I’ve nursed a healthy grudge against wallpaper since the age of nine— the result of a fleeting fascination with a purple floral pattern that looked like it came straight from the wardrobe department of Little House on the Prairie. I begged my parents for it but hated it after six months (duh) and was put to work scraping it off.
But wallpaper — and its reputation for being dated and difficult to deal with — has changed. Thanks to new formulations, it’s easier than ever to remove and move on from. “Wallpaper is much more user-friendly,” says Maria Raco, founder of Toronto-based luxury wall-treatment importer NewWall, about the new easily strippable types — from breathable non-woven fabrics to peelable papers. “So if you buy a crazy banana-leaf wallpaper that you love but a year later you’re seeing it in all of your friends’ homes, it’s easy to [switch it up].”
Today’s wall treatments are also far more visually appealing. We’ll always have a soft spot for greige and white paint, but interior design is moving away from the toned-down minimalism of years past — a welcome change for a nesting-obsessed generation who see their apartments as an extension of their evolving personal style. “People today take the act of curating their own homes as a true creative expression,” says Allison Polish, president of Spoonflower, an Etsy-type wallpaper and decor online marketplace. As a result, “home decor is trending in a way we haven’t seen in years,” she says.
Helping the cause? Pinterest, for one: Decor inspo is just a scroll and a click away. Also, we are no longer limited to the selection on offer at our local hardware store (the source of the dreaded aforementioned pioneer-esque purple florals). Spoonflower, for example, carries over 500,000 digital designs from vendors around the world, and if that Drake print you dreamed of is MIA, you can upload your own design. If you prefer bespoke designs of the non-DIY ilk, there are lots of customizable treatments on offer, like those at La Scala Milano, an atelier in Milan where artisans hand paint every swirl. Mural treatments — non-repeating patterns customized to specific dimensions — are popular in Europe and gaining traction here in Canada. (The brand Murals Wallpaper’s digital patterns are insanely realistic — from the detailed “is that actual marble?” to an extreme close-up of a creamy-white knit that will make your bedroom look like you’re living inside a Brunello Cucinelli sweater.)
Fashion, of course, got into the home-decor game early. Countless designers, from Oscar de la Renta to Hermès, have home lines, and more are joining the ranks each year. Of note in the past year: Etro’s baroque-paisley and brocade prints and Cynthia Rowley’s fantastical collab with Tempaper, which is all vivid golds and greens reminiscent of Klimt’s The Kiss. Polish sees more of these saturated colours in our future. “Large-scale watercolour florals, tropicals and greenery are all really powerful right now,” she says.
If you’re worried about making a misstep like mine, start small. Line the backs of bookshelves or the risers of stairs with prints. More adventurous types can try major overhauls, like papering the ceiling, doors or kitchen backsplashes. There are also companies like Wall&decò that offer rain-resistant treatments that can be installed over cement and paint. “Follow your heart and your personal style,” cautions Raco. “If you end up going with something that is too forward for your taste, you may never be comfortable with it.” Purple florals included.
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of ELLE Canada.