Wallpaper is back, with bold patterns for the 21st century

by Kathleen Steele Gaivin

Wallpaper was all the rage in the late 19th century and through the 20th. From flowers to geometric shapes, wallpaper could be found in nearly every room.

It began to fall out of vogue in the last few decades, but that is changing, with customers seeking bold prints and patterns and colors that make a statement.

“Wall covering is making a comeback,” said Dean Gerbasi of Pine Tree Barn.

Jeff Andrew of Garth Andrew Co said he has seen many trends come and go in more than 40 years working in the industry. He said customers had shied away from wallpaper in favor of faux finishes that use decorative paint techniques to simulate the appearance of materials such as marble, wood or stone.

“Wallpaper was, for a long time, taboo,” agreed Gerbasi, who has worked in the industry for 30 years.

He said people had tired of the floral patterns that typify the 1980s and were “starved” for plain walls. They stripped the paper and painted, for a fresh look.

Now, Gerbasi said, people are getting just as tired of solid walls.

“Everything has a cycle,” Andrew said. “We’re seeing some fabulous new things on the market now.”

Today’s wall coverings are lively, with art depicting tropical leaves, animal prints, geometric designs and marble prints, for example. A lot of the new designs “pop,” Andrew said.

“We try to get away from plain ‘vanilla’ and make a statement,” he said.

A wall covering could be taken from a digital image and cover, say, a 12-foot-by-12-foot wall, and the other walls could be covered with a textured vinyl to accent the image, Andrew said.

According to Gerbasi, bold geometric patterns are especially appropriate for small rooms, such as bathrooms. Additionally, he said, a bold, powerful pattern might be appropriate for a single wall of a master bedroom, such as the wall behind the headboard. He would paint the other walls a single, coordinating color. He said that mixing and matching the pattern with a solid color adds a tailored, sophisticated look to the room.

“Today’s patterns add more warmth,” he added.

Andrew said he has been showing clients bold samples from a Scandinavian wallpaper book he recently acquired.

“Everyone flips over it,” he said.