How To Use Wallpaper In Your Home

Wallpaper can transform a space, but it’s also an easy way to make an expensive mistake. With that in mind, we asked the experts to share their best advice…
By Georgina Blaskey /

How can wallpaper change the mood or feel of a room?

“Wallpaper can create a really unique atmosphere in a room. Incorporating it also shows proper consideration for the space. Florals are especially good at making a space feel calm – it’s why wallpaper is so popular in bedrooms. In my work, I’ve found it can become an emotional part of a home, too.” – Honor Addington, founder & designer of Honor Addington Wallpapers 

“Wallpaper can hugely impact the look and feel of a room because it’s an extra layer that adds depth, texture and colour. It’s quite theatrical in many ways – a relatively small change with potentially big impact. There’s also the bonus of there being no disruptive building work required – it’s such an easy change to make.” – Kate Hawkins, founder of Common Room 

What rooms are best suited to a patterned wallpaper?

“In all honesty, most are – just be aware of what’s going on in the adjacent rooms in terms of colour. To create a sense of flow, wallpaper can be a great way of moving a colour through from one space to the next, while also introducing new textures. For example, if you have blue skirting in your hallway, you could pick a paper that incorporates the same shade of blue and use it in your living room. It allows both spaces to retain their own personality but stay relatable.” – Kate

“All rooms have the potential for wallpaper. I particularly love florals in bedrooms and nurseries – they create such a sanctuary that’s perfect for sleep. That said, it can also add freshness and incorporate a bit of nature. Downstairs bathrooms are the perfect place to go bold and bright.” – Honor 

Turner & Pocock
PAUL MASSEY

Are there rules around scale, pattern and the size of the room?

“Traditionally, it was always thought big rooms were better at taking big, bold designs. However, playing with scale can really add to the personality of a room. Downstairs loos can look fantastic with larger designs on the wall, while large bedrooms often really suit small floral motifs.” – Honor

“I agree – a room definitely doesn’t need to be big to take pattern. Some of our most beloved wallpapers have been used in the tiniest downstairs loos. I’m not aware of a rule around scale of pattern or the size of room, either – if one exists, I’d probably break it anyway.” – Kate

“Contrarily, if the space is small, then I think the busier the better for the wallpaper design – it’s what creates real impact. And definitely wallpaper all the walls – not just a statement wall.” – Emma Ainscough 

So, is the statement wall dead?

“Probably not, but it’s gone into hibernation for sure. These days, we’re seeing lots more feature alcoves, bookshelves and cubby-holes instead.” – Kate

“It’s all about context – if wallpaper is new to you, feature walls are a great place to start as it’s not too overwhelming. A feature wall behind a bed is a classic design technique, as it becomes an extension of the bed head and brings the room together.” – Honor 

Common Room
Honor Addington

How do you use wallpaper if there are sloping ceilings or awkward corners?

“Sloping ceilings can look so charming when they’re wallpapered – especially gable attics with beams. It can create a wonderfully snug, cosy feeling. Wobbly walls and awkward corners can be hard to wallpaper, so it’s best to consult a professional decorator first.” – Honor

How should you treat the ceiling if there’s wallpaper on the walls?

“White ceilings will always add height to your room but there are a lot of shades of white to choose from, so take your time finding the right one. I prefer creamier tones to add a bit of warmth, but it’s also very popular to wallpaper the ceilings in smaller, quirkier spaces like downstairs cloakrooms.” – Honor

“You probably need to look at what’s going on in the rest of the room and consider the colours in your wallpaper. We’d be inclined to pick out a colour that works with the paper – something lighter, like an off-white, if you want to retain a sense of brightness – or, if you’re trying to make the room a little cosier, something richer and more colourful. In my bedroom, I painted the ceiling a sky blue so it feels like you’re looking at the sky. I then used our Ivy Chaplet border around the cornice and doorway and painted the walls in Farrow & Ball ‘Drop Cloth’.” – Kate

Studio Steidl

What do you do with the architraves & skirting boards?

“It’s best to paint them in a colour that sits well with the colours in the wallpaper. Recently, however, we have seen clients interested in bringing back wallpaper borders – very 80s style! We’ve manufactured a few and have experimented with installing them directly above skirtings and around doorways. If you’re a bit of a commitment-phobe or you’re worried you might change your mind, borders are a really cost-effective, easy way of adding pattern to a room.” – Kate

“Architraves and skirting are a great opportunity to have some fun with colour. If you’re feeling brave, you can go bold – recently, I’ve seen bright red skirting boards paired with my Wild Strawberry Wallpaper. Alternatively, for a bedroom, it is nice to stay soft and gentle with more of a neutral background tone.” – Honor

What about the dado rail?

“If the architecture allows, a dado rail can help as you could paint below and wallpaper above to stop it feeling too busy with one bold wallpaper print. You can also play around with the paint colour below on the woodwork.” – Emma

“I’ll just add to that – if you’re trying to save money on wallpaper, it’s often quite a good idea to deliberately add a dado rail so you can paint below and wallpaper above.” – Kate

When does the pattern of the wallpaper need to match up perfectly? 

“When buying rolls of wallpaper, it is important to check the ‘repeat’. If it is a random match, it won’t matter how it’s hung (like a plain stripe). However, a floral design will typically be a vertical match or half drop. You should check how big the repeat is, as it will affect how many rolls you need to order. The larger the design, the more wallpaper will be needed. If in doubt, a decorator should be able to help with this.” – Honor

Studio Peake
Studio Peake

Is it better to stick to simple furnishings if the wallpaper is bold and bright?

“It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve in the room. Balance is important, but there are lots of ways to do that. Either you can pare back the furnishings, or you can get clever with pattern on pattern.” – Kate

“I agree – pattern on pattern is everywhere now! Especially with smaller-scale designs, it’s easy to pair them with other motifs and colours. Often with small designs, the overall effect isn’t overwhelming or busy so there’s more flexibility with the upholstery or curtains. If you’d prefer to keep things plain, play with textured fabrics and paint colours.” – Honor

Give us a good starting place if you’ve never used wallpaper before… 

“If you’re nervous about patterned wallpaper, start in rooms that are used but not for long stretches of time. For example, downstairs bathrooms are great places to experiment. Because you don’t spend a lot of time in them, you can really discover what you like, and it’s fun for your guests, too. Go super bold with colour and large scale or try a small floral with beautiful paint work – it’s up to you.” – Honor

Technical question – do you always need to use lining paper?

“The fool-proof way to ensure the cleanest finish is to use lining paper. It smooths the wall to ensure all the lumps and bumps don’t come through. However, using it can add to decorator fees, so often, just making sure the wall is smooth with no cracks can be enough.” – Honor

Would you ever recommend applying it yourself – or is it always best to call in a professional?

“This comes down to your own confidence. If you’re nervous, get a professional but otherwise, go for it. It’s not as difficult as you think – you just need the right tools and patience.” – Kate

 

For more information visit HonorAddington.com, CommonRoom.co & EmmaAinscough.com

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at info@sheerluxe.com.

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