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Wallpaper. Just the mention of it conjures agitation for millions of homeowners. For some, it’s the nightmare of trying to remove it. For others, it’s the daunting task of trying to apply it.

For years now, wallpaper has been living with its bad reputation. Even interior designers, who could appreciate the virtues of wallpaper’s textures and decorating qualities, declared wallpaper outdated.

But lately, with design trends changing, wallpaper is becoming less of a dirty word. In fact, it’s gaining new popularity. This isn’t your grandmother’s wallpaper, the kind with enormous cabbage roses and  gingham checks. While you can still find rolls of ditzy florals, wallpaper today comes in a variety of modern prints and textures, giving the old-school material a modern freshness.

A Little History

Wallpaper dates way back — prior to paint chips, Sheetrock or central heating. Some historians believe the earliest wallpaper emerged in the 1400s when Flemish craftsman decided to find a more affordable replacement for wall tapestries. Also popular in China, wallpaper was for centuries a way to decorate the home as well as block cold drafts.

Wallpaper in Your Home

While applying wallpaper may not be as easy as rolling on a coat of paint, it has come a long way in terms of application.

  • Pre-pasted wallpaper: The glue is already applied to the wallpaper and just needs to be activated with a wet sponge
  • Dry wallpaper. You apply the paste to the wall and apply the wallpaper over it.
  • Self-adhesive wallpaper. This works much like contact paper and can be applied straight to the wall.

Wallpaper no longer needs to be a floor-to-ceiling application. Some bold or bright prints work perfectly on a single wall or even half-wall above a chair-rail trim. Depending on the size and shape of the room,  wallpaper is an easy way to add visual interest and depth to a home.

Focal Point

Rather than hang a large piece of art, try applying a bold wallpaper print on a feature wall. For example, this Portland home, pictured below, uses wallpaper to define the wall behind the bed as a focal point.

2900 SE Martins St, Portland OR
For sale: $699,900

Texture

Wallpaper comes in a variety of materials and textures — from subtle to pronounced. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter’s high-end, Manhattan penthouse, below, features wallpaper in micro-suede.

845 United Nations Plx Apt 88B, New York NY
For sale: $17.95 million

More affordable textures include jute, metallic or glasscloth, which is shown in the bathroom in this California apartment.

5401 W 149th Pl Unit 11, Hawthorne CA
For sale: $549,900

Jazz up Small Spaces

Despite what you would think, a small print or really intense print works well in bathrooms where there is little wall space. Juxtaposed against cabinets and tile, printed wallpaper is interesting, not overwhelming. This Sammamish, WA home features a modern print in its master bath.

128 245th Pl SE, Sammamish WA
For sale: $699,950

Designer Papers

From vintage rolls to digitally reproduced, wallpaper is now available in a wide variety of styles. Actress Christina Ricci’s home features a whimsical print that fits perfectly with the rest of the mid-century modern style of her Los Angeles home. Her house is currently available as a rental.

5417 Red Oak Dr, Los Angeles CA (above)
For rent: $8,000/month

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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