It seems that wallpaper has been around forever, or at least for 2,000 years, dating back to when the Chinese started to hang decorated rice paper on their walls. Since then, wallpaper has been popular, reflecting designs and patterns that change to suit the fashion of the times.
When modernism came into style in the last part of the 20th century, white walls with little embellishment were the preference, and wallpaper fell out of favor. Today, wallpaper is becoming more popular because new materials, as well as advancements in digital, photo and printing technologies, have brought a new generation of artists and designers to the medium.
Two recent trends in wall coverings are papers being made with uncommon materials and the return to making hand-painted or handmade wallpapers.
Some of my favorite wallpapers right now are from designers Lori Weitzner and Tracy Kendall. Both are interested in creating textural surfaces with unexpected materials such as glass beads, sequins, fig tree bark, recycled movie posters, denim and, of all things, stone! The use of unusual materials to create new textural surfaces gives these wallpapers a modern and edgy feel.
The other rising trend in wallpaper is the use of hand-printed or hand-painted techniques on paper as a reaction to impersonal mass production in modern society. One of the best out there is Porter Teleo, based in Kansas City, Mo.
Their work uses the ancient techniques of woodblock printing and Japanese wash-painting to create designs that are organic and bold, yet minimal, in distinctive color palettes. Their work is considered fine art and will add drama to just about any space.
Here are some ideas for adding visual impact to your space without breaking the bank.
Think accent: Think of wallpaper as a large piece of art and add it to just one wall in your space as an accent. Use a bold pattern or colors and let it be the focus of the room. If you should have a room with molding on the walls that creates a paneled effect, just add the wallpaper inside of the panels.
Think framed: Wallpaper can be art, so go ahead and mount a piece on plywood backing, frame it and hang it on the wall.
Think ceilings: Wallpaper doesn’t have to be just for walls. Consider applying it to the ceiling to give your room an unexpected twist.
Tim Butt owns Black Bamboo, black-bamboo.com, an Asian and modern furniture store in Kansas City, Mo.