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Design Trends: Wallpaper Done Right

For the last decade or so, wallpaper took a home decor hit.

As homeowners went for more modern, clean and neutral designs, wallpaper became the annoying thing that needed to be scraped off during renovation. Home design trends from the 80s and 90s mimicked Victorian style with lots of pattern, darker colors, and often overbearing and overly feminine designs. But lately wallpaper has had a resurgence as designers, homeowners and manufacturers begin to reimagine the design statement it can make. We have seen this with our own clients who have chosen unique, beautiful and statement-making wallpapers in their own homes. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up on how to do modern wallpaper right.

Remember it’s temporary

The first thing to keep in mind about wallpaper is that it’s temporary. Yes, it’s a bit more work than just repainting a wall, but modern wallpapers use adhesives that aren’t as tacky and difficult to work with at their plastered-on predecessors. So when you’re choosing a wallpaper, don’t shy away from a pattern or look you love just because you’re worried about falling out of love with it years from now.

gray and white chevron wallpaper used as a backsplash behind double vanity by James River Construction

This client used a super modern, simple chevron pattern in a small area of their master bathroom to create some eye-catching interest.

Start small

If you’re still a little leary of jumping into the deep end of wallpaper, start small. Powder rooms are the perfect place to test out a little pattern and color. Wallpaper can also make a much more impactful statement in a small space that would otherwise be overlooked and underappreciated.

Green and white pagoda patterned wallpaper in this powder room make a big statement in a small space by James River Construction

We love the pagoda pattern this client chose for their super narrow powder room. It makes a striking statement without being overbearing in this small space.

 Go bold

A vivid botanical wallpaper pattern is subdued with coordinating matte brass and lucite sconces and hardware by James River Construction

Wallpaper is ultimately about pattern, so why not go bold? The key to using bold wallpaper is to keep the other elements of the space more muted so they aren’t competing with each other. Sometimes contrasting patterns and textures can work, but in a small space consider doing what this client did by choosing matte brass hardware and brass and lucite sconces that nearly blend into the vivid botanical pattern.

Try out texture

Grasscloth wallpaper provides texture and warmth in this elegant dining room by James River Construction

While most wallpaper is about pattern, grasscloth wallpaper is about texture and warmth. Grasscloth wallpaper is made of natural materials like hemp, arrowroot, jute, reed or seagrass. Thin cotton threads are knit together with the natural material and then adhered to a delicate backing such as rice paper. Grasscloth is generally a neutral beige color, but can also be found in dark grays and blacks or greens. It’s a great background for a large room that needs some warming up, like this expansive dining room. In this case, it was paired elegantly with gold drapery, crystal chandeliers, gilded frames and a neutral woven rug. The layers of texture create a space that feels rich and warm. It also balances the darkness of the mahogany table and dark hardwood floors.

Be bright

Wallpaper offers a chance to incorporate colors that might otherwise be overwhelming as flat paint. Take these two powder rooms in a client’s home that used bright, fun yellow and blue patterns. Had they painted these rooms these colors, the look may have been garish, but within the pattern they’re bright and playful without being overbearing.

Keep bright colors from being overbearing by using them in wallpaper pattern instead of paint by James River Construction

Keep bright colors from being overbearing by using them in wallpaper pattern instead of paint by James River Construction

So don’t be scared – if you’re craving texture, color, pattern or just a pop of something different in your home, wallpaper may be the answer. Following these simple tips, you can create a unique and long-lasting look that you’ll love every time you see it.

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