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How To Make Wallpaper Work!

Interiors

Wallpaper is guaranteed to bring a bit of a pizazz to any space, and it’s had a bit of a renaissance in the last few years. Remember when all of a sudden THAT Kelly Wearstler was everywhere? There’s a perfect wallpaper for the mid-century gem, the ornate Victorian grand dame, the architectural masterpiece or the humble cottage – and so many incredible textile designers lending their hand to create special, unique patterns.

Here, our interiors columnist Lauren Li of Sisällä Interior Design shares her expert knowledge on all things wallpaper, with a few easy tips and tricks to keep in mind!

8th October, 2021

St Kilda Penthouse project by Golden. Photo – Sharyn Cairns.

Lauren Li
Friday 8th October 2021

‘There’s a perfect wallpaper for the mid-century gem, the ornate Victorian grand dame, the architectural masterpiece or the humble cottage with everything in between.’ Lauren Li.

My noble mission in life is to convert everyone to use wallpaper in their homes. I believe there is a wallpaper design out there for everyone, and every home.

I’m acutely aware that the mere mention of ‘wallpaper’ can give a strong reaction, and frankly I don’t blame you. Does a wild 60s floral wallpaper come to mind, nicely contrasted with an equally wild floral carpet? We’ve been scared by some shocking wallpapers, I get it. But that was then – now, wallpaper has changed, and it’s nothing to be afraid of.

From the bold to the textured, patterned to the colourful, there is a wallpaper to suit most spaces. A kids room is a typical space to use wallpaper, however we’re also seeing it used to great effect in unexpected rooms, such as kitchens, hallways and even laundries. Even the humble powder room should not be overlooked. Afterall, it’s the perfect small space to use an impactful pattern, as we don’t (usually) spend a long time in there and won’t get tired of it.

Not all wallpaper needs to be patterned. A plain textured seagrass provides a gorgeous warm texture that paint alone can’t provide to a living room or bedroom. A textured grasscloth wallpaper can also be cleverly applied to joinery, such as walk-in-robe doors or to the back of a shelving unit, for a more subtle, understated finish.

Here are some of my favourer wallpaper designers, brands and stockists –

AUSTRALIA

Oat Studio – Hand painted textiles inspired by modernist architecture, by Sarah Annand.  A new collection is launching soon!

Annie Coop – Melbourne-based Annie Coop designs all these bold and colourful prints, printed to order locally on a blend of natural and renewable fibres.

Willie Weston –Another Melbourne-based business, Willie Weston collaborates with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to transform artworks into beautiful textiles for the home, including wallpaper. Artists are paid for every metre produced.

These Walls – Husband and wife duo Sara and Mark Hingle’s textiles business operates out of Burleigh Heads, Queensland. All but a few designs by These Walls have been created by Sara’s hand.

INTERNATIONAL

Anewall – Overcalled murals and playful patterns.

Hygge & West – Nostalgic patterns from films such as Back To The Future and ET!

Sandberg – Classic stripes and tasteful florals.

Bien Fait – Quirky and casually chic as only the French can pull off!

Pierre Frey – Established textile maison, for something unusual yet chic; florals, mermaids and everything interesting in between.

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These Walls ‘Basket‘ Wallpaper in Sand. Styling – Claire Del Mar. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Project by Emilie Bonaventure. Photo – Nicolas Mathéus.

These Walls ‘On Shore’ Wallpaper in Sky. Styling – Claire Del Mar. Photo – Alicia Taylor.

Sandberg ‘Anna‘ wallpaper in Hazel. Photo – courtesy of Sandberg.

Small Patterns

At first, wallpaper with a small pattern might give the impression that it will make a space feel busy. However, often the opposite it true. A small pattern reads as overall consistent surface in a room and can be layered over with artwork.

A small patterned wallpaper can fade into the background and provide an interesting layer that is not always the first thing that you notice in the space. This is most effective when applied to all of the walls for an all-over look, rather than a noticeable stop-start effect that’s disjointed.

Kelly Wearstler ‘Graffito’ wallpaper from Elliott Clarke. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sandberg ‘Pine‘ wallpaper in Green. Designed by Karolina Kroon. Photo – courtesy of Sandberg.

Sandberg ‘Siri‘ wallpaper in Green. Designed by Sara Bergqvist. Photo – courtesy of Sandberg.

‘Land of the Roses’ wallpaper from Jimmy Cricket in the home of Alexandrena Parker. Photo – Alexandrena Parker. Interior design – Hide and Sleep. Styling – Rebecca Vitartas.

Large Patterns

Paradoxically, large patterned wallpapers work well in smaller spaces, but they can also work in spaces live living rooms and bedrooms. These large patterns are experienced quite close up and they give an all encompassing feeling that is quite different to the rest of the house, so they are a great opportunity to do something expressive!

Seagrass wallpaper in the Merricks North home of Alex McCabe. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Original woollen stripe wallpaper in the mid-century home of Vy Costen. Wrapped knot wall hanging made by Vy, and Jai Vasicek tile. Other paintings and items are vintage.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli

One Manhattan Square by Jamie Bush.Photo – Stephen Kent Johnson.

Project by Sisalla interior Design. Photo – Tess Kelly.

Textured

Rather than talking about pattern here, we’re leaning into gorgeous texture. And let me tell you, there are some absolutely stunning textured wallpapers out there.

Of course, a classic like grasscloth that was popular in mid-century houses still endures today. The term grasscloth is a catch-all for natural woven fibres on a backing paper, and includes seagrass, raffia, jute, hemp and bamboo. Being a natural product no two rolls are the same, so we often see a seam where the panels are joined. This just adds to the textural appeal!

Plain, natural wallpapers can be found with various levels of slubbiness (swoon), paper, linen, cork and often a combination of fibres in various weaves. Being natural fibres, they need careful consideration if the application is suitable – and a fabulously skilled installer.

Look out for vinyl wall coverings that are incredibly natural looking and easier to maintain.

East Melbourne Home with interior design by Studio Apercu. Photo – Armelle Habib.

The powder room in Park House by Georgina Jeffries. Photo – Cricket Studio.

The home of Sydney stylist Jono Fleming. Photo – Jacqui Turk.

Mural

Nothing is quite as captivating as a mural that sprawls across a wall. A room truly comes alive when a scene is played out on the walls, providing a lush backdrop to any room. A mural can transport you inside a tropical dream, an illustrated forest or more subtly give you the feeling of a sunset inside. What a joyous space to provide the backdrop of everyday life!

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