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Gallery: Wallpaper is on a roll

Washington - Traditionally, I have not been a fan of patterned wallpaper. I have liked it in principle and have happily used just about any design as wrapping paper, but I have rarely been able to install it in a room.

I distinguish patterned paper from grasscloth and other solid textured coverings, which I use all the time, mostly because they, like paint, provide a neutral backdrop for almost all decorating schemes.

I have found that committing my walls to one wallpaper design not only restricts my ability to use pattern elsewhere in the room, but limits me in making changes and updates to the room over time.

For those reasons, I have installed patterned wallpaper only a few times in my decorating career, and every time I have used designs with a lot of white space that have kept the room looking fresh and not too overdone.

And when I have used it, it has always been in small rooms, like the guest loo, cupboards and cosy nooks.

But lately my ambivalence about wallpaper has been replaced by a sudden willingness to cover every wall.

Maybe it’s just because I am seeing more of it.

Retailers, as well as a myriad online sources (not to mention the classic trade-only sources), sell wall coverings that range in design from the dynamic to the demure, from the natural to the photo-realistic.

In part, this craze can be chalked up to fashion: prints are hot. And as we so often see, runway trends quickly make their way into the interior design world.

But there is another reason wallpaper is experiencing a renaissance: technology.

Advances in digital imaging have made it possible to create complicated designs that were, until recently, impossible to achieve.

Jeanne McComsey, design director of prints at US decorative textiles company Schumacher, explains that with digital imaging, “you can print hundreds of colours and textures that you could not do with traditional screen or block printing methods”.

Marble-effect wallpaper, for example, captures every vein and gradation of colour, something that could not have been achieved without digital processing.

Other wallpapers replicate malachite, snakeskin and even quilted fabric.

The same technology has enabled designers to blow up photographs into giant wall applications.

Such advances have made wall coverings more appealing to people who in the past might have rejected the trend because of wallpaper’s flowery granny image.

Other advances in application have made the use of wallpaper more democratic.

Traditionally, wallpaper has been an expensive option: the paper itself is costly, as is the installation. But pre-pasted and paste-free designs have changed that.

Another reason wallpaper is so appealing right now is that there are any number of talented designers who are showing us how to hang it right.

New York interior decorator Connie Newberry points out that wallpaper can be transformative, particularly in rooms that have little or no architectural detail.

She likes to use graphic papers in entrances to delineate the space and create visual interest.

If clients are partial to a paper but are timid about using it in a big space, she recommends using it in a powder room or bathroom.

What Newberry warns against is papering only one wall, which, she says, “looks like your paperhanger walked out on the job”. -Elizabeth Mayhew, The Washington Post

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