that is difficult to install and remove,” said Terry. “‘Non-woven’ wallpaper was introduced over 10 years ago, [which is] made with a combination of natural and synthetic fibers. It’s easy to hang and easy to remove.” Homeowners have a vast array of choices and materials, said Hernandez Garza. She cited “corks and grass cloths, handmade textiles, rotary screen items with raised inks and variations of matt  and shine. Beads.”

New materials mean you can put wallpaper in rooms where no paper has gone before. Like the bathroom.  “Yes, there are wall coverings that work in humid environments,” said Patten. “I have specific lines that are for bathrooms and kitchens. Also there are many lines of paper today that are washable.” If you’re renting or just want a temporary look, you can still use wallpaper. Laura Terry suggested self-adhesive, removable products. “This is great for those who are not ready to make a longterm commitment with any particular design or are renting a space but still want to be able to make a design statement that can be removed.”

So, forge ahead wallpaper lovers. Now is your time.

Wallpaper is no longer kitschy and old school. It can be classy and elegant, like this design from Spoonflower.

"Back then, we hung wallpaper uphill both ways": Read confessions of a one-time wallpaper hanger here.

Design your own

If you can design your own fabric, then why not wallpaper? The online print company Spoonflower has made a business of designed-by-you creations. The company is famous for its custom-designed fabrics and enormous collection of patt erns, not to mention the 3.5 million members who use the digital print process to create everything from fabric to curtains to artwork.

The wallpaper in particular is doing very well, said Alex Craig, a member of the marketing team at Spoonflower, via email. “Accent walls have been big for years, but we’re seeing an increased presence in large-scale prints that dominate entire rooms,” he said. Craig explained the process. First, create a design. You can scan in a traditionally created work or use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Procreate, or Adobe Draw. For the designs, contribute “anything you can think of,” Craig said.

Then upload the design to the Spoonflower site, choose the kind of wallpaper you want and order it. Who’s designing wallpaper? “Everyone from parents tailoring a bedroom to their kids’ style, artists who create and sell their own designs, TV shows and event teams that want to create a highly customized experience or look, magazines and interior designers who want something specific,” Craig said.

Other places to paper

Okay, get this. Wallpaper can go in nonwall places. It can line shelves. Use it as a backdrop in a bookcase. Make your stairs interesting. Cut up your remnants and use them in craft  projects. Books at Sherwin Williams and Cover Your World have lots of suggestions. The internet, including Spoonfl ower, is full of ideas. Wallpaper is art: use it thus.

This whimsical design is by Brewster.


A big part of wallpaper fear is installation.

Both Sherwin Williams and Cover Your World have people who will hang it for you, or you can check with interior painters. Seminario Painting in Honesdale will hang wallpaper, even though it is primarily a painting business. Again, the wallcoverings themselves have improved.

At Sherwin-Williams, Crystal Achey said, “It depends on what kind it is. In the 21st century, it’s pretty simple. Peel it off, and put it on.” Jessica Patten agreed, and said you don’t even have to fuss with the paste. “It’s easier for the do-it-yourself person because a lot of the new paper is pre-pasted.” She points to products from Brewster. “Compared to the old stuff, [this] is easier to install.”

Beginners should start with peel and stick, said Hernandez Garza at Wallquest. “They are a perfect place to start and practice on, if something doesn’t go to your liking, peel that section off  and try again. It is very forgiving…Th e fear goes away.” Spoonflower also offers papers in peel-and-stick or the smooth water-activated paper, which you soak and then smooth onto the surface. “When putt ing a room together, it’s like putt ing many puzzle pieces together: they all have to fit,” said Hemlock Road Designs’ Laura Terry. “It’s the layering of color, pattern and texture that comes together by weighing the effects that each of the elements you add contributes to the whole design. The wallpaper selection you make can be the statement piece in the room, or it can be a layer of texture and color that compliments the whole design.” 


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment