Do the paper round
It went out with the Ark, but now it's so hip it hurts. Wallpaper is back, bigger and bolder than ever, writes Kirstie McDermott
Invented in 105BC by a Chinese court official named Tsai Lun, wallpaper's first outing was as a mixture of mulberry bark, bamboo fibres, linen and hemp. If you've ever bought or renovated an older house, you've probably encountered wallpaper that's been there since, well, around the same period.
We've all seen the tree ring-alike layers of paper that peel away on home makeover shows. That's because one of the reasons wallpaper was so popular in the past is that heavily patterned offerings are a good visual disguise for shoddy building work and poorly-finished, uneven walls.
Wallpaper had its last design hooray in the early 1990s when we went hell-for-leather with stripes below, flowers above, and pattered borders at dado and ceiling heights. "We fell out of love with wallpaper because it was so prevalent in the '70s and '80s. It was what people associated with their parents' and grandparents' decor and so it just wasn't cool any more," notes interior designer Sarah Drumm, of Dust Interior Design Studio (dust.ie).
With interiors trending towards the minimalist for much of the last two decades, wallpaper has been, well, off the walls. Now though, maximalism is on the rise, and wallcoverings are back with a very decorative bang.
"The Scandi-chic trend seemed to last forever; people got really bored of it and wanted a change and so started a move towards embracing colour and pattern again. One of the best ways to do that is through wallpaper," says Drumm.
Pinterest, that social signaller of our decorative taste, records that searches for "bold print wallpaper" are up 401pc on 2018. The key here is to go big or go home - we're not taking subtle shades or restraint. Nope; it's all-out or nothing. "Large-scale florals, graphic patterns, fruit and animal prints are all bang on trend," says Drumm.
Handily, there's been a big rise in both improvements in wallpaper technology (think easy paste, self-adhesive, decals and even magnetic options) and options for where to buy. The rise of indie designers producing innovative patterns across small runs is helping to add a cachet, too.
Look to UK illustrators and designers Eleanor Bowmer and Lucy Tiffney, and the US stationery imprint Rifle Paper, for a new world of pattern recognition. And, Drumm notes, "House of Hackney really led the way on this, they've made maximalism cool again."
The temptation is to bung a bold print on to one wall as a 'feature', but resist. "The ceiling, also known as the fifth wall, is becoming a big trend in interiors. If wallpapering all four walls of a room is too much for you, then wallpapering the ceiling will give you the perfect dose of pattern," Drumm advises.
The tiny downstairs loo is often a room given the nod for an OTT print - the reason being that you don't spend much time in here, so you may as well go crazy, but if that doesn't appeal, she has another suggestion. "Wallpaper half a wall, say under or over the dado rail, which will bring some pattern into your space, but the other half of the wall remains plain, and so neutralises the boldness." Now, go forth and paper.
- Kirstie McDermott is editorial director of 'House and Home' magazine