Wall Covering Comeback

Wall coverings have been making a comeback ever since the 2008 recession, but their popularity has really popped within the last year, says Vicki Wren-Eultgen, interior design consultant with Johnston Paint & Decorating.

Wren-Eultgen has her theories, supported by industry research: “Whenever we go through a downtick in the economy, people tend to spend more and buy less. They will spend more on quality, timeless looks and products that will last longer.” On the housing front, this has translated into many people opting to stay put rather than move. And this means they are looking for dramatic ways to transform their surroundings. That’s where wallpaper, draperies and window treatments come in, Wren-Eultgen says. “Just changing the paint color of the walls isn’t going to do it for them.”

The process of hanging quality wall coverings remains virtually unchanged — you must order and match rolls carefully to ensure pattern continuity whether the wallpaper is prestick or paste-hung. The looks and styles, however, are changing dramatically.

“We’re moving away from the monotone, metropolitan, loft look and shifting to big prints, bolder patterns and colors again,” Wren-Eultgen says. Borders and faux finishes have seen their day. New sample books don’t even offer options.

The new design books show patterns that play off the Pantone Rose Quartz and blue Serenity colors of the year. Even popular big-print patterns with vintage roots offer a twist of decidedly 21st-century glam, featuring soft glitter washes that add dimension and luster, especially in soft light. Re-imagined (as in the not-your-grandmother’s) versions of paisleys, plaids and stripes are popular, too.

Product designers, too, note the resurgence: “We have certainly seen a comeback in wallpaper … provid[ing] designers with trendy, bold, fresh and colorful patterns that really bring life to a room,” says Cortney Wilkins, public relations manager for Thibaut Wallpaper, Fabrics & Furniture, one of the high-end products Johnston Paint & Decorating carries. “Wallpaper is such a dynamic product and can be used in so many ways — whether it is used as an accent wall, on the ceiling, in a bookshelf.”

Wren-Eultgen agrees that Columbia homeowners are more interested in using wall coverings as statements or accents, preferring to redo a powder room or pantry, foyer or dining room accent wall, than entire rooms — with one notable exception: grass cloth used for entire rooms such as a study, library, sitting room or office. “There has been a huge resurgence there,” Wren-Eultgen says.

Homeowners love the natural look that blends well with other warmer patterns and the metal and wood surfaces that are gaining in popularity. Grass cloths offer an environmentally friendly, green decor option, too. Yet, even these more staid products are coming laced with metallic overlays or patterns, adding interest, texture and dimension.