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How to Use Wallpaper

Few things in interior design elicit such a visceral response as wallpaper -- it either evokes nostalgic feelings of time gone by or of hours spent painstakingly removing it. No matter your personal feelings on the subject, it's certainly having a moment in the design spotlight of late, and thanks to improved application processes, can be put up or taken down with much less drama. It can be a great solution to many decorative issues, brings warmth and detail to a home, and creates instant intimacy. Here are some of our favorite ways to use it.

bathroom with dark wallpaper by reDesign Home

Design by reDesign Home

Create Drama

In our Arlington Heights bungalow renovation, this small bath was tucked under the eaves of the house and got very little natural light. Instead of trying unsuccessfully to make it light and bright, we embraced the room's shadows and painted the wainscot and outside of the tub a dark black and used a dark paper on the walls, eaves, and ceiling. The result is decidedly dramatic and glamorous and the all-over application of the paper helps the room's awkward angles disappear.

office with wallpaper on ceiling

Design by W Design Collective | Photo by Lucy Call

Add Layers

Walls are not the only places to consider a wallpaper application. Adding it ceilings, behind bookcases, or other often-overlooked spots are all ways to bring an extra decorative layer to a space. This room would be lovely without the paper (Raphaël in Blue from Sandberg Wallpapers), but taking the attention to detail to the ceiling made the room extra cozy.

dining room with wallpaper and striped rug

Photo courtesy of Lulu & Georgia

Nod to the Past

This richly-colored citrus print by Arts-and-Crafts-era designer William Morris adds not only a historical nod to the dining space, but a whimsical one. The room feels sophisticated, but also does not take itself too seriously, which is an ideal combination for a fun dinner party. We love how the wide stripes on the rug recall the colors found in the paper, but also provide a sleek contrast to the movement of the leaves and fruit. The modern chandelier and dining table keep the space from feeling too stuffy.

laundry room with wallpaper

Stay Neutral

A small-scale pattern can be tricky, and wouldn't be the best choice in a large room. However, it works quite well on the bits of wall space in this utility room, where the designer used the same pattern (Sister Parish Desmond in Espresso) on the window's roman shade to keep the eye moving around the room. With a neutral color palette and plenty of white space, the paper feels fun but not overly juvenile.

bedroom with wallpaper

Design by Sims Hilditch

Think Big

On the contrary, a pattern with a large repeat can help bring a large space back down to scale, or can make a small room open up. In this case, the designer smartly used solid bedding with subtle texture so that the paper could be the star of the show and chose an accent color on the chest that is inspired by, but doesn't match exactly, the blue in the pattern. Don't be afraid to use art over wallpaper, especially if the color palettes relate to each other.

Design by reDesign Home

Start Small

A great way to introduce wallpaper in your home is to use it in a small or secondary space such as a powder room, laundry room or out-of-the-way nook. It's less of an investment to put it in a small space, and just a peek of the pattern through the doorway adds an interesting layer to a home that invites more exploration.

black and white wallpapers by Rifle Paper Co.

Design and photo courtesy of Rifle Paper Co.

Add Layers

For those ready to embrace more color and pattern, layering multiple papers can make a strong decorative statement. A good strategy here is to stick to a color story -- black and white here -- and vary the scale of the patterns. Use restraint in the rest of the room's decor as to not overwhelm your senses.

If you would like our assistance choosing wallpaper for your home, please do get in touch!


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