Contemporary Wallpaper Design Trends

From traditional and classic to bold and graphic, wallpaper is back in a big way. We can't get enough of its room-transforming, style-defining powers. Take a peek at what two experts are loving about wallpaper.

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May 29, 2015

Contemporary Wallpaper Sets the Mood

"Wallpaper goes way beyond what can be done with paint," says Cadee Wilder of Kreme. "Painted finishes, although great in some spaces, don't equate to the luxury and opulence a few rolls of wallpaper can provide."

She adds, "Designers and their clients are looking for ways to impart the 'wow' factor without having to add more costly items, such as tiles, stone or expensive textile fabrics, and wallpaper does a great job of it." This pattern, Painted Gate, is an updated take on Moroccan-inspired designs. "Play up the theme," Wilder suggests, "or take a less literal approach and play up the modernity of its larger-scale pattern." Photo courtesy of Kreme.

Create Coziness

When tackling an oversized room or high-ceilinged foyer, Melissa Gulley of Melissa Gulley Interior Design loves wallpaper to create a more intimate feel. "Divide the space in half by using a chair rail and applying wallpaper to the bottom half." A wainscoting-wallpaper combo offers a similar effect. In the master bedroom here, Gulley added crown molding as well, visually altering the space to appear less cavernous and cozier. Photo courtesy of Melissa Gulley.


"Digital printing has enabled wallpaper designers to go in directions that have never been available in previous hand-printed versions," says Wilder. Check out the cool, ombre effect of their Acorn Gate wallpaper. "It's a very tricky screen-printing style that is easily achieved with modern techniques," Wilder explains. New advances in design mean new, fresh looks for your walls. Photo courtesy of Kreme.

Instant Interest

"Wallpaper has an amazing way of warming up a room and creating rich, layered sophistication," says Gulley. In this dining room, Gulley used unexpected grass-cloth wallpaper below the chair rail, adding texture and interest. "Grass cloth did just the trick," completing the elegant and dramatic room with its unique texture and natural color gradation. Even better, the paper was applied horizontally, which "saved on paper waste, reduced labor costs and avoided seams," Gulley enthuses. Photo courtesy of Melissa Gulley.

Size Matters

Just as wallpaper can help change the feel of a too-big room, it can rescue a too-small space as well. A clever way to open up a room with low ceilings? Says Gulley, "Try a vertical stripe," like the crisp pattern shown here, "to create the illusion of height." And if you've ever avoided wearing horizontal stripes for fear of appearing wider, then you understand why Gulley suggests just that pattern to make a small space seem roomier. Photo courtesy of Kreme.

Little Gems

A busy, whimsical or interesting print can transform a small room into your home's "jewel box," says Gulley. "Powder rooms are one of my favorite places to use wallpaper. You can go big and bold without fear of committing to too much." Here, she coordinated the window treatment to the wallpaper for an ultra luxe, dramatic effect that might overwhelm in a larger room, but suits this space perfectly. Photo courtesy of Melissa Gulley.

Make a Statement

"Wallpapers can make almost any type of design statement," says Wilder. "Soft, organic lines lend a soothing touch to a room, whereas bold geometrics can really add vibrancy and energy to a dull space." Photo courtesy of Kreme.

"Try using damask prints, like our Folk Flower, for a more traditional look," suggests Wilder. "Pair with modern accessories or furnishings to keep the room feeling current."

Go Bold

"Choose a bold graphic wallpaper, such as these interlocking chains, to instantly create visual energy in a room," says Wilder. Photo courtesy of Kreme.

Get Warmed Up

"This foyer had dark, beautiful woodwork but little natural light," Gulley explains. "Even when the walls were painted white, the space seemed dark and flat, taking away from the woodwork." She hung this gorgeous, warm tortoiseshell-print wallpaper and "instantly the woodwork began to sing!" This is a great example, Gulley says, in which "the architecture was already there, it just needed complementing — a perfect job for wallpaper." Photo courtesy of Melissa Gulley.

Right About Now

"Right now," shares Wilder, "I'm loving everything that has a handmade look to it! Rather than editing artwork to computer perfection, leave the natural imperfections to lend softness and an organic quality to any space."

Think: Bespoke, handmade and eco-friendly. "People want things that add real value and meaning, along with things that are handcrafted," Wilder says. "This Spiro pattern was inspired by the clean geometry from a Spirograph and was painted by hand, imparting a sense of uniqueness. No two lines are exactly the same. These natural imperfections are what make artwork special." Wilder suggests accessorizing with other handmade, organic-looking pieces to enhance the "handmade with care" theme. Photo courtesy of Kreme.

Pick What You Love

"Avoid wallpapers that appear too trendy, or too far out of your comfort zone. If you have always loved a blue room, go for a wallpaper with blue in it. Timeless classics are just that: timeless. You won't want to repaper a room every year, so pick a wallpaper you could live with for a long time," says Wilder. Design by RMSer BelleInteriors.

Focalize It

"I find that sometimes my clients like the idea of wallpaper but are nervous to commit to a whole room. By putting it on just one accent wall, say behind the bed in a bedroom or to create a focal point behind a sofa in a living room, you can get the upside without overdoing it," says Gulley. Design by Michael Moeller.

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