This is not your grandmother's wallpaper

November 12, 2005|By CHRISTINE BRUN

When you think about wallpaper, chances are you're recalling the hundreds of climbing roses winding around the bedrooms in your grandmother's house. But today's wallpaper designs aren't anything like those your grandmother knew. Some very exciting new patterns, colors and textures make dramatic style statements possible.

Fashion-forward designer Maya Romanoff's design principal is "It has to be beautiful." He has hit the mark with the "Beadazzled" collection of glass-bead wallcovering that has been selected for the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. The product consists of myriad tiny glass beads attached to a flexible base material. It's expensive, but it's also fabulous. Other of his designs feature mother-of-pearl, natural weaves and metallic textures.

A good many innovations come our way from across the Atlantic, where our English cousins use a lot more wallpaper and pattern than we do. They often live in houses inherited from earlier centuries, and they need ways to cover the cracks and flaws that come with old houses - no matter how charming.


English designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is the star of the BBC hit show "Changing Rooms," which inspired the TLC program "Trading Spaces." Besides being a media star, he trained as a fine artist, and his collection of wallcoverings for Graham & Brown reveal his grasp of design. It can be overwhelming to use a lot of pattern in small spaces, and Llewelyn-Bowen discussed the role of pattern in his book, "Design Rules," which was published by the BBC:

"The end of the 20th century saw the demise of pattern in the interior with the minimalist aesthetic that sought blank, calm space with no clutter or distractions. Although the start of a new century has seen a definite move back to the eclectic use of color and pattern, most of the population still seems to have an enduring caution for the use of patterned surfaces in their homes. Despite this, the fact remains that pattern provides more than a style choice - it has an integral role in designing and giving character to our spaces."

Pattern can accentuate the strengths of your room and help to downplay the weaknesses. Using a vertical stripe on the walls can make a room seem taller. Horizontal lines can create a visual illusion by teasing the eye to move across a space and extending the length of its walls. In a small room, Llewelyn-Bowen tells us, use wallpaper on the wall opposite something that you'd rather disguise, such as an off-center door.

Another possibility is available from Design R Wall. The concept here is to create an alternative to wallpaper and paint using textile materials to produce artistic patterns. Billed as a great solution to covering old paneling or problem walls, the advertisers claim that the wall texture is suited to high-moisture areas such as bathrooms because there are no seams to loosen. It's also repairable and thus a bit more practical than traditional wallpaper.

You have to choose carefully, of course. Too much design can create a sense of clutter. But texture of any sort can cause the viewer to focus on aspects of your room rather than its size or deficiencies. Best of all, wallcoverings can lend interest and celebrate your individuality without taking up any of your precious space.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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