It only takes dipping a toe into the river of wallpaper options out there to realize that they really are boundless, hedged neither by historical precedent nor trend. A bucket of paint might be relatively easy to apply, by comparison, but wallpaper can open up worlds. Take you outside. Or to the countryside. Back centuries. To otherworlds.
And all without leaving your favorite room.
For those considering wallpaper for the first time, the following is a non-exhaustive roundup of materials, styles, and patterns that exist, sorted by what kind of thing you might be looking for. We've also reached out to some wallpaper-loving interior designers to hear about their favorite papers in different categories.
And since we've just launched a line of temporary vinyl wallpaper in our shop (renters, rejoice!), we'll start with that:
for renters & commitment-phobes
Removable wallpaper! It's here. A relatively recent player in the wallpaper market, temporary papers are easy to put on the wall (the best are forgiving of "do-overs" and can be easily stuck and un-stuck) and, most wonderful of all, easy to remove when you're ready for a change.
Blogger and designer Emily Henderson included Tempaper in the list of her favorite wallpapers she sent me, "as they are perfect for rentals and temporary spaces" (she didn't even know we were launching them!).
And after applying, and then removing, them all for our in-house photo shoot, we can attest: They're dramatically transformative, and easy to put up even if you're not a perfectionist.
You like croutons in your salad? Blankets that could be classified as "chunky"? Then natural, woven wallpapers might be for you. They're sort of like fabrics with a sticky backing, and they come in a range of fibers: silk, linen, hemp, paper, and "grasscloth" (made from seagrass or jute), amongst others.
The look is hard to beat, but there are some downsides, practically speaking: These tend to be delicate and absorbent—for the same reason woven, natural furniture can be—so best to keep out of muggy bathrooms, and any rooms where the walls might get dirty (like kids' rooms), as they're
impossible not easy to clean.
On the lighter-touch, less fussy side of textural, there are hand-stamped and hand-painted wallpapers, which have a subtle variation to their surface, plus other kinds of coated papers that have a little ripple to the touch. Emily Henderson loves Farrow & Ball's wallpapers for this reason, as they all "feel so special and unique."
And on the far-out (and fuzzier) end of the spectrum, there's also the option of flocked wallpapers, which have tiny fibers adhered to the surface of the paper for a sort of 3D, velvet feel. Admittedly, this style didn't escape the 70s without a sour reputation—but new variations and designers are bringing it back.
You can also find embossed papers, which are pressed in places to create a raised design.
For the Cheeky
Traditional textures and patterns have their place, but some of the most interesting wallpapers these days are sought after for being just the opposite: winking, or just plain whimsical in design.
For her clients, the wallpaper-loving designer Frances Merrill, of Reath Design, gravitates towards both illustrated and photo-real playful wallpapers—both of which can give a room a smile. (Specifically, she's been springing for Maharam's Dice by Paul Smith, and a Fornasetti print by Cole & Sons, both pictured below.)
For Lovers of Shiny Things
A metallic effect can be achieved using foil or special inks on the surface of the paper, resulting in bronzes and coppers and silvers (and lots of in-between shades you wouldn't expect).
Xandro Aventajado, of Current Interiors, uses metallic wallpaper all the time—Pas De Trois, by Juju Papers and Folded, by Flat Vernacular, are favorites (and pictured below).
A metallic wall is about as bold of a look as you can spring for, so the curious might opt for a naturally-inspired design to balance out the bling, or aim for light, geometric lines or painterly splashes:
For Tricky Types
Wallpapers can be marbled to look like, well, marble, and there is family of other papers meant to imitate other surfaces—from brick or tile or wood to concrete or architectural features, like bookshelves.
For Those Happier Outdoors
There are also wallpapers that will convert an indoor wall into an outdoor wonderland, whether by way of impressionistic florals or oversized palm leaves, à la the Beverley Hills Hotel (these two are both from our removable Tempaper line):
Or you can stick to florals, which come in wee repeated patterns or, popular recently, large-scale renditions. (Feathers count, too, right?)
Further out yet, celestial patterns will fling you to another realm entirely—by way of glittering star patterns, below left, or something as wild as these wallpapers made from NASA's outer-space photography, below right:
For the vintage-lover
If your happy place is strewn with peeling, floral wallpapers from ages past, there's hope for you yet. Unused rolls of vintage wallpaper, if you can get your hands on them, can be applied to new walls using a wheat paste (we fell in love with the selection at NYC-based vintage supplier Secondhand Rose, and highly recommend it to anyone seeking period paper).
If seeking out a vintage wallpaper shop isn't on your agenda, certain new styles will lend the same effect: mural-style papers, with no repeats, which will turn a big wall into a big piece of art. As will antique-inspired papers, like the design inspired by a painter's dropcloth below:
These days, narrative papers like toile exist in every scene and color scheme imaginable, from muted, old-timey illustrations to bright, tongue-in-cheek depictions of modern life:
Stripes! Up or down, criss-crossed or wiggly like they just blew in from outside, thin or thatched into a plaid. Stripes are always in, and calming in their clean simplicity.
There really is a wallpaper style that will suit every look imaginable (unless you're not into texture, color, pattern, or having fun, of course). The first step is just to start looking around—and scrolling through some of the selections of companies linked above—to see what's out there. Then, of course, roll with it.
Do you love wallpaper? Tell us how much, in the comments.