If you want to turn a self-build project into the home of your dreams, you need to pay special attention to your walls. At least, that’s what William Morris would have advised. The 19th century textile designer – whose name is heavily associated with the history of wallpaper – once declared: “Whatever you have in your rooms, think first of the walls for they are that which makes your house and home, and if you do not make some sacrifices in their favour you will find your chambers have a kind of makeshift, lodging-house look about them.”
Since Morris first designed his flora and fauna motifs and patterns, wallpapers have varied dramatically in popularity and trend over the years. Today, wallpaper is very much in vogue with all manner of designs and presentation techniques for self-builders to consider.
As nature intended
Nature was frequently the subject of designs from the Arts and Crafts Movement, which Morris was a leading member of, and will always remain a source of inspiration for designers and artists. These days, there has been a move away from the ‘twee’ as people are opting for more striking designs.
Monochrome representations of flowers, large watercolour splashes of leaves and plants interpreted by strong, unnatural colour palettes are just some ways to make a bold statement with nature on your walls.
Whether the foliage design is literal or more abstract, try accessorising the room with real life plants to complement the look. As well as thinking about the types of plants and flowers you have around your home, think also about how you’re presenting them. Large, geometric copper or concrete planters are particularly trendy at the moment and can provide an interesting contrast if you’ve got colour on your walls.
An abstract idea
Geometric and abstract designs are usually associated with quite a contemporary style and while this approach – which uses modern, angular, graphic lines and colour combinations – is popular, so too are those that take inspiration from the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, wallpapers with orange, yellow and brown colours are an effective way to evoke this retro era.
One popular look at the moment is the teaming of retro feel wallpaper and colours with mid-century designed furniture, for example Eames chairs. When considering this look, think about painting one or two walls a dark grey, midnight blue or bottle green for a more contemporary twist.
Another consideration to make when opting for strong, graphic wallpapers, is how to soften the angles in the room. Think about the shape and style of your furniture, light fittings and accessories – such as rugs – and go for more rounded edges to relax any harsh lines and act as a contrast to your statement wallpaper.
Take the rough with the smooth
Whether a 2D illusion or an actual tactile surface, texture is an interesting wallpaper trend to experiment with. A key tip is to think about the size and shape of the room; use textured wallpaper in a space which is too small and you may not get the full effect and could even risk the room feeling claustrophobic. Also, look at where the natural light comes in or where you can add light through fittings and lamps, as this can really help to illuminate the wallpaper.
While contrasting wallpapers with juxtaposing accessories can be great fun and create a bold look, in the case of using texture, sometimes less is more. Simple, clean lines and surfaces can look smart against textured walls, but try to hold off rushing in with too many fluffy and feathery accessories or you could overcomplicate the space and make it feel too fussy.
When using wallpaper in a room, there are a few options – put it up everywhere or choose to use it selectively. The statement wall has been a trend for a while now and can still work well if you’re using a particularly busy or bold pattern. For a more contemporary look, don’t automatically apply the wallpaper across the entire wall. Instead, think about putting it up on just one section of the wall – for example where the chimney breast is – or experiment with applying large squares or sections against a painted background for an art motif feel.
For self-builders with little or no experience of putting up wallpaper, it really is a lot more straightforward than you may first fear. If you don’t have a wallpaper pro on hand to talk you through it, check out YouTube for some easy to follow tutorials so you don’t end up banging your head against a brick wall.