Tempted to Try Wallpaper? 10 Tips for Finding the Right Pattern


It can add texture, color, pattern or a painterly scene — even more so than paint, wallpaper can change the entire look of a room. But given the cost and the need for professional installation (a must), wallpaper can seem like a risky commitment. If you’ve been wanting to add wallpaper to your space but keep shying away, these 10 tips should help ease some of the fear factor. Armed with good information, you can find the right wallpaper for you.

1. Clip lots of images. If you haven’t done so already, begin collecting images of rooms with wallpaper you love. Use Houzz, clip from magazines and even snap photos of wallpaper you love in cafés and hotels. Examine the images you’ve collected and see if a pattern emerges. Do you love chinoiserie, like the stunning de Gournay wallpaper shown here? Are the wallpapers in your inspiration folder more scenic (birds, toile), bold and graphic, or subtle and organic? If you can name a few themes running through the images you love, it will help narrow down your search for the perfect paper.


2. Go with your most often preferred natural style.Whether your look leans traditional or modern, there really is a wallpaper to suit your taste — so there’s no need to force yourself into a choice that doesn’t feel totally you. Be aware of what colors, patterns and styles you are most frequently drawn to, and avoid passing fads that don’t speak to your personal style. Ideally, the wallpaper you choose will be one you’ll love for years to come.

3. Know where your comfort level is on the bold-to-subtle scale. No matter the style you gravitate toward, you probably also have a preference for bold or subtle patterns. You could love laid-back country style, sharp modernism or traditional elegance — but your preference for subtle (more texture than color or pattern) or bold (big on color and pattern) patterns and colors will make all the difference in how your room feels in the end.

4. Get a sample and live with it. Even more important than sampling paint, which doesn’t require as much of a financial commitment, getting a wallpaper sample is a must. Tape it to the wall in the room where you want to hang it, and live with it for a while. Having the wallpaper in your space will allow you to match it to the other finishes and fabrics in the room, and notice how it looks at different times of day.

5. Know your goal. What are you hoping wallpaper will do for your space? Add depth, add texture and warmth, add shine, soften sharp architectural edges? And beyond these things, ask yourself how you want the wallpaper you choose to make you feel. When you walk into your space, do you want to feel glamorous, happy and optimistic, comforted? Or … you fill in the blank!

If your goal is to give your space a real wow factor, for instance, you may be disappointed if you chicken out and go with a wallpaper that is too subtle. If you are waffling, send for samples of a few very different patterns to try — you’ll never know if you don’t try.

6. Explore all of your wall covering options. From materials beyond paper, like grass cloth, sisal, cork and Japanese silk, to textured papers that mimic marble, wood and stone, the options in wall coverings today go far beyond traditional prints. If your goal is to add warmth and coziness, a richly textured wallpaper could be just the thing.

7. Consider the view from other rooms. Especially when you’re doing just one accent wall, choosing the right wall to cover is essential. Take a step back and peek into your room from the next space over. When you have your sample, experiment with placing it on different walls and viewing the paper from another room. How does it look against the color of the adjoining room? Is the peek of wallpaper a welcome surprise, or is it jarring?

8. Choose the right space to avoid pattern fatigue.Rooms where you spend the least amount of time are your safest bets — think hallways, stairs and powder rooms. Bedrooms, guest rooms, studies and formal dining rooms are also good contenders for wallpaper, adding style in spades without your having to put in much decorating effort.

Of course, that’s not to say you can’t enjoy wallpaper in a living room — just consider how likely you are to want to change up the other features in the space. If you frequently get the urge to change the look of your living room, it may be wise to stick with a subtly patterned or textured wallpaper to increase your matching options.

9. Get professional advice. Contact a professional wallpaper hanger before placing an order for wallpaper, and ask the pro to help you figure out how much to buy. If you are working with a decorator or an interior designer, he or she should also be able to calculate this for you. Each roll has to be cut and matched precisely for a seamless look on the wall, and the amount of paper you will need to make those exact matches happen will vary depending on the size and shape of your room, and the type of wallpaper pattern you have chosen, so don’t try to guess! You don’t want to overbuy — or underbuy, and run out of paper midway through the job.

10. Get more samples before committing. Most wallpaper is nonrefundable. This is because, like yarn and fabric, wallpaper is generally produced in small lots, and paper from different lots may not be an exact match in color and tone. Even if you are fairly confident about your choice in paper and have looked at the sample for eons, it’s not a bad idea to give yourself a bit more to look at before making a big commitment. Many wallpaper companies will provide big samples, so consider asking for several big samples — you may have to pay for them, but it’s worth it! Tape up the big samples side by side on your wall to get a better idea of what the paper will look like when it covers the entire space. 

And if you decide not to go with the wallpaper, you can always frame the sample to create your own unique wall art!

Tell us: Love your wallpaper? Share a photo in the Comments.

By Laura Gaskill  // Courtesy of Houzz.com