Wall Paper Is Back

Wallpaper has been out of fashion so long that practically an entire generation has grown up without it. It’s back on the scene in all kinds of updated color schemes—and fortunately, it’s a lot easier to apply than it used to be.

You can’t be sad and gloomy when you have bright pink in your office,” says Nicole Caucino, who recently wallpapered her desk in a vivid pink-and-silver print. Caucino has also wallpapered her bulletin board and even her stapler. She might have more incentive than most—she’s the wallpaper product manager for the wallpaper design and production company Graham & Brown of Cranbury. But by personalizing her office space, she’s also highlighting the versatility of one of the big design trends of the day.

Wallpaper. It’s hip, fresh, and bold. Company representatives say sales have increased dramatically in the past five years—and both young and older customers are buying. Why? First, wallpaper makes a fashion statement. More people are looking at their homes with a designer’s eye—they want warmth, they want energy, and they want to make an individual statement. Second, today’s wallpaper designs are much more sophisticated. (Graham & Brown hires fashion designers to create its patterns.) Third (and perhaps most important to many consumers), wallpaper is not nearly as pesky to apply or remove as it used to be. The paper and glue are better in quality, meaning they stay up the first time—less paper flopping on your head. Some can even be applied with a dry paste, meaning the paper can be peeled on and off the wall in strips.

What’s hot? Metallics, bold prints, textures. Graham & Brown recently marked its 60th anniversary by revamping popular vintage prints. The British company even sponsors an annual design contest for college students. “If there’s a 25-year-old designing wallpaper, you might be more likely to get a 25-year-old buying wallpaper,” says Caucino. Graham & Brown hires top names—Julien Macdonald (a chief designer at Givenchy) and Thomas Paul of Calvin Klein and DKNY. Even the corporate buzz sounds more like the lingo of the catwalk. “Chocolate is the new black,” announces Caucino.Stacy Senior Allan, a marketing director at Thibaut, a design company in Newark, says today’s wallpaper customers either want to make a big statement with a bold design or add warmth with tone-on-tone color. Allan gives a simple reason for the renewed interest in wallpaper. “Wallpaper starts out as a piece of artwork,” she says. “People want to make a personal statement about their homes, and wallpaper allows that.”

Where to wallpaper

Best place to wallpaper? The dining room, says Allan. Wallpaper offers warmth in rooms that don’t already have soft furnishings. Also try the foyer, hallway, bathroom, and kitchen. A whimsical print in the laundry room can make spending time there feel like less of a chore. 

You might consider wallpaper for other unexpected places. Wallpaper the back of a bookcase, the inside of an armoire, or the doors of a cabinet for a pop of color.

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