Yes, wallpaper is back in style – with a vengeance. If you haven’t noticed, you’re probably trying to avoid painful flashbacks of your grandmother’s avocado-colored, paisley print.
Designers never really stopped using wallpaper to add interest and style to a room, but consumers largely turned away from it in the 1990s in favor of neutral color schemes and flat paint. Only in the last year or two have we started to embrace a modern version of wallpaper, recognizing some of its advantages over paint.
Not Your Grandma’s Wallpaper
Forget about the tacky wallpaper of the 1970s and 80s; modern wallpaper is sleek and stylish. It features fresh colors, textures and patterns. You won’t find any psychedelic sunflowers or over-the-top, pastel garden prints.
With modern wallpaper, you can go as bold or understated as you’d like. Geometric shapes are big right now, as are modern versions of floral and botanical prints. Metallic and textured wallpapers are also popular. You can even buy wallpaper that mimics the look of fabrics such as leather and grasscloth.
Modern wallpaper is much easier to use. It is lighter, and it goes up easier. More importantly, it’s much easier to remove. (We all have horror stories about spending days scraping wallpaper, right?)
Finally, the way we use wallpaper has changed. Instead of papering an entire room, it’s common to use wallpaper as an accent for a single wall, a bathroom, a hallway or even a ceiling. Using wallpaper sparingly creates depth and interest without overwhelming a space. Of course, if find a print you love and you’re bold enough to cover the entire room, by all means, go for it.
Cost and Installation
You can buy clearance-bin wallpaper at a big box store for $5 to $10 per roll, or you can buy designer wallpaper for $100 or more per roll. The vast majority of wallpaper falls somewhere in between, say $15 to $30 per roll.
To figure out approximately how many rolls you need for a room, multiply the width of the space by its height and divide by 50. A standard double roll covers 56 square feet of wall space, but it’s a good idea to divide by 50 to leave some room for error. For a more precise method of measuring, use these instructions from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Professional installation will increase the project cost considerably, but it’s a good idea if you’ve never hung wallpaper or if you’re not comfortable with do-it-yourself projects. Hanging wallpaper is tricky – it can be tough to match the seams or avoid bumps and bubbles. Budget about $2 per square foot of wall space for professional installation.
If you decide to tackle the project yourself, there are plenty of online resources that provide step-by-step guidance, including this video from This Old House television host Kevin O’Connor.
The first step is selecting your material. Most of us think of the traditional vinyl material when we envision wallpaper, and that is still readily available. But now you can also choose embossed (textured), fabric or foil (metallic) varieties. Keep in mind that heavier, textured paper does a better job at covering flaws in the wall than lighter varieties such as foil.
Next you’ll want to choose a pattern. Obviously, it’s important to pick a pattern that you like. But if you’re doing your own installation, it’s also important to pick a pattern that is not too difficult to match at the seams. Also, keep in mind that patterns can be used to create visual tricks. Vertical stripes make ceilings appear higher, for example, while horizontal stripes make rooms appear wider.
Lastly, you want to think about the type of adhesive. There are three options: pre-coated wallpaper that requires water to activate the paste; self-adhesive paper that you simply peel and stick; or non-pasted wallpaper that requires application of a separate adhesive. Pre-coated and self-adhesive varieties are far easier to remove. Often, they can be peeled right off.