Up the wall – June 2011

Rediscovering the wonders of wallpaper – by Andrew Mackenzie

From the days when it seemed that the only place one saw wallpaper was in the back spare room of an aged aunt’s home, wallpaper has once again emerged clad in all the drama and beauty of the 21st century.

The comeback was slow at first, a modest appearance on one wall, the guest bathroom, or half-walls above or below the chair line, careful not to overpower. Perhaps home owners and decorators were simply too timid to venture into territory that had been unclaimed for so long. However, that attitude has changed as wallpaper has become more popular – now virtually a stock standard in the decorating trade.

It was the Chinese who first used wallpaper as early as 200 B.C. About 530 years ago, a French Kind had angels painted onto a blue background on 50 rolls of paper. So taken was he with his invention that he moved it around from palace to palace. These early methods were fiendishly expensive, and really only for the rich, so it was only with the invention of the printing press that wallpaper started to become more available to the (well-heeled) public.

South African designers are not slouches when it comes to keeping up with trends, and have been cautiously introducing wallpaper into homes and hotels since its comeback a few years ago. According to trend forecasters, caution is about to be thrown to the wind in the next year. Expect to see entire rooms covered in bold, beautiful designs, and wonderful transformations of previously bleak spaces. Papering a wall is a fast, effective way to create mood in any interior. Old memories of large houses with grand sitting rooms papered in embossed cream paper, patterned with gold designs come to mind – the opulence unforgettable. It is indeed time to make far braver use of this awesome medium, than has been done in the past.

Time to experiment and let the creative juices flow; think patterns as well as colours – subtle bold designs, broad horizontal stripes instead of vertical. Metallics are currently in the news, and there are some wonderful wallpaper designs with metallic finishes.

Wallpaper can give a superb design effect in a room at a far lesser cost than actually having the designer in. It creates a feeling of glamour and warmth, and provides the opportunity for getting that all important shell right.

Wallpapering is also quick and effective to instantly update or change the look of an interior – it is a temporary covering, which means that you can literally change your theme on an annual basis.

Take care not to always follow trends blindly, or even to follow your consultant blindly. Colour trends, particularly, can date and you don’t want to invest in an expensive product, which you may not like next season. As far as colour is concerned, your home reflects your personality, so go with what you like in terms of colour. After all, there’s an endless choice. The selection is huge in terms of patterns as well.

Remember, if you choose a busy pattern, minimize the furniture and other pieces in the room to avoid a cluttered look. You can play up the furniture if the wall-paper is more austere. The walls become the feature with bolder wallpapers, while the more gentle patterns create a silent backdrop, which can contrast strikingly with pieces selected as focal points in the room.

  • When you buy wallpaper make sure the batch number is the same.
  • Prepare the surface well; a light sanding should do it. Remember, an uneven surface will cause endless problems, so make certain that you have a smooth surface to paper.
  • Order slightly more than you need (an extra roll should be enough) in case of slippage, spills, tears or later mishaps.
  • Get professional advice from your local hardware store so that you have everything you need before you embark up this arduous task.

If you can’t nail down that perfect picture, you may want to consider the use of wonderfully decadent wallpaper, and allow the room to become the art.

Clearly, pictures are not good on patterned wallpaper. Let the design speak, and keep the pictures for a more appropriate wall. Some of the designs are exquisite and need no further embellishment.

Think of the French King and his 15th century angels flying around on their cerulean background, lighting up dark castles and lifting the spirits of bored courtiers. Addition can often be superfluous. Wallpaper can be expensive, especially if it is imported. Fortunately, SA designers are starting to bring out their own ranges – which means that we get to save on import duties while we support out local industry. Whether you’re budget driven or not, give local a chance before you turn to European imports – you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

While on the topic of budgets, it really is better to get a professional to hang the wallpaper for your. This means you get it right the first time. The look has to be perfect; a slip can wreck the entire effect and you don’t want to throw away expensive wallpaper. Call the expert in before you buy the wallpaper, so that you don’t over or under order rolls.

If you feel that you really have to paper the walls yourself, you may want to consider the tips above for a great finish.

In South African Home Owner by Andrew / 23 August 2012 /

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