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Wallpaper is back - Here’s how to do it, and what to avoid

Three interior designers to share their tips on picking the best wallpaper for your space and what mistakes to avoid

By Vogue UK | August 10, 2021 | Trends

“The trend for wallpaper is hotter than ever,” top interior designer Martyn Laurence Bullard told me just around the New Year. Just look at the floral-adorned ladies’ room at Annabel’s in London, House of Hackney’s palmeral-print guest room for Kate Moss, or the psychedelic marbled walls at New Orleans’ new Hotel Saint Vincent. Even as wallpaper has been around for quite some time—who could forget Jackie Kennedy’s Zuber wallpaper of the Boston Harbor in the White House?—statistics do indeed show a spike: Pinterest reports that searches for “wallpaper” were up 41 percent year over year in 2020. Why? As the design pendulum swings from muted to maximalist, wallpaper is a fabulous way to express your own taste and eclecticism. As many of us adjust to a new life working partially—or even full time—from home, never has personal, well-executed interior style been more important.

Yet it’s one thing to admire wallpaper in the pages of a glossy magazine or in a trendy restaurant that has a whole decorating team at their disposable. When it comes to executing it on a personal level, it can feel more like a daunting commitment. What if I put it up and don’t like it? What if it feels dated in a few years? Does this even go with my furniture? To help, Vogue asked three interior designers to share their tips on picking the best wallpaper for your space, what mistakes to avoid, and their favorite prints.

Size Is Everything

Everyone we talked to reiterated the same point: when choosing a wallpaper, the biggest factor is the size of your room. “That to me determines the scale of the paper—smaller rooms, smaller prints,” says Kathryn M. Ireland. Marissa Zajack, graphic designer for The Politician turned interior designer, adds that “for large spaces, wallpaper will make a bold statement with large patterns.”

Just don’t put small prints in a big room and big prints in a small room: “Too small of a pattern in a large room can become fussy and annoying, too large can overpower the space,” says Bullard.

Take Some Time To Think

Let’s state some facts here: wallpaper is an art form. It’s also a huge pain to remove or replace. So here’s what Bullard tells all his clients: Buy one roll, and pin the paper up to your wall. Then leave it up for awhile. “Look at it in the morning light, midday light, and evening light to be sure you love the way it looks in all its moods. And if you do, well that’s the one for you,” he says.

On that note, maybe don’t try to DIY. “Hire a professional to install—you don’t want to be disappointed with the way it looks when it’s up to save money on installation,” says Zajack.

Then, Just Go For It

“Let the paper hold center stage,” says Ireland, meaning: wallpaper is meant to be a statement, so allow it to do its thing. “Go all in and be bold!” says Zajack.

Something to avoid? The statement wall—or, only wallpapering one side of a four-sided room. “I always think a wallpaper is better when used en masse. I like to do a whole room rather than the very dated ‘feature wall.’ I think that’s how you really get impact and a finished look. It can be above a wainscot or all over the walls, ” says Bullard.

Below, Bullard, Ireland, and Zajack share their favorite prints.

“For geometric and abstract, Kelly Wearstler’s wallpapers are my go-to. They have the most divine texture and have a hand-drawn feel—they’re works of art." -Marissa Zajack

You can never go wrong with William Morris. Pure acorn is a favorite.”-Kathryn M. Ireland

“I love Cole & Sons wallpapers. They are always beautiful quality and have a fantastic selection of patterns and styles.” -Martyn Lawrence Bullard

“I’m a big fan of Schumacher, particularly their more exotic patterns and their bold stripes.”-Bullard

“This Martinique by C.W.Stockwell done in a blue color way is a fresh take on a classic pattern.”-Zajack

Written by Elise Taylor.

This article originally appeared on Vogue Living UK.