A wallpaper renaissance is flourishing and there’s no better time to spruce up your space. Whether you’re a playful maximalist or a contemporary connoisseur, get ready to roll
To the uninitiated, wallpaper can be intimidating. Where do you start? What are the options and how do you install it? Why choose it over paint? But for space-defining, forward-thinking interiors, there’s nothing better than a patterned wall to distract, relax or intensify your senses.
Interior designer Bridget Foley from Bridget Foley Design says wallpaper is one of the easiest, quickest ways to transform a space. “A whole house of paint can get rather dull. Adding wallpapers to a few rooms adds an element of surprise and interest,” she says. Florals help to soften, stripes widen a room and a whimsical mural can enliven our homes.
Emma Hayes Textile Vine design wallpaper, $499 (330cm x 70cm roll)
OFF THE WALL
Don’t let the name mislead you. In the past, wallpaper was also used to line cupboards and other small spaces. Take a few pointers from history; if you’ve got a leftover roll from your wallpaper hanging project, consider adding some flair to your furnishings. Attack drawers – inside and out – decorate panels, shelves or whatever else strikes your fancy. If you’re unsure about a pattern or colour, there’s no better way to test-run it in your space than through a good old-fashioned arts and crafts day.
BUSY LIFE, BUSY WALLS
White painted walls will show smears, stains, cracks and chips whereas wallpaper might seem more forgiving and the perfect alternative for busy family life. But any style-savvy decorator should consider practicality alongside fashion before taking the plunge.
Bridget recommends thinking about how a room is used. “Is it a high traffic area with children and pets running through and possibly knocking into walls, a den-like space that can handle darker colours, or a restful bedroom?” Asking yourself these questions can help whittle down seemingly overwhelming choices such as colour, size and texture when it comes to your walls.
1838 Wall Murals Bellavista 1905-123-01, $841.95, from Resene Colorshops
For busy areas where people tend to congregate, such as kitchens, hallways and living rooms, try a paper in heavy-duty vinyl or glass-fibre, which can withstand everyday knocks and bumps. Opting for patterns in these spaces can distract the eye from day-to-day imperfections amongst the clutter. For darker spaces, invest in light-reflecting paper-backed silks to widen and lighten your space.
“The scale of a pattern can affect the feel of a room with large scale patterns making a room feel more intimate and smaller patterns giving the illusion of more space and light,” says interior designer Kirsten Ford from Kirsten Ford Design. She notes that a large-scale pattern will also have more impact for big walls that aren’t broken up by windows or doors.
“Don’t be afraid to use wallpaper in small spaces – particularly the powder room, to provide friends a stylish and unexpected surprise when they visit. This space doesn’t have to compete with other furnishings, so be bold and make it a showstopper.”
If you’re yearning for industrial-chic exposed brick, or a floor-to-ceiling grand bookshelf, look no further. With wallpaper, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The ancient Romans did it best, using painted frescos to add doors and windows to give that all-important sense of depth and drama to a room. Create space through forced perspective, whether that’s a cityscape mural
or a leafy jungle in a children’s bedroom. Add patterns such as simulated concrete or wood in living rooms for interest and intrigue. Wallpaper can go beyond the natural limitations of buildings and spaces, so have fun. The world is your oyster, or your oyster-themed wallpaper.
TEXTURE IS TRENDING
Our spaces stimulate our feelings – not only emotionally but physically too. In an increasingly digital world, there’s nothing better than a sheepskin rug underfoot or a dazzling sequinned cushion. Walls are no different.
“I recently used a black beaded wallpaper in a powder room, and it made a very plain room look incredible,” says Bridget.
1838 Wallcoverings Elodie Wallpaper Collection Astoria 1907-139-01, $585.95 (per roll), from Resene Colorshops
From fish scales to cork to grass weaves, texture is making waves across our humble abodes. But if you only want to dip a toe in the water, Bridget recommends a light seagrass weave, which adds a sophisticated look to a room without the busyness of pattern.
Making modifications in a rental space can be a costly task, especially if you’re in the habit of moving around a lot. Thankfully, peel-and-stick wallpaper has emerged in recent years to provide an easy and affordable alternative to traditional methods. There’s no messy primer or paste, simply wipe the walls down with a damp sponge a day prior, then you’re good to go. Working much like a huge sticker, peel-and-stick has the added benefit of being reusable, so renters can continue to have familiar walls, no matter where they live.
Heron’s Landing vinyl wallpaper in mint, $279 (108cm width), from Miss Lolo in Auckland
Hand-painted artisanal papers are increasingly winning over consumers with their nostalgic charm. Chinoiserie, a unique mural-like pattern that never repeats itself is heating up in the interior world, finding its roots in East Asian artistic motifs. These dreamy, world-building prints provide a contrast to minimalist and modern furnishings for the contemporary client. “Lots of wallpaper houses are employing young artists to work on archived designs with different scales and colours to update them,” Bridget says, pointing to Sanderson’s William Morris collection as an example of the up-and-coming trend.
This 18th-century maximalism has even coined a new term among its devotees: grandmillennial. It’s the elegant, bold-patterned push of your grandparents meeting the selective modern flair of youth. “After years of a more minimalist, mid-century feel, the millennial’s antidote is a “more is more, look,” says Kirsten, and is achieved by combining florals and fringe detailing with contemporary furniture.
IN WITH THE NEW
While wallpaper can bring walls alive, sometimes outdated trends can do exactly the opposite. If you’re stuck with a pattern that no longer appeals, there’s only one question on your mind: can you wallpaper over existing wallpaper? The short answer, according to Resene’s Northern Region retail manager Ingel Janssen, is no. “Back in the day, it was common practice to paper over old wallpaper. However, once vinyl became the standard top surface for wallpaper, wallpaper wouldn’t stick to that vinyl surface.” Old textures and patterns also have a bad habit
of showing through the new layer of paper, which is far from ideal.
Previously applied wallpaper should come off reasonably easily, but if not, a couple of coats of wallpaper stripper and a broad knife should do the trick.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Much like bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner party, a die-hard DIY-er should always be prepared. Gather all the essential equipment needed for your wallpapering project to cut down on those time-consuming return trips to your local hardware store.
You don’t need a lot, but you will need some necessities. A plumb bob or spirit level will ensure the paper is hung straight, while a sharp snap blade utility knife will guarantee a clean cut. “Always use a sharp blade to avoid jagged edges,” says Ingel. Don’t forget a straight edge to trim scotia and skirtings.
For pre-pasted paper, use a water trough to place the paper into to react with the water. If you’re pasting by yourself, a table or large flat surface will come in handy for the task at hand, as will a ladder and a drop cloth.
Finally, remember a bucket of clean waterand a sponge to remove excess paste from the front of the paper, making sure to refresh the water regularly.
Mind the Gap Samoa, $499, from Allium Interiors
STICK WITH IT
Take time to prep your walls by filling any cracks or holes to ensure a smooth, flat finish. Next, prime your walls with wallpaper size to seal the walls and aid movement of your wallpaper when hanging.
“Size and wallpaper paste go hand in hand,” Ingel explains. “If size isn’t used, you run the risk of edges and seams curling during and after the wallpaper has dried.”
With wallpaper paste, it’s available in premixed, powder or flake versions, although take care with ratios when mixing.
When you’re ready to hang, your left-to-right instincts may not always be correct. “You may have chosen a large bold pattern, which may look great centred on the wall. Start in the middle of the wall and work outwards – this will create good pattern balance,” Ingel says.
Wall sealer is also essential. “Nearly all internal walls in New Zealand are made of paper-faced plasterboard,” says Ingel, which can create a “patchwork effect” visible under wallpaper, as well as bleed-through sunburn stains. To mitigate this, Ingel’s go-to is Resene’s Sureseal pigmented sealer to ensure an even coloured surface.
When in doubt, check the instructions as they can vary from product to product.
Words by: Caroline Moratti.