Friday, August 14, 2009

Wallpaper Alternatives

I've noticed a trend recently in design magazines and on the Internet: wallpaper is making a comeback. Now, I don't want to be a wet blanket, a party pooper, a killjoy, or any other uncool idiom, but I have to throw my opinion into the mix. I think wallpaper has lots of great decorative uses...but gluing it to the wall is not one of them!

There; I've said it. Now you may be thinking that I'm very uncool. You may be thinking, "She doesn't like wallpaper?! No wonder she was always picked last for P.E. teams in school! It's because she's so uncool." But you're wrong there. The reason I was always picked last for P.E. teams was actually because I once accidentally scored a goal for the opposing team in floor hockey. Plus, I was a pretty slow runner. And I had a tendency to duck whenever a ball was kicked, batted, or thrown in my general direction. Even a ping-pong ball. So, you see, it had nothing whatsoever to do with my views on wallpaper.

And the truth is that I do like wallpaper--in smaller doses. You can frame it, collage with it, decoupage it to the front of a dresser, use it to line drawers, cover storage boxes with it, line the back of a cabinet or a bookcase with it, or make cards with it. There are so many great things to do with wallpaper. Just don't glue it to your wall!

The thinking behind the recent resurgence in wallpaper's popularity goes something like this: "Today's wallpaper is different: it's pretty!"

Oh dear. This is dangerous thinking. Dangerous. Need I remind you...

What was "pretty" in the 60's?

What was "pretty" in the 70's?

What was "pretty" in the 80's?

My biggest beef with wallpaper is that it can be so hard to remove. Just ask anyone. I think a great icebreaker activity at a boring corporate training would be to have people discuss their traumatic experiences involving wallpaper removal. That would really get people talking.

I once helped a client remove this wallpaper: (Note: this particular client is also a good friend, which explains why I would sacrifice my sanity in this way.)

May I tell you how tiny each piece of wallpaper was when it peeled off of the wall? Confetti-sized. The size of a Post-It-Note designed for dwarf hamster. Maddeningly minuscule.

Now, you may be thinking, "I don't care if trends change! I will always love this beautiful wallpaper." That may be true, but unless you are 100% sure that you will never, ever have to sell your home, installing wallpaper is a risky move at best. Because wallpaper can be very intimidating to buyers, many of whom will have had negative experiences with wallpaper removal in the past. Even if you have impeccable taste and chose the loveliest, most expensive wallpaper on Earth, there's a good chance that your buyer's taste will be different from yours.

So what are you to do if you want to give your walls some pizazz without gluing wallpaper to them? Here are some wallpaper alternatives...or "wallternatives".

How about using a paint technique? One of my favorite faux finishes is this linen look (called strie) which is created by dragging a dry brush through a glaze mixture. You can find an instructional video here.

You can also use stencils. Cool stencils, not the corny country apples and mama ducks that you remember from the 80's. Have a look at this lovely room by Patty Henning of Fabulous Finishes. Patty used both a strie technique and stencils on the walls. The fun stencil on the ceiling is a nice touch. I also love the use of beadboard on the ceiling.

You can paint your own wallpaper freehand like the patient and talented Britt at A Penny Saved.

Or use glaze (over a painted base coat) to create bold stripes. You can find simple DIY instructions here. (Image below is from Barbara Dalton's website).

If you feel hopelessly compelled to adhere something to your wall, why not experiment with wall decals? There are a number of larger companies offering wall decals, but did you know that Etsy sellers also offer close to 14,000 unique wall decals in their virtual shops? Here are just a few of many fun (and removable) options. (Click on the images to be taken to each Etsy store.)

If you just have to hang something wallpaper-like on the wall, Wallbands may be for you. Wallbands just need to be dipped into water and applied to the wall in any direction. The manufacturer promises that these can be removed without steam or fuss--just grab a corner and gently pull the whole band off of the wall. I'm skeptical--these give me flashbacks to wallpaper border removal--but I think that the vertical application is an interesting idea.

This post has been shared at Hooked on Houses, since I'm hooked on wallpaper alternatives.

Do you have any wallpaper stories--positive or negative--to share? Do tell!