Trend Report: What’s Up With Wallpaper?



Suddenly, bold patterns are everywhere. But do they have a place in the modern home? We asked a Brooklyn design writer who knows a thing or two about the dos and don’ts of decor.

Stadt Architecture’s Christopher Kitterman transformed a generic studio in Chelsea into a bright one-bedroom apartment for Vancouver couple Dale Steele and Dan Nguyen. The living room features a Hans Wegner GE290 lounge chair upholstered in leather by Spinneybeck, a round rug and Cobble Hill Adams sofa from ABC Carpet & Home, a Pedrera coffee table by Gubi, and a Bob side table by Poltrona Frau. An automated lift raises a TV from inside the custom millwork under the window. Acid-etched tempered glass doors lead to the bedroom.

Step into any home’s powder room today and chances are good that you’ll encounter bedecked walls that you’ll either find tasteful or tawdry: Wallpaper is back, friends. And it’s not just for trad manses and country-fresh farmhouses. In modern and contemporary spaces—where minimalism once ruled—designers are warming to the idea of wallcoverings, particularly in powder rooms and guest baths. 

No less a source than Pinterest has reported a 401 percent increase in searches for “bold print wallpaper” so far this year. It’s the opposite of the reverence for honestly expressed building materials, fetish for Scandinavian simplicity, and preference for paint that has dominated for more than a decade. So, is it sacrilege to ornament architecture with wallpaper? It’s worthy of exploring. 

The Lotus wallpaper pattern by Galbraith and Paul is produced in-studio with the help of a digital printer.

The Lotus wallpaper pattern by Galbraith and Paul is produced in-studio with the help of a digital printer.

Photo: Nathaniel Wood

In some cases, wallpaper is practical. Consider historic homes where there are restrictions on radical structural changes—even if they previously underwent disastrous interventions. In my neck of the woods, Brooklyn, there are a number of historic districts with homes plagued by awkward, outdated floor plans and appendages, oddly shaped and tight spaces, or windowless and subgrade dungeons. Architects and designers are modernizing these to a degree, attempting to respect and preserve the original turn-of-the-century design intent. This is where, just like bold paint color, wallpaper can make a huge impact.

The powder room combines Farrow & Ball wallpaper with a Cedar & Moss sconce and CB2 mirror.

The powder room combines Farrow & Ball wallpaper with a Cedar & Moss sconce and CB2 mirror.

Photo: Kate Glicksberg

In a Brooklyn brownstone renovation by Urban Pioneering Architecture, for example, a small powder room within the home’s rear extension could have come off as super austere, were it not for the swirl-emblazoned Farrow & Ball wallpaper (and ceiling finished in a coordinating paint color). 

Photo courtesy of H+O Design

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