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Is Wallpaper Back?

Christine Brun on

Wallpaper is one of those interior finishes that goes in and out of favor depending on the current trends. It has been around since the 1700s, although there is evidence that ornamental paper was used on walls in both ancient Egypt (as papyrus) and China, when strips were printed on by blocks of wood. The sheets were glued together to cover the floor to the ceiling in strips. Because of the delicate nature of paper, we don't have much to study before the mid 18th century.

Modern wall coverings are manufactured in a few basic ways. One is in a roll that is generally about 27 inches wide and is packaged in either single or double rolls. You can learn exactly how many square feet any single roll will cover, but it is often about 28 square feet. Before purchasing wallpaper, confirm the needed quantity for your space with a professional installer, or carefully double-check yourself. Commercial wallpapers are made in 52- to 60-inch-wide goods and sold by the yard like fabric. One type is grass cloth. It's made from natural fibers and can be slightly wider. A double roll measures 36 inches wide by 24 feet long.

I would say that wall coverings are not as popular as they used to be. There was an era when nearly every room in a traditional home was plastered with decorative paper. Traditionally speaking, it is more of a British and French acquired taste. Perhaps that is why we see more homes in the eastern and southern U.S. that feature patterns on the walls. Homes in the western region of the country that are Spanish Revival style or Tuscan style would not incorporate wallpaper. Neither a rustic mountain cabin nor a ranch style home would be as suitable for patterned wall coverings.

Contemporary designs often feature geometric shapes, metallic finishes or texture and are generally used more sparingly. In bathrooms, we recommend vinyl-covered paper or vinyl that can withstand the moisture from the tub or shower. New digital printing technology allows a homeowner to blow up photos, maps or any other image and apply the finished product like any other wallpaper.

When considering how to decorate in a space-starved room, what could be more efficient than a thin covering on a wall? It takes up no space and can completely change the feeling of any space. Consider how dramatic and economical papering just one wall in a bedroom can be. The gorgeous cranes used in this example are a dynamic and colorful way to highlight the headboard wall in this bedroom. With the vintage midcentury pendant lamp, the look is at once sparse and elegant.

Modern rooms welcome photomurals on one wall or a bold, decorative pattern on just one or two walls. You can install wallpaper on the back wall of a shelving unit, in an alcove to make it cozy, or on the walls of a powder room to make a strong design statement. It is often less of a risk to paper a small room like the powder bath because if you tire of the pattern, you can easily remove it and update the space.


Photo Credit: DelightFULL


Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego based interior designer and author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at




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