MISSION: COVER-UP


Just like that new car that isn't your grandfather's Oldsmobile, today's wallpaper isn't what your grandmother remembers. Wallpaper is still wallpaper, but with more flair and personality.

According to Bob Senior, chief executive officer of Thibaut Wallpapers and Fabrics, American-made wallpaper is so in demand that retailers "can't keep it in the shelves. Designers and consumers in China and Russia are in love with American wallpaper because it has compelling designs and is a superior quality product."

While wallpaper may still be wallpaper, the name has changed to wall coverings to more accurately reflect what people are putting on their walls: vinyl-coated or natural grass cloth papers that have evolved the business into a more contemporary industry.

"The industry has changed with motifs that give wallpaper an alternative look," said LeRue Brown, director of marketing for York Wallcoverings. "Wall coverings can have material put on them such as grass cloth, wood veneer and flock, be embellished with metal studs, pearls and Swarovski crystals, or printed with sand and glass beads. Specialty wall coverings with synthetic fibers and nonwoven materials, especially popular in Europe, have advantages such as being more breathable, stronger and easier to put up and smooth out because they do not expand or contract like moistened paper."

Wall coverings, like anything else, go in trends though it still boils down to personal preference.

"It used to be that you could follow the business based on regional housing starts but nothing is specific anymore," Brown said. "We know husbands and wives are both working and don't have time to hang wallpaper. So it takes a little extra money to hire a professional paper hanger. The most important factor, though, is having the ability to envision what the wallpaper will look like on your wall. Most men don't necessarily want flowers in the bedroom, but do want a say in the design. That's why I suggest interior or home designers who can envision what is tasteful and can give buyers the confidence needed to select the right design."

Another alternative to regular wallpaper is wallpaper murals that can really alter the look of a room. Due to the popularity of TV shows like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," designers are choosing a room theme based on the love of a certain sport, animal or destination. Murals Your Way has more than 5,000 online images to enhance these types of themed rooms.

"This is an affordable way to have a wall mural," said Todd Imholte, president of Murals Your Way. "To have someone paint the mural would cost thousands. Our product is a wonderful way to personalize a room, with the average mural starting at about $500 depending on size. Our Web site offers online cropping tools that allow customers to type in the dimensions of their wall and see exactly how the mural will look on their wall."

While most wallpaper is prepasted for the convenience of the do-it-yourselfer, self-adhesive wallpaper adds instant impact and is a quick and easy way to change a room without completely rearranging it. Peel-and-stick appliqués are especially popular for kid's rooms, dens and dorms.

"We found that parents want kids to have a say in their room's décor and these peel-and-sticks are very popular," Brown said. "They are versatile and durable, leave no residue, are nontoxic and can be reused and repositioned. I'm talking about cartoon heroes, university logos, team mascots and pop art in a variety of designs and colors. Even adults can use them to add a bit of color to a room, such as a damask motif over a bedroom headboard."

Another alternative is toile, any of many plain or simple twill weave fabrics. Toile de Jouy is a decorating pattern that originated in 18th century France, usually features a repeated complex scene and is printed on cotton, linen or silk in one color on a light background.

"Toile must make its mark with just two colors," explained Gina Shaw, design director for York Wallcoverings. "But the application of limits can yield great creativity and toile is the poster child. Its real beauty lies in its fine detail and soothing repetition, so you can cover a room's every surface in toile and the effect is always that of a room enveloped in calm."

 

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