Wallpaper has drifted in and out of popularity over the past century. Until this decade, it was out for some years. Now wallpaper is hot, whether the choice is a venerable European classic, a graphic geometric pattern or a digital print of paint-chipped, reclaimed boards.
Just ask Bobby King, third-generation owner of King’s Custom Wallcoverings in Keller. Even with seven installers, “we can’t keep up,” he says, adding that they average three jobs a day. “I’ve never seen it like it is now. Wallpaper has made a huge comeback. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Digital printing technology has resulted in realistic manipulations, while production advances mean that manufacturers can make papers using unexpected materials. Options abound: From high-end, hand-painted de Gournay and Gracie papers to foil, lacquered, flocked, grass cloth (natural and faux), bark (ditto), and, at wallpapercollective.com, a Dutch rendition of photo-realistic prints of scrap wood. Those willing to be bold can get really creative.
“We’re just getting flooded with new products and material,” King says, adding that there are many “more modern, hand-painted, high-end materials.”
“There is a resurgence in people willing to use more risky patterns,” says Dallas interior designer Amy Thomasson. “People are committing to more bold prints, dominant blacks and whites, geometrics and colorful patterns that are very dramatic and add a lot of personality to a space.”
Papers produced in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s are making a triumphant return, too, via eBay and other online sites that specialize in finding warehoused caches of vintage rolls. High-end companies also are replicating these vintage prints, and the more psychedelic the better, Thomasson says. (Cole & Son, for instance, has vivid op art-influenced patterns, and Gracie has a Mid-Century Metallics collection.)
“Metallics are a very hot trend,” she says. “The last home my husband and I purchased had the original wallcoverings. We weren’t able to salvage the wallpaper, but it was the coolest.”
On a budget?
While many papers are shockingly pricey (King says he just installed a Gracie wallcovering of hand-painted pieces of bark that topped out at more than $40,000) and require engaging an interior designer, there are plenty of budget-friendly options, too.
Dallas-based Texas Paint & Wallpaper carries a range of lines including York Wallcoverings, which owns a long list of brands including one by famed TV designer Candice Olson, F. Schumacher & Co., Kravet, Thibaut, Seabrook and others. Home Depot stocks a large selection, too, including York and Martha Stewart Living; Lowe’s carries York and Allen + Roth. The sources — from bespoke to eco-friendly — are as endless as the options.
And so are the uses. “If you find a wallcovering that you really love, it functions the way high-quality artwork does,” Thomasson says. “Not everyone can afford an [expensive] piece of artwork, but they can afford to commit to a beautiful wallcovering,” especially when it makes a statement in place of stone or expensive tiles.
Thomasson just used wallpaper in a client’s dining room, applying it only to two walls so it was “impactful, not overwhelming.” Paper accents could be used above or below a chair rail, in the place of wainscoting, at the back of a bookshelf, around a detailed staircase, or even just on one wall as a focal point, she says, adding that she loves using papers in powder rooms and entries. “I think it can be a really textural addition to a finished environment,” she says. “It adds visual interest.”
As with any purchase, classic wallpapers are likely to be left hanging longer than of-the-moment picks, but the interested shouldn’t be afraid to go big, Thomasson says. “I don’t think it’s a trend that’s going to be out in five years. I think it’s a trend that’s going to be in for the next 25.”