Wallpaper: When it Works, it Really Really Works

Having wasted far too many precious hours of our lives peeling off hideous wallpaper from the 1980s (is that redundant? Perhaps.), my husband and I vowed we would never-not-EVER put ourselves or anyone else through that same ordeal. Thus, wallpaper has come to be banned at our house. Which, frankly, is a rash decision we made at too young an age, and now I regret it. Big time. Because wallpaper, when done right, is the crème de la crème.

Barren birch wood wallpaper brings the outdoors inside in this small contemporary bathroom. The vertical lines of the slim trees draw the eye upward, making the room feel bigger. I find myself searching for something else beyond the trees…while admiring the beautiful sun-colored pendant now highlighted. This wallpaper comes across (oxymoronically) as a neutral accent, which is a hard balance to strike but successfully and beautifully pulled off here.

For those who would rather not wallpaper the whole space (two thumbs say: this girl), a nice alternative is add a degree of temporary-ness. Simply hanging a framed sheet or two (or three) provides huge impact while requiring less commitment. This lovely bird paper in pale blue brings life and positive natural energy to the very white office space.

Geometric pattern packs a punch to an otherwise straightforward space. (I mean, it doesn’t get much simpler than bamboo roll-up shades!) This lovely b&w lattice wallpaper ties together the Saarinen-style table and streamlined geometric chairs and is set off beautifully by the pale turquoise wall color. Colorful modern art atop the wallpaper an effective use of mixed patterns and styles, each complementing the other.

Pale colors are the perfect counterpoint to the ever-moving greek key pattern in this wallpaper. The paper adds just the right amount of pattern without detracting from the serenity of the space. A well-chosen greek key pattern coordinates with the angles in the room and contrasts nicely with the curves of the lamp.

This white-based butterfly paper adds a fresh splash of color and pattern to a shiny white kitchen. The pattern draws attention to showcase-worthy dishware…a setup that works because the dishware is all white or glass, and no other colors are introduced – ultimately, this makes the wallpaper shine.


Grasscloth wallpaper looks sophisticated and earthy and brings in an important textural element in this space. Subtle (and not-so-subtle) details play a key role here, such as the curve of the sleigh footboard, the simple yet elegant sconces, classic navy, white, and grey color palette, and the ceiling medallion. The grasscloth highlights each of these elements and benefits itself from the natural light of the room. (I think the wallpaper might be too dark without that window, but as-is, it’s perfection.)

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Published by in How To, Tips, and Advice, on November 7th, 2012


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