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WILD ABOUT WALLPAPER Hot Trends in Cool Paper

wallpaper1Toss those stiff old paintbrushes and half-empty paint cans buried in your garage. Go ahead and do it now because you won’t need them this summer. Luxurious and vibrant wallpaper products that turn rooms into art are ready to reclaim their place atop your walls.

“Wallpaper’s not going to be outdone,” says Carolyn Mahone of Mahone & Sons Decorating Center. “I love the textures, the patterns, the colors. Wallpaper gives the home a nuance that you just can’t get with paint.”

Wallpaper, long loved by our locals, has been reincarnated. Botanical, animal and sweeping damask prints still reign, but now they are dramatic and fresh, and pepped up in size, sparkle and sheen.

wallpaper51Roll Out the Trends
This season interior designers are gathering collections of colorful damasks, papers with dramatic bird patterns, jewel tones, and textures like grasscloth. Previously, blue dominated the damask print but now lavenders, purples, yellows, browns and softer blues are staking an equal claim over the classic. Designers love that the pattern works in every room of the home, whether large or small.

Dragonflies, butterflies and leaves have also been swept into kitchens, bedrooms and dining rooms in new botanical prints. Colorful birds and stylized flowers are larger than life. Realizing that petite flowers didn’t do justice to a wall with a vaulted ceiling, wallpaper makers have seen to it that the nature prints blossom to sizes that work for such grand rooms.

Stripes are still a good idea in any room because of the visual magic they weave. Stripes in varying shades of tan, blues with greens, and blues with creams brighten any room. Placing stripes vertically adds height to the room, giving the illusion of a larger room.

Instead of using a painted faux finish, consider going faux with paper, saving time and money. Makers have rolled out faux finish-look papers in dark reds, browns, and pinks in color washing, sponging, marble and metallic.

And if you like more than one pattern, experts say “go for it”—they can help you make it work. Haley Pavao, an interior decorator with James T. Davis Paint & Wallpaper, says “I recommend blending the patterns.” Some decorators also suggest choosing one color to carry through the home and using it in each paper.

Color Your World
“I’m seeing sort of a shift back to more earthy kinds of colors but at the same time, in Lynchburg, the traditional blues and yellows, I don’t think they’ll ever go out around here,” says Mahone. The browns, beiges, golds, greens and sands have taken hold in part because they are calming. “People want to go back to something that’s familiar and comforting,” says Mahone.

Aqua colors, particularly sea green and sea foam; jewel tones in purple, red, green and gold; bright colors; blues and oranges…these are the colors that are increasingly in vogue. Bathrooms are seeing an influx of these eye-catching colors including pink and green, and dramatic colors with black backgrounds and prints with surfboards, flip flops and seashells. This small room is a great place to try a theme or bold design, the pros say.

If you are papering a formal room, however, some experts suggest steering away from these bolder color selections. Instead, Pavao suggests using a paper that has a bit of a shine to it to turn up the glam. A beautiful option is a silk-and-satin paper that mixes white-on-white or beige-on-beige. One color appears slightly different, almost like a shadow—and this timeless look will not go out of style. The colors may sound familiar, but they won’t look it. The tone-on-tone papers meld natural tans with creams, or tans on tans offering barely visible patterns that can be caught in the right light. It is ideal for those who already have busy patterns in the room.

Another option for those with colorful or heavily patterned rooms are textured papers. “We’re getting a lot of requests for textures,” says Mahone, “Grasscloth is making a major comeback.” The colors of a grasscloth mellow and soften as the paper ages, adding to its attractiveness. Depending on the tightness of the weave, you may see more or less of the chosen background color, anything from cream to a metallic. It gives walls a reeded look and has tremendous versatility. It comes with provisos though: It can’t be cleaned, and cats love it as much as people.

Callista Johnson, interior designer for Davidson House Interiors, says she is seeing “a lot of silks, seagrass and sisal being applied to the walls.” These rough textures have tremendous visual appeal. Also, textured papers make it easier to update home decor later because there is less concern over coordinating with existing colors and patterns. Textures are ideal for those uncomfortable with a print, or those who prefer to have bold patterned furniture or draperies.

Although trends fade, local designers say these wallpaper trends should stand the test of time. Others on the market now—think leather, super shiny metallics and flocked wallpaper—will not. (Yes, we did say flocked wallpaper.) “If you can’t switch it out in a couple of years, don’t mess with it,” says Pavao. The trendiest papers will make your rooms look dated in just a few years.

What’s on the “out” list right now? “I would say really tiny floral prints or anything that looks garden-ish,” says Johnson. Also, skip borders, the mix of blue and brown, circles, polka dots and exactly matching papers to fabrics if you want to be truly a la mode.

wallpaper3Paper Your Spaces
Choosing the right wallpaper can be made easier by asking yourself the basics, according to the Wallcoverings Association website ( You need to consider if the space is for activity or relaxation, who uses it, how much light it gets, and if you want to make the space appear larger or smaller. An activity room might need warm colors, and a relaxing room, cool colors. When you know who uses the room, you can take their favorite colors into consideration as well. Generally speaking, a room with northern or eastern exposure requires warm colors, and one with western or southern exposure, cool colors. To increase the size of the room, paper with cool colors and to make it smaller, use warm colors.

Some other elements to mull over: Is it a high-traffic area? One with lots of moisture? Is there just one problem wall to cover? Is there a piece of furniture to showcase? Do you have a theme? High-traffic areas like your hallway need vinyl-coated wallpaper, which can be wiped off and cleaned. Intense moisture, in a steamy bathroom for example, will also require a heavier vinyl paper product. Paper can transform an exasperating wall into an elegant one that makes your favorite furniture stand out. Whatever your theme, the right paper will define it.

Once you’ve decided what to buy, stop. Do you want to paper your rooms yourself or hire a pro? You absolutely can wallpaper with the help of friends if you are willing to put in the time to do it right. That means removing old paper and priming the walls. While it is a messy job, only a few tools are needed (smoothing tool, sponges, razor blade and level). Priming is essential because it makes moving the strips around easier as you attempt to get the paper in the right spot. Primer also makes removing paper in the future easier. If you are going it alone, choose a paper with no texture and no pattern, and start in a large room.

If you have chosen a pattern or texture, hire a professional. The craftsman knows how to get the most out of each roll and will help determine how much to order. It is tough to match each strip of paper perfectly (imagine searching for a pattern repeat in 32 feet of paper) and you could end up wasting a lot. Most wallpaper dealers can provide the names of professional paper hangers. The general rule is that it will double the cost of the project.

If the company you go to keeps wallpaper on hand, you’ll find steals as low as $10 per roll. If not, prices are still great at $25 to $35 a roll—about as much as a quality paint. If you can’t deny yourself that special-order hand-painted designer roll of paper—and yes, a roll of dainty, shimmery Farrow & Ball will make you coo—be prepared to part with $200 per roll. Grasscloth papers have come down in price to about $50 a roll, less if you go faux, with a flat paper made to look like woven grasscloth. Keep this in mind, too: The average bathroom requires roughly five double rolls of wallpaper and the average bedroom, 10 to 14.

Armed with all of this information, there is only one question left: Did you toss your paintbrush yet?

“Wallpaper is art,” says Mahone. “Its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Thank you to James T. Davis, Mahone & Sons Decorating Center and Davidson House Interiors for contributing to this article.

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