By William Pahlmann, Fellow, American Institute of Interior Designers
A beautiful design on a fine wallpaper can lose its charm and effectiveness if it is not properly used. Wallpaper is always an outstanding motif in a room. It can set the style, period, atmosphere and establish the color scheme.
Since it’s a compelling factor, never choose a paper which takes over a room and does not lend itself to the other furnishings. Dominating wallpaper can be with you for years. Labor and installation costs are not cheap.
Styles in wallpaper are apt to change faster than styles in other furnishings, so an eccentric design may look out of date or pall on you long before you can change it. Don’t choose anything too exotic or flamboyant unless you can afford to change it every five years.
The size and species of pattern should be appropriate to the size and nature of the room. If you have a large, formal living room, you can accommodate a large formal pattern. Other elements in the room should be chosen to enhance, and not compete with, such a wallpaper.
If you use a big floral, for instance, choose a plain-colored fabric and use plain rugs. A floral chintz and a flowered carpet would be too much unless you want a busy effect. Furniture should be in keeping. Casual or provincial styles of furniture look embarrassed against a formal wallpaper.
Scenic wallpapers must be chosen with considerable care and assigned to the right place. Scenic wallpapers are most successful in rooms where drama can be accommodated. Dining rooms or living-dining areas lend themselves to this style, as a scenic paper may open up a vista as perspective deepens space. A big scenic wall in a bedroom could keep you awake.
Florals and small geometric patterns are satisfactory for bedrooms. If you like stripes, choose muted colors. Blaring stripes are not reposeful.
Small rooms, oddly-shaped bedrooms, or rooms in which eaves, set-in windows, gables or other architectural problems are present, benefit by having the same paper on walls and ceilings. In an all-over paper job, be sure and choose a non-directional pattern. (Non-directional means that the paper looks alike from every standpoint.)
Don’t try to use landscape, grilles, trellises or any other pattern which looks upside down on the ceiling. The all-over treatment is also good for other small areas such as halls or foyers, or for bathrooms or kitchens.