Cool new choices and YouTube tutorials help resurrect the midcentury trend.
Remember the glory days of patterned wallpaper? We’re thinking 1950s floor-to-ceiling patterns, more-is-more florals, and geometric shapes on every vertical surface. That was before the backlash—for decades, nobody would be seen dead with anything but a flat painted wall as a backdrop, and all the world was smooth.
Well, wallpaper is back, baby, but not like before. From Spoonflower’s peel-and-stick to Flavor Paper’s scratch-and-sniff, lemon-lime-scented iteration, there are countless new and delightful ways to dress up your surfaces.
Mandy Riggar, a Portland interior designer, says the wallpaper renaissance is due in part to a rise in affordable and accessible versions, like self-adhesive wallcoverings that are easy to install and remove. Plus, there are now a zillion styles from which to choose, not to mention custom designs, which make wallpaper “almost trendless,” says Riggar. “It’s just about finding the brands that carry the style you like.”
For one client’s stairway (pictured above), Riggar sourced the wallpaper from Makelike, a Portland-based graphic design collective founded in 2000 by Mary Kysar and Topher Sinkinson, which produces a selection of hand-screen-printed wallpaper featuring botanical, coral, geometric, and abstract patterns in myriad color palettes.
Another Portland interior designer, Vicki Simon, used printed wallpaper with a sketch-like pattern in black and white in a client’s powder room, and found it paired well with hanging portraits by Portland-based artist Gracie Ellison. “For me, using wallpaper is just a fantastic way to integrate, to bring interest to a project, especially in smaller spaces,” Simon says.
For similarly bold designs, with some peel-and-stick options for a low barrier to entry, local wallpaper studio Thatcher (formerly Juju Papers and Avery Thatcher Tile) produces a wide range of products for residential and commercial spaces, with bold motifs and one-of-a-kind styles.
Since it was founded in 2012 by Avery Thatcher, the studio has found a nationwide client base, which Thatcher says grew with the resurgence of DIY home décor during the pandemic.
If you’re looking to install wallpaper on your own, YouTube is a good place for step-by-step instructions. It’s a tool Thatcher says has revolutionized the use of wallpaper and fed its growing popularity. “The first time I installed [wallpaper], I definitely watched a YouTube video,” she says.
Thatcher still encourages people to purchase traditional wallpaper and hire professional installers if they can afford it, but she offers another pro tip for folks who want to go it alone: use liner paper, a heavy-duty paper that smooths out any imperfections. “It makes traditional wallpaper totally removable, and all of it is curbside recyclable at that point,” Thatcher says. “It has a special paste that allows it to be removed, and then you put the wallpaper on top of it.”
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