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Wall art
Forget prim posies and gaudy geometrics — today’s wallpaper styles are chic, stylish and contemporary


Bold and Beautiful

The bold and breathtaking Birdcage Walk wallpaper by Nina Campbell sets the stage in Kim Pollard’s Mequon master bathroom. Interior designer Kelly Neumann of Vyolette Interior Design Consulting transformed the 1980s teal and white color scheme to black, gold and ruby red to play off the colors in the master bedroom. "The wallpaper was actually one of the last things we picked for the room," Neumann says. The vanity top was replaced with polished Black Galaxy granite and honey onyx vessel sinks, and the white vanity was stained with layers of wood, black and metallic tones.

Wallpaper has gotten a bad wrap over the years. The mini florals, tacky prints and cringe-worthy colors that made their way onto the home design scene in the ’70s and ’80s have most homeowners frightened to even say the word "wallpaper." Can you blame them?

"The best way to sell wallpaper is not even saying the ‘w’ word," says Kelly Neumann, owner of Vyolette Interior Design Consulting in Milwaukee. "I get shut down just about every time. The key is showing the samples for the clients to see for themselves. I show them all of the beautiful options, and they get hooked every time."

Finding the Hottest Trends

The land of wallpaper has grown and expanded into on-trend prints and patterns, like damask and chandelier motifs, and the colors are rich and bold. "The styles in wallpaper are just as stylish as the clothing we buy," says Neumann. "There are never-ending options — timeless, contemporary, funky, you name it."

According to Mary Schaufelberger of Steinkellner Decorating Center in Wauwatosa, some of the hottest trends (see page 90) include embroidered dragonflies with metallic threads; flocked damask on a subtle metallic ground (a modern twist on a classic pattern); a hand-screened, textured, over-scaled leaf; embellished papers (for example, Swarovski crystals); and grass cloths, "which are beautiful alone, but are now being used as grounds and printed on."

Neumann is also a fan of grass wallpaper, which adds texture and an organic element to the space. "Grass paper is like a tweed coat: It’s textured, sometimes a medley of colors and timeless," she says. "My mother used it in the ’70s in our dining room and I used it in my living room in 2009. I even wallpapered the ceiling to match."

Neumann and Tom Hoffmann of Tom Hoffman Design, Milwaukee, also point to large-scale prints as a top pick. "I mean large, flocked, glittered, actual fabric wallpaper. Dimensional, vibrant deep colors, and interesting scenes or murals and subtle textural patterns," says Neumann.

Wall Flowers

Hot pink orchids pop on the walls of the powder room of Todd and Lisa Wellman’s Brookfield home. Neumann chose the Audrey Hepburn artwork for two reasons: it doesn’t compete with the wallpaper and Lisa Wellman is a big Hepburn fan. The framed print was a Mother’s Day gift for the room. Light fixtures and accessories were inspired by the artwork, but the show stopper is the wallpaper. "It says beauty," Neumann says.


Picking and Choosing

With so many wallpaper options available, it’s hard to imagine how to choose the perfect paper for your space. But expressing your personal taste, combined with the style of the space, is a good place to start.

"The style of a home or room is somewhat open to the interpretation of both the designer and the homeowner," says Schaufelberger. "Unless it’s a glaring conflict, like a small country floral print in a contemporary home. But if the owner likes florals, there is probably a contemporary or more modern version that would fit the space."

According to Schaufelberger, when picking the perfect wallpaper for your space, there are two key elements to keep in mind: scale and color.

"Most people would envision a small print in a small room," she says. "Small prints are usually busy, which results in the room feeling more ‘closed.’ Ideally, a large, open pattern will work the best in a small room. Color is also accused of making a small room feel smaller. I think the use of color adds warmth and comfort. If a room feels dark, it should be a lighting issue, not a color issue."

Mixing and Matching

Whether it’s in fashion or home design, people often struggle with mixing and matching colors and patterns. But Neumann advises to think of wallpaper as any other art element in the room, like a painting or an area rug.

"Wallpaper can be looked at two ways: To add interest to an existing space or to be the starting point of a color palette for the space," she says. "The colors within the wallpaper can be drawn out for other products, materials and accessories to be used in the room. It can also be used for that ‘final accessory’ in a basic room."

Hoffman advises to think outside the box when incorporating wallpaper into a room. "Be creative. Don’t be afraid to mix papers, patterns and colors, or just use paper as an accent on one wall or just on the fireplace if it’s one that is built out," he says.

Talk of the Town

The Thibaut wallpaper depicting a Chinese fishing village in the master bath of this Mequon home is a true conversation piece, Neumann says. "The wallpaper enhanced the timeless stone on the vanity and gave it the contrast it needed," she says. "We picked out muted tones that were already in the marble, but pumped up the colors to emphasize it even more. It gave life to the whole room."

At the same time, he cautions to not go overboard with several different patterns and colors in one space. "I always think less is more when combining patterns," Hoffman says. "Make sure one pattern stands out and the others all blend. Besides patterns you can use textures to complement patterns."

Keep in mind, wallpaper is solid, too. "Maybe a bit of texture or sparkle is all you need? That doesn’t make for a busy room, just an interesting one," says Neumann.

Schaufelberger advises that mixing and matching prints always needs a color theme. "Then, you need to mismatch the scale. For example, blue and white stripes will go with a blue, white and green floral. Then, throw in a plaid for say, drapery, which could incorporate blue, white, green and any other color," she says. "The way to mix match florals, for example, is to do a large open print with a small tight print, and make sure that they are within the same color palette."

Keeping an Open Mind

Once homeowners open themselves to the world of wallpaper, say local experts, they never look back.

"People should be aware there are amazing things happening with wallpaper. Once they start exploring their options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised at what is available to them," Schaufelberger says.

Neumann and Schaufelberger also stress you don’t need to wallpaper an entire room. "One wall can make a huge impact, and be a fresh way to incorporate wallpaper into the design of a room," says Schaufelberger. "Particularly with the design of modern homes not having traditional room layouts. For example, the open factor of large homes sometimes does not allow for an entire room to be wallpapered, but rather, lends itself to an accent wall."

Designers also stress the versatility of today’s wallpaper options, which now have crystals, printed grasses, glass beads and more. The home design options are endless. "This is not your grandmother’s wallpaper," says Schaufelberger. M