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Wallpaper Makes a Comeback
By Tracy Dickinson
STYLE TRENDS August/September 2017
home :: home & garden :: style trends

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Wallpaper Makes a Comeback

New technology breathes life into an old trend.

Sometimes when a style goes out of fashion, we’re all relieved. No one really misses the leisure suit or the mullet haircut, right?

But some trends come back around with an updated twist, and that freshness makes them seem new again.

One home decor trend that went out of favor years ago, to nearly everyone’s delight, was wallpaper. But it’s making a comeback, and some professionals are excited about the new possibilities papered walls bring to interior design.

Out with the old

There’s a reason every sitcom from I Love Lucy to The Brady Bunch featured at least one episode with a wallpaper disaster story line. That was enough to frighten homeowners away for decades to come.

The drawbacks to wallpaper turned many homeowners against it and kept potential buyers from seeing its potential in a resale property.

Denise Thyberg of Thyberg Wall Works says, “I hung paper every day for years. Then in 1999 or 2000, demand just dropped.”

Traci Baldus of Interior Design Group/Trieste explains, “In the past, products were difficult and messy to install and even more difficult to remove.” This meant living with a design choice indefinitely or spending hours, even days, scraping old wallpaper in order to redecorate a room.

In with the new

Enter the age of technology, where even wallpaper has been renewed and transformed.

“This isn’t your mother’s wallpaper,” Baldus says. “Modern technology has simplified both hanging and removal, as well as the designs.”

According to Beth Artis of Artis Home Gallerie, “The last few years, we have seen the interest in wallpaper gaining steadily.”

Thyberg agrees. “I’ve been doing wallpaper installations again regularly over the past five years,” she says.

All three say the products available today are light-years away from anything Carol Brady might have dealt with. Manufacturers have also improved the application process, and they’ve expanded the design options.

  • Application
    Many products available today feature peel-and-stick technology, which eliminates the messy paste process. It also makes the product easier to remove if homeowners decide to change their decor in the future.

    “Not only are these products themselves often much more environmentally friendly, but the simpler installation process is more environmentally friendly, too,” Baldus says.
  • Design
    Technological advances have enabled manufacturers to offer a wealth of wallpaper possibilities that weren’t available in the past. In addition to innovative patterns ranging from geometrics to bold florals, homeowners can choose from textured papers, grass cloth, metallics, and even paintable papers.

    “I’ve been doing a lot of geometric patterns and oversized florals,” Thyberg says. “But clients aren’t usually choosing multicolor patterns like they used to. They tend to prefer fewer but bolder colors in the patterns or muted solids with more of a texture.”

    Baldus says, “Grass cloth is hugely popular, as are faux textures like leather. One of the benefits of the new products available today is their cleanability. Many papers can be wiped down and cleaned with a damp cloth.”

Accent on style

Local design professionals are cautiously excited about the design possibilities of today’s wallpaper products.

“Wallpapers are wonderful for use on accent walls, like in a powder room,” Artis notes. “And the digital world has allowed designers and printers endless opportunities to personalize the space with the use of family photos, heirlooms, and other images.”

“The right wallpaper adds interest, character, color, pattern, and textures—all the elements a good design should include,” adds Baldus.

For clients interested in incorporating wallpaper in their homes, she recommends starting with a room or two, like a powder room or other low-traffic area.

“Another creative way to use paper is in the dining room on the ceiling,” she says. Using it in this way allows the paper to reflect the light and add interest without detracting from the table setting.

Thyberg adds, “I’ve had homeowners opt to just do a feature wall instead of a whole room so they don’t have to make such a big commitment.”

“You don’t have to live with it forever,” says Baldus. “But knowing it’s made to be more of a design feature means you want to choose wisely—a pattern and design that fits your style.”

Today’s products make possible choosing wallpaper without that sense of permanence that existed in the past. That’s a nice twist on an old trend.


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