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The Art of Wallpaper

Designer Helen Nicholson shares the comeback story of wallpaper

Article by Helen Nicholson and Mallory McKeever

Photography by Pixel Perfect Rose

Originally published in Cross Timbers Lifestyle

When I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s, we had this to-die-for grass cloth wallpapering in our dining room. I remember being fascinated with the craftsmanship of this finery, even back then. I would run my hands over the tightly woven textures and knots. I loved the uneven lines, how it had been hung purposely with its mismatched stripes. My mother served many meals in this beautiful room, and I loved staring at this paper while we dined.

Years later, in our previous home, I would wallpaper our dining room with a pattern very similar to that paper, and it was beautiful. But before that, I had the wallpapers of the early 90s that so many of our homes displayed in this era. I believe we must start here so that we can remember why wallpapering lost its place in our homes for many years to follow. 

The papering of the 90s had us using a print (grapes and vines), a coordinating stripe in the same jewel-colored tones, and then a coordinating border. We just couldn’t get enough of this look… that is, until the day we finally could! This papering was removed about as fast as it had been added to our homes, and the hand trowel texturing became all the rage! But when we were done with this trend, we also couldn’t get it off our walls fast enough.

I like to call these “the overdone years.” These walls were hard to decorate around and defined the whole look of our houses. 

So how does one even decide what trend to follow now? As designers, this is the magical question we get asked from the moment we walk into our client’s door: What is the latest trend and how long will it last? And this is where I ask this bigger question instead: What do YOU love? What speaks to YOU? What story does your home tell about YOU? This is where I believe, we must start– especially when it comes to choosing wallpapers again.

1&5 For me, birds, nature, and anything involving creation, are scattered all throughout my home. This is what speaks to me. I knew I would never tire of anything with timeless florals, little birds, or butterflies. I had already been scouring through online sites, so the moment my eyes landed on the papers, it was an easy choice!

2&6 For my client and friend, she chose something that had “a cottage vibe with a clean looking print that also had a slight flair of contemporary” from the high-performance Chesapeake Wallpapers, which are great for laundry rooms. The scale of her print was so perfect for her warm and cozy laundry room space, [it] made her feel like accessories were not really needed, it was just perfect all on its own. 

3 & 5 So, whether you are a print person, or a textured person, finding the perfect wallpaper is really just about finding what you enjoy and what speaks to you. My favorite wallpaper vendors include Texas Paint and Wallpaper, Rifle Paper Co., Brewster, and York Wallpapers. Hop online to search Wayfair, Etsy, and Pinterest for the latest styles too. But most of all, if it speaks to you, go for it!!