Wallpapered décors were big back in the 19th century: initially a commodity only the rich could afford, wallpapers quickly spread to working class homes as soon as machine printing created the conditions for mass production of colorful rolls at an affordable price. From gaudy hues and royal prints to classic florals and geometric designs, wallpapers saw their prime in mid-19th century, when every proud homeowner wanted their walls covered with artful paper sheets. Nevertheless, the golden era of wallpapers was followed by gradual yet inevitable decline in popularity at the turn of the 20th century, and playful paper patterns ceded the interior design throne to textured walls, only to be replaced soon thereon by monochromatic paint numbers as these are much easier and cheaper to execute and maintain. Still, interior design is a fickle creature, and old decorative trends have a habit of recapturing limelight now and again, so the present-day comeback of wallpapers in fresh prints and hues comes as no surprise. As the wheels of time continue to turn and sometimes strike a counterclockwise note, wallpapers are regaining appeal among interior designers and gearing up for another golden era of wall décor, ready to reclaim their rightful place in homes across the globe.
Old prints, fresh bling
Although their primary purpose remains the same, wallpapers have by now evolved in terms of design and mode of use. Back in their 19th-century heyday, wallpapers in bold tones with abundance of abstract figures in surprising color contrasts were used to set up a backdrop in the room, whereas wallpaper deployment in contemporary homes gravitates toward creating a decorative foreground, cancel the need for other adornments and balance out visual interest in line with target décor style. Unlike in the past, excess of patterns looks out of place in a modern living room, and homeowners who turn to paper rolls over wall paint usually prefer soft hues and minimalist design to outdated grandma prints. Wallpapers in solid or contrasting hues are unpopular nowadays as dark tones eat up space, and render an overwhelming Victorianesque mood to the room.
Colorful rolls in new guise
The contemporary wallpaper color palette also somewhat differs from traditional wallpaper hue selection, but updates of once popular prints (such as the well-known Daisychain pattern by Pat Albeck) can look exquisitely charming if combined with retro furnishings. Modern wallpapers mostly rely on neutrals and pastels to achieve a visual impression of added space, and geometric shapes, stripes, feathery elements and botanical details are often executed as textural nuances or painted in bright hues to add vibrancy to the room, along with the quaint, vintage vibe. Matte surfaces beat their lustrous counterparts in a modern home, and wallpapers are no exception: non-reflective finishes create a sense of depth and textural opulence, and they also pair more easily with different décor elements than gloss and glitz.
A material update for durability
Materials used to manufacture modern wallpapers have changed, too: rolls of thick paper are seldom used today as application and removal procedures for conventional wallpapers require quite a bit of elbow grease, and their surface is highly susceptible to dirt and staining. Instead, 21st-century wallpaper is often crafted from vinyl or quality fabrics which have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance. And with the increased longevity of modern wallpapers, the need for regular wall cover replacements went out the window: in case of accidental spills, smears can be removed by a gentle swipe of a cloth and non-stringent cleaning liquids without the risk of tearing the tender fibers or causing the wallpaper to detach from the wall.
The roots of wall decorations may well date back to ancient China, but wallpapers are far from history. As technology continues to evolve, 3D wallpaper masterpieces, customized decals, and innovative wall-to-wall art are already stepping up for 21st-century décor lineup, so make sure your walls are ready for the challenge!
Written By Zoe Clark. Zoe is a proud mom of one baby girl and a miniature schnauzer. When not obsessing about designing perfect homes, Zoe is spending time with her family. For more from Zoe you can follow her on Twitter.by