Sometimes, a house can have great bones, but if you are just dealing with large rectangular rooms, there is not much excitement to them. Think of walls as objects for adornment. Anyone can have blank slate of white walls to act as the backdrop for their room’s décor. But why not have the walls be a statement all its own? In addition to the right color of paint, wood, fabric, paper, stone, metal, tin, or murals create dramatic effects.
I think it is great to reflect on a large scale and create drama. Giant wall murals by Surface View (a UK company) feature grand scale graphics. MuralSources.com offers a myriad of wallpaper panels in classical panoramic reproductions of antique mural wallpaper, art panels from the French manufacturers of the 18th and 19th Century, animal prints, and many other themes.
Fabric covered walls are a long time inspiration of mine: My passion for fabrics was ignited during a visit to castles and stately country homes in Europe seeing the use of fabrics to cover walls. A flourishing art in 17th century France, fabric covered walls began as a way to insulate homes from the cold, and later became simply a way to add elegance and decorating warmth to rooms. That tradition continues to this day.
In the design world, the trend toward paper wall coverings continues unabated and choices abound. While hand painted chinoiserie wallpaper by Gracie or De Gournay (flowers, butterflies, birds and blossoms) is a centuries-old favorite of high end decorators, companies such as Temperer make an affordable wallpaper version that is made of self-adhesive, removable, fabric designs that are scalable to size and can be purchased for as little as $15/square foot.
In addition to the traditional patterns such as the chinoiserie, there are numerous companies making textured wall coverings. Elitis makes a white wallpaper with embroidered white rectangles on a white background that is truly three-dimensional and takes white to a whole new level.
Arte also makes three-dimensional wall coverings that come in matt fabric, a satin gloss fabric and a suede-look fabric in various colors. There is an added bonus: these designs can have positive acoustical effects in the room and can mask flaws on less than perfect walls.
Finally, another unusual wall covering is metallic, made of metal-leaf hand applied to dense, wallpaper-quality paper and varnished on top; it certainly provides a “wow” factor.
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Remember that you don’t have to paper and entire room. If the idea overwhelms you, just go with the end of a hall, or add a whimsical addition to a windowless area, or insert wallpaper into framed moldings to create a bold statement.
If you love the industrial chic look, you are in luck. There are so many materials with which you can line your walls: corrugated aluminum, aluminum diamond plate, tiles that replicated corroded wear of stair treads, and engineered finishes for all kinds of materials like wood that is actually made of porcelain, (not just for floors). Porcelain adds texture and warmth and requires no maintenance. All fit in well with a streamlined look.
If your taste runs to the ‘50’s, leather (or faux leather) wall panels create a retro look and can easily complement a mid century décor. Equally, real wood paneling, installed in the current fashion horizontally, is a new way of bringing in that retro feel.
Or, you could create a woodsy wall: birch poles sliced into disks and glued to plywood panels create a graphic wall mosaic. Round cork “tiles” are also an option on the market right now. Along the same lines, manufactured stone veneer gives a nice warm feel to a room.
Tiling the entire wall is a great look, but only for one wall in the room. Any more than that might result in an echo effect. I also love tin ceiling tiles and there is no reason why they cannot cover an entire wall instead. Again, take care not to do the entire room with this feature, lest you overdo the affect.
Finally, floor to ceiling bookcases are an excellent way to adorn a wall.
In short, think about your walls as another surface to cover and add interest. You don’t have to (and sometimes you should not) cover an entire room in a given treatment. Just break the “all white” habit!