Don’t be afraid to go off the wall with a diverse selection of wallpaper

Thu, May 16, 2013, 01:00

I confess to being a bit of a magpie when it comes to wallpaper. I have folders full of cuttings I’m just dying to use. Love it or loath it, it’s a great and relatively inexpensive way to give a room a whole new lease of life.

Wallpaper comes in many forms now, from metallic – almost holographic prints – to timber, and even concrete effect papers. If your budget allows, you can even get silk or linen wall coverings that are totally and utterly gorgeous.

The choice of patterns and textures can be overwhelming, so before you start think carefully about the atmosphere you are trying to create. Do you want a calm and restful space? Then opt for a subtle colour palette or pattern. Are you looking for impact? Then try a vibrant or statement print.

Don’t be afraid to use a bold pattern in a small space. Small spaces actually offer an opportunity to experiment with stronger designs. I recently used stunning floral wallpaper in an under-stairs bathroom. What was once a very dull uninteresting space was transformed into a luxurious little powder room.

A guest wc is a great room in which to have fun with wallpaper and go for something fun or colourful. They are small areas often without natural light so wallpaper allows you to add impact.

If you are concerned about using a busy or very vibrant pattern, consider paneling the lower half of the walls and papering the upper half. This helps to break up the pattern and creates a more subtle look. A dado rail works equally well – paint below the dado rail and wallpaper above then select colours from the paper in your accessories.

Bedrooms are also great for experimenting with wallpaper. I’m a believer in bedrooms being a restful space so I tend to prefer calming patterns. If you are planning to only paper one wall make sure you match your paint colour to either the background or accent colours in the wallpaper as this will give a more unified finish to the scheme.

If you’re planning to wallpaper a large open-plan space try mixing plain and patterned wallpapers to define the different areas within the space. Most wallpaper companies create collections with colours and patterns that are designed to work with one another, so stick to one collection and the scheme will naturally come together.

Textured papers are now back in vogue. Some of these are actually designed to be painted. They are a great choice if your walls are in poor condition as they hide a multitude of sins. The designs are more contemporary than the 1970s versions. Paint them in a dark shade for a much more sophisticated look.

Most wallpaper companies will provide samples, just like with paint it is good to test these out in the room that you are planning to use them in. See how the colours look in different lighting conditions and how you feel about the pattern or design after it’s been on your wall after a few days.


Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant

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