Wallpaper and Murals: Comeback Kids

Wallpaper and Murals: Comeback Kids

Wallpaper is back in the spotlight. It has morphed from the dainty florals in period homes or your parents’ or grandparents’ houses to become a fresh, lively and distinctive alternative to paint, although it never disappeared completely from the scene. For years, paint simply stole the show with new colors, new finishes and new colors of the year from different manufacturers.

Reasons for a wallpaper comeback are many. There are new processes that make them easier to apply and remove, there are fresh designs that have become far more colorful, bolder, and exuberant, and there are new mural variations that are quietly elegant and striking too. The innovative ways of using wallpaper and murals on one focal wall or on the ceiling is expected to be the biggest trend this year. And the fact that they can personalize a room has been a major impetus, as some home owners and design professionals are tiring of prosaic white, cream and now even gray walls. Yawn. Among wallpapers’ biggest fans may be Millennials who don’t have a negative association with this medium since they didn’t grow up with it. As such, it seems so fresh, says Carol Miller, Public Relations & Product Marketing Manager at York Wallcoverings in York, Penn., the country’s largest manufacturer and probably its oldest in continuous operation.

Three very different approaches from three design-manufacturers:

Classical landscapes. Susan Harter started Susan Harter Mural-papers after painting murals for 20 years. Four years ago, she developed a way to print her lyrical landscape wallpaper designs, using a proprietary method her husband developed. "I saw a gap in the market. A wallpaper hanger would start installing a paper and maybe the measurements were wrong, so they had to wait for more to arrive. With my method, we—my artists and I—tailor each design to the exact measurements the home owner or a designer provides and account for where no paper is needed—windows and doors—so there’s also no waste," Harter says. She also can custom color if desired, expand or enlarge one area of the design if the client likes, and will give free samples, fine-tune an almost finished design, send out an elevation of what the mural will look like before being hung, and simply keep going until the homeowner is completely happy. "It’s a lengthy, bespoke process," she explains.

Currently, Harter offers seven main designs, but each comes in many colorways so she counts two dozen options available. The look is a novel combination of traditional landscape but in a fresher, looser version than some classic, more formal European and American designs. Harter’s have found their way into living and dining rooms, powder rooms, bedrooms and almost any room in a home. Prices range from $31.50 a square foot to $38.50 a square foot and are available through design showrooms and online; her company is based in Townsend, Wash. For more information, visit the company online at www.susanharter.com or call them at 206-488-1926.

Powerful wows. Where else but in hip Brooklyn, N.Y., might a big change in how wallpapers are supposed to look originate? Jon Sherman began his company, Flavor Paper, 13 years ago. His firm has become known for its exuberant take on Andy Warhol designs, from portraits of Queen Elizabeth–great if you’re a lover of The Crown, Marilyn’s lips (Monroe, of course), flowers, all of which are licensed in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The result is designs that give wallpaper a more art-like look than just background material.

The company also designs and prints papers—through hand screened and digital print methods, and can add another level of visual interest by embedding some with crystals and metallics, and basing others on photographs such as its charred cedar pattern for a gritty urban look. There are also mural papers and a DIY EZ Papes line that is digitally printed with water-based odorless Greengard certified latex inks on a pre-pasted ground with water-activated paste so it’s easy to install by dipping the paper under water and hanging. That paper is easy to remove, too, so there are no problems when taking it off a wall or ceiling to vacate a space, a dilemma sometimes for renters who don’t want to be charged extra for damage. David Nosanchuk’s "In Between" design is part of a series based on photographs from Rome and New York and a contemporary translation of art and architecture into a narrative. A new collection from the company called "Fempower" will debut March 8 and was designed by five female artists who each created distinct wallpapers. Any of the company’s papers are produced so that home owners can customize colors; papers also come untrimmed and unpasted and packaged to minimize waste during installation. Most are at the higher end of the price scale; the company’s charming "Brownstoner" and "Brooklyn" toile wallpapers, both EZ Papes sell for $200 a roll. For more information, visit www.flavorpaper.com, or call the company at 718-422-0230.

Tradition updated. York Wallcoverings, based in York, Pa., since 1895, has always been in great demand for its myriad lines, especially from interior designers who have viewed it as a way to transform a room with color, pattern, and texture. Carol Miller sees a resurgence primarily among the younger generation who like the ease of applying and removing many of the wallpaper choices, particularly the company’s Sure Strip™, nonwoven and vinyl designs. Among its own patterns, Miller believes that York’s grass cloths have a renewed popularity, offering more colors and more textures in the papers themselves, such as metallic threads due to new technologies. In addition to grass cloth, other popular patterns are geometrics, contemporary organics and faux veneers such as wood, brick and stone that give such an effect that one must touch to find it’s not the real thing. This company’s designs range from a modest $23 a double roll to hundreds of dollars for rolls that include glass beads, real cork, mother-of-pearl and mica chips. For more information, visit www.yorkwall.com or call 1-866-967-5925.