For the love of wallpaper

When we’re decorating a house for resell, we keep it neutral, simple and “clean”.  Natural, light colours that aren’t going to offend anyone.  Bold colours and patterned wall papers aren’t for everyone – we’re entering in to the domain of personal choice now.

However, when it comes to decorating a house we’re making our family home, then I like to put my mark down in each room.  To date, this invariably comes in the form of a carefully selected wall paper, around which the room’s theme or colour scheme is built, or vice versa.  For my home office/library, the theme was already there in the room purpose, so I chose the wall paper to suit:

Wallpapers have to be seen and felt.  The texture, the shininess, the way different light angles catch the wall paper must all be experienced first hand.  Whilst I may go online to order samples, I’ll never choose a wall paper without beholding it first.

I go alone when choosing wallpapers.  A few hours of uninterrupted “me” time – retail therapy at its best as I indulge in design, creative flair and folder after folder of different textures, patterns and concepts that could embrace the walls of my home.  I tend to do this on a quiet mid-week day in John Lewis, where the selection of wall paper offerings is in abundance and there’s a dedicated area to lay out their supplier folders and browse at leisure.  I fill in tens of sample order sheets and hand them over the counter, and within a week I usually have all the samples arrive by post.  I now have a ring binder at home where I store them all, gathering my own collection.

I never make a decision on the spot with wall paper, it’s a labour of love.  I need to look over those wall papers several times in the ensuing weeks to see how I feel about them and make sure I’m still enraptured by their design, gradually narrowing my initial selection down to the final choice for each chosen room.  If I still love it every time I look at it, then that’s likely “the one”.  Others I get bored of after looking at them several times over a couple of weeks, so they hit the discard pile.

In our current house (at least as I write) I was keen for the first time to have a wall paper up one side of the stairs to create effect in the hallway and landings.  My one personal rule with wall paper, is that I never put it on all walls of a room.  This would be overkill for me, too claustrophobic.  But a thoughtfully chosen design, contrasted with plain-painted walls elsewhere, can create a great look, albeit it may not be to everyone’s taste.

In our hallway I went for a vertical pattern with a bit of a sparkle in the design, with the cream vertical lines closely matching the paint on the rest of the walls to compliment and blend in.  The wallpaper is from Matthew Williamson at Osborne & Little’s Samana collection.  4 years on I still haven’t tired of it, although perhaps not the best recommendation for those with young kids.  Whilst it’s easy to wipe clean, it’s not straight forward to repair a hole…. mind that goes for any wallpaper.

Other times, I’ll use wall paper to add some texture and contrast to a plain painted room.  I may want to keep it fairly simple, particularly in a bedroom where the theme may be dominated more by the bedding and soft furnishings chosen.   However, wall papering one surface in a room can just break it up that little bit whilst adding a touch of warmth.  Here you can see in one of our bedrooms I chose a silver textured wall paper, and in another I chose a delicate sparkly pattern, both fairly neutral so I can mix and match with a variety of soft furnishings when I fancy a change, without having to re-paper the walls.

Here, the silver wall paper is from the Baker Lifestyle collection – Lime Wash Plain in Silver. The other is from Osborne & Little’s Pasha Collection.

There are times when I just fall in love with a wall paper and feel compelled to put it somewhere!  These are invariably those kind of wall papers that really make a statement – you either love it or hate it.  However, my house, my choice!

Enter this rather dramatic Bird of Paradise wallpaper from Matthew Williamson that I relegated to our guest loft room.  Our daughter has since taken over the loft space, but the wallpaper is there to stay.  Whilst I’d usually pair vibrant wallpapers with plain coloured bedding, our teen put her own mark down with the marble linen. Fair trade to keep my much-loved wallpaper!  

Our daughter is also a fan of wall stickers, particularly slogans, of which there are plenty to be found online.  She’s placed some of these on her doors, walls and even her shower screen, her character and individuality shining through.

Our wallpaper masterpiece resides in our lounge area – second time round at least.  Initially, we put up a more delicate wall paper identical to the sparkly one in one of our bedrooms above, just slightly different shade.  Whilst it worked in a small bedroom, it was lost within a large open plan lounge area on a very large wall.  It blended in and was almost unnoticeable.  I lived with it for a year (that’s the deal I struck with Mac!), but then knew I needed to go all out and bold.  And our collage wall came to life, encapsulating 4 of our favourite places – London, Venice, New York and Paris…

I found this online, so initially ordered one box to get a better look and feel.  Each box contained 64 sheets of wallpaper, measuring 37.5cm x 27.5cm.  It gets hung using conventional wallpaper paste, but you’ll need to get creative when putting it up as you have to decide how to overlap the panels and what goes where.  It took two of us 2 days, 4 boxes  and 256 sheets of wall mural to complete this, one looking on from a distance to ensure any duplicates prints were separated and the overlap worked, whilst ensuring my favourite cityscapes were in the most prominent positions.

We also had a structural pillar in the open plan living area, so likewise covered this up with the wall mural panels for added effect.

Our current house is therefore well and truly wall-papered, expressing our own style, tastes and personality.   It may not be to your liking, but we’re cool with that – it’s us.

Regardless, my top tip for choosing wall paper is this – give yourself time.

Time to browse.

Time to get inspiration.

Time to enjoy the experience.

Time to see and feel.

Time to fall in love with a wallpaper.

Time to change your mind

Time to ensure you’ll feel the same about it in years to come.

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