Cindy Bardes Galvin uses wallpaper to cover closet doors.
Tired of blank walls? Paint is the little black dress of décor, but wallpaper is the scarf that can give them any attitude and style you desire. Such versatility comes from the vast array of options that are available today. “There’s nothing that hasn’t been attached to a backing: shimmering shells, exotic wood veneers, all kinds of ground-up metals, natural fibers, grasses and reeds, sumptuously printed fabrics and even beads and ground-up pearls,” says Chicago interior designer Jessica Lagrange.
In fact, it was Chicago artist Maya Romanoff who pioneered the process of affixing glinting metals, slivers of wood, crushed stones, sparkling beads and more to backings that can be affixed to walls, making a major name for himself in the process and starting a trend that has been copied by many other firms. His influence accounts for the fact that “more wallpaper products exist than ever before, and the range is growing all the time,” notes Glenn Giacinto, VP and co-owner of Professional Decorating & Painting Inc. in Niles, and Romanoff is one of those sources handed from designer to client in the highend design world (he was recommended to us by four designers).
But such diversity comes at a price, and we’re not talking just the fiscal sort— though the cost of those sumptuous, seductive, wildly creative wallcoverings can be mind-boggling. “I’ve had jobs where the wallpaper alone cost tens of thousands of dollars, and we’re talking one room,” says Giacinto.
Equally daunting can be deciding which one to use. The endless array of textures, patterns and types can paralyze even the most decisive client, which begs the obvious question: What really counts? Ironically, it isn’t the mechanics, though wallpaper’s substance does dictate how you can use it. “Wallpaper is either paper or vinyl. The ones made of exotic materials or fabrics have paper backing, and some papers are also vinyl coated, but they’re all still basically paper. Vinyl is sturdier, moisture-resistant and scrubbable,” says Jeff Hester, vice president of Hester Painting & Decorating in Skokie and another source highly touted by designers. So, bottom line: Many papers can be fragile and unsuitable for high-traffic areas, while vinyl is a workhorse.
Wallcoverings also come in a healthy array of sizes and prices. “There’s no real standard anymore,” notes Hester. While rolls used to be 27 inches wide and five yards long, today they can range from 20.5 inches to 60 inches wide for panels, and rolls can run 60 yards or longer. Rolls can start as low as $10 for a mass-produced product, while handpainted panels can top $1,000 each.
|TOP: Romanoff’s Bedazzled wallcovering being made by hand in his Skokie studio; BOTTOM: Artisans handpainting Maya Romanoff’s raw-silk vinyl wallcovering|
Hanging costs are also wildly divergent. Some contractors calculate by the roll, but Giacinto and Hester both bid each job on an individual basis. “You have to look at the walls and where you’re working. A living room with broad, expansive walls will be faster and easier to paper than a kitchen with cabinets and windows to work around,” says Giacinto. Also, many wallpapers dry “so tight to the wall that they may need to be cross-lined with a lining layer to keep seams from popping loose,” explains Hester, who estimates that this must be done in 50 percent of their jobs. (Installers should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if cross-lining is necessary.) These are relatively cut-and-dry guidelines, so to speak. Yet they still leave thousands of other options to consider, since there are hundreds of wallcovering lines on the market, all plying voluminous collections. Picking wallpaper is way more of a trial than applying it to walls, even for those who dare to make it a DIY project. Instead of panicking, “start with your passion,” suggests Winnetka interior designer Cindy Bardes Galvin. Wallpaper figures in every job she does because “you can use it for color, texture or pattern and organize a room based on those elements.”
Galvin sees wallpaper as a problem-solving design tool. “I use grasscloth in neutral hues because the texture adds warmth and depth to plain walls, and pattern to emphasize certain walls. But you have to be a master in scale, proportion, color and pattern to pick right,” she cautions. For those who aren’t, Lagrange has a few basic tips and design rules to keep in mind.
On types of paper to consider, she notes that “contact and vinyl wallpapers are both much more durable and have come a long way. They offer some amazing options, and hand-painted wallpapers can make a plain room opulent.”
As rules go, Lagrange cautions “big-scale patterns can be powerful in small spaces, and the reverse. When you factor in color, remember that bold, domineering colors can make a room smaller, but also intimate, energetic and rich, while lighter colors can enlarge a space, neutralize it, or make it tranquil and airy.” So when in doubt, “use wallpaper in measured doses. You can do one wall,” she says, “or even the panel between the moldings on a wall, to completely change the demeanor of a room.”
December 4, 2018
November 27, 2018