Wallpaper is making a comeback — and it’s not just flowers and berries

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Wallpaper has made a major comeback.

I recently got the bug to refresh and update my dining room, whose furniture dates back to the 1990s. So, I asked Los Angeles designer Christopher Grubb to consult. That is, I would send him photos. He’d provide decorating direction. I’d do the legwork. This arrangement saved us both hours of indigestion.

Technically, it’s an alcove located directly off the entryway, but because it’s the first room you see when you come in the front door, I want it to shine. Grubb gave me a to-do list: add a pair of long mirrors, put black lampshades on the chandelier and wallpaper the back feature wall and the ceiling with a rich, medium-blue grasscloth to distinguish the dining area from the entry.

I requested six wallpaper samples, lived with them for a few days, chose one and hired my handyman to prepare the wall and ceiling, filling in the textured surfaces to make them smooth.

Orlando wallpaper installer Catie Skelton, who runs Element Wallcoverings with her brother Tim said, “Wallpaper used to be just for high-end homes. But now, thanks to social media and more brand competition, it’s accessible to the middle class. Plus, customers are realizing that wallpaper doesn’t have to have little flowers and strawberries. You can choose from thousands of bold patterns, textures and contemporary prints.”

Indeed. Even my daughter and her husband, on-trend millennials, recently hung wallpaper in the nursery they are preparing for their baby, due next month(!).

“We looked at a lot of inspiration photos,” my daughter said. “Almost all the nurseries had accent walls either painted a fun color or wallpapered.” They chose a peel-and-stick paper featuring soft illustrations of woodland creatures, which my son-in-law put up himself.

Peel-and-stick wallcovering, such as this Gunnison wallpaper from Loomwell, offers an easy, affordable way to decorate this nursery.(Courtesy Marni Jameson)
Peel-and-stick wallcovering, such as this Gunnison wallpaper from Loomwell, offers an easy, affordable way to decorate this nursery.(Courtesy Marni Jameson) 

Though more expensive than paint and more work, when it’s done right, adding wallpaper to a room adds richness and interest that paint alone simply can’t. “Updating a room with a paint color is an easy change,” Grubb said, “but if you truly want to elevate a room, wallcovering is the way to go.”

The wallpaper went up this weekend. It’s a lovely improvement. So now that I am up with the times, I asked Grubb and the Skeltons to tell me more about the wallpaper comeback and what more homeowners should know:

Be unexpected. Wallpaper isn’t just for living rooms and powder baths. For one Los Angeles couple, Grubb covered the laundry room walls with a lively graphic paper. “It completely changed the feeling of this utility space.”

Float don’t line. Many homes have textured walls, which prevent wallpaper from being smooth, so Tim Skelton recommends “floating” the walls: skim coat them with drywall mud to fill in the recesses.

Don’t skimp on installation. If your paper has a tricky repeat that needs special alignment or your room has lots of angles, hire a pro to install it, Grubb said, and get more than one bid: “I’ve had clients try to save money by hiring someone inexperienced or by doing the job themselves, and they ran into alignment issues that got more attention than the beauty of the material.”

Consider the new vinyl. Today’s vinyl wallpaper often looks like grasscloth or silk, but is a lot less fragile, more durable and easy to clean with soap and water.

Enjoy the sound effects. Wallpaper will dampen outside noises a bit, but wallcoverings made of linen, silk, cotton or grasscloth are especially good at buffering sounds, so they’re good choices for home offices and bedrooms.

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