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wallpaper-webRISMEDIA, May 4, 2009-(MCT)-After years on the decorative outs, wallcoverings are back in style. They’ve shed their dowdy association with teddy bears and tiny country prints and re-emerged in fresh, attention-getting forms.

Wallpaper’s return has followed a decline in the popularity of faux finishes, noted Stacy Senior Allan, marketing director for wallpaper maker Thibaut Inc. Maybe one too many badly sponged walls convinced us to leave the wall decorating to the experts.

But like faux finishes, wallpaper adds a dimension that a plain coat of paint can’t, Allan noted. Especially in rooms without a lot of soft surfaces – dining rooms and bathrooms, for example – wallpaper adds softness and a layering effect, she said.

We talked to some leaders in the industry to find out the latest trends in wallpaper, and here’s what’s hot:

Tradition with a twist
Ages-old motifs are still around, but in oversized forms and surprising colors. ”Everything has gone large-scale,” said Paula Berberian, creative services manager for Brewster Wallcovering Co. Familiar designs such as damask and Jacobean prints are being blown up into bold proportions and rendered in unexpected hues or metallics.

The result is a less stuffy look that can work even in modern settings. It can be busy, though, so Lilly Sosic of the Brunschwig & Fils showroom in Beachwood’s Ohio Design Centre said wallpapers with oversized graphics might be best for areas where people don’t spend a lot of time – a powder room, for instance, or a foyer.

Or cover just one wall, suggested Gina Shaw, vice president of product development for York Wallcoverings. Not only is creating a feature wall a returning trend among designers, but it’s also a less costly way to bring interest to a room, noted her colleague at York, director of marketing LeRue Brown.

Sophisticated finishes
Texture adds a third dimension to many of today’s wallpapers. Thibaut’s Allan said improvements in manufacturing technology allow wallpaper to have raised textures and embellishments that weren’t possible earlier.

As a result, many of the new wallpapers enhance rather than dominate a room. ”Wallpaper used to be really ‘pay attention to me,”’ she said. Now it tends to play a supporting yet glamorous role.

Sand and tiny bead accents are popular, as are bits of bling such as crystals and pearls. Metallics are big, too, but don’t be scared away by bad memories of disco-era Mylar. Metallics now are more subtle, often used just for accents.

Eco chic
The world is wearing its Earth obsession on its walls. That means grass and leaf designs are popular, as is grass cloth, a classic look that’s making a comeback. It’s made of reeds, bamboo and other natural grasses, Berberian said, so it fits right in with people’s desire to decorate with renewable materials.

Spa blues and greens are strong from a color standpoint, as are other Earth-inspired shades. Brown remains popular, often paired with brighter colors.

’60s flashbacks
It’s a mod, mod world, at least for the people who missed the ’60s. The bold geometrics, pop art and bright colors that exemplified that groovy decade are in big demand among younger consumers, and that’s translating to wallpaper design.

Because many of the fans of ’60s design are young enough to be decorating dorm rooms or first apartments – or even their tween or teen bedrooms – the look is strong in lower-priced, repositionable decals. The peel-and-stick decals use an adhesive like the one used in Post-it notes, so they leave no residue when they’re removed.

The renewed interest for handmade goods is apparent in wallpapers, too. Shaw thinks it’s an effect of the uncertain economy, an appreciation for things that are crafted thoughtfully and made to last.

Handmade wallpaper can be pricey, but more mass-produced wallcoverings have the look and feel of hand crafting. Berberian said many have raised inks, which give the illusion of hand-printing. Asian-inspired designs and line drawings or other simple motifs are common, too.

Such wallcoverings often include layered colors and small mistakes that make them appear handcrafted, Allan said.

Global influences
Our well-traveled society has shrunk the planet and brought the colors and designs of other cultures to Western walls. African countries and India are particularly strong influences in wallcovering design and in home decor in general, Berberian said.

You’ll see that in paisleys and ikat designs, elongated geometric patterns originally used in fabrics that have the appearance of having been stretched. Animal prints are strong, too, and you can even find wallpaper that resembles faux reptile skins so closely they almost look and feel real.

© 2009, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.