Centuries after it was first invented, wallpaper remains popular amongst homeowners and interior designers alike. Interest in wallpaper waned after the 1980s, when glamour was overdone to the point of gaudiness and chintz became far too cheesy. The tide has changed since then. Writing for Architectural Digest in her article “6 Easy Ways to Incorporate 2022’s Trending Wallpapers in Your Own Home,” Sarah Lyon agrees. Lyon notes that “wallpaper has been having a major resurgence in recent years…[and] interior designers are adamant that it’s here to stay.” Not only does the right wallpaper add personality to a space and enhance the mood of a room. The perfect wallpaper can also camouflage wall imperfections and make a space feel larger by elongating walls or bouncing natural light around the room. Unlike in decades past, the options are now endless! From pastoral scenes that mimic 14th century tapestries to modern geometric motifs, there are hundreds of patterns, prints and colorways to choose from. While variety is the spice of life, figuring out which wallpaper works in your space is no easy task. Below, we explain how to select wallpaper in twelve simple steps – from setting intentions to hiring a professional installer. We also offer readers a glimpse of the Schumacher and Jane Churchill wallpaper LUDC founder Laura Umansky chose for our Mountain Lane Show House!
How to Select Wallpaper in 12 Simple Steps
. # 1 S E T Y O U R I N T E N T I O N S .
Before shopping for wallpaper – whether in stores or online – be sure to set your intentions for the space. Do you want a living room that is colorful and energizing – perfect for entertaining guests? Or a dining room that is moody and elegant? Or a soothing owner’s suite bathed in natural light? Do you want to make a small laundry room feel larger or a cavernous den feel cozier?
In her article “Tempted to Try Wallpaper? 10 Tips for Finding the Right Pattern” for Houzz, Laura Gaskill writes that “knowing your goal” is crucial. You might want to “add depth, add texture and warmth, add shine [or] soften sharp architectural edges.” Perhaps you are searching for the perfect backdrop to a collection of black and white photographs. Maybe you want a fun feature wall for the quirky space in your walk-out basement. In addition to these more design-oriented elements, consider how the space should make you, your family and your guests feel when spending time there.
. # 2 C O N S I D E R T H E S I Z E A N D S C A L E O F Y O U R S P A C E .
Next, be sure to consider the size and scale of your space when you choose wallpaper. Think about the size and shape of the entire room but also the walls, furniture, light fixtures, art and all other decor. While some designers recommend against using small scale patterns in large spaces and large-scale prints in small spaces, we disagree. You can absolutely use a micro print in a big room and a bold print in a petite space. Do so as long as you understand the effect each has.
Keep in mind that a small-scale print – e.g. dots, pinstripes or tiny flowers – hung in a large room will read as a solid color. Whether you plan to display a colorful art collection or prefer a minimalist aesthetic, a subtle print can work wonders in a large room. When done right, using large prints in small spaces can also create an impactful interior.
In her article “The Mistake Everyone Makes When Choosing Wallpaper” for Real Simple, Alicia Brunker explains. According to Brunker, homeowners tend to “paper a tiny powder room in a dainty, minuscule print.” However, picking a “sizable pattern” for a small room instead of a tiny pattern actually “visually widens the space.” To achieve this effect, choose a dynamic pattern like vertical stripes, climbing vines or “a big palm leaf print.” Each encourages the eye to travel. Our design team chose a neutral-toned wallpaper with tall stems of delicate flowers for the small powder bath in our Montebello High Rise remodel. Vertical patterns like the floral print pictured above visually elongate walls of small spaces short on square footage.
. # 3 T H I N K A B O U T H O W I T W O R K S W I T H T H E R E S T O F Y O U R H O M E .
When selecting wallpaper, you must also think about how each texture, color and print meshes with the rest of your home’s interior. Consider the effect each wallpaper has when you move from one room to the next. Preserving or optimizing the flow of your home is absolutely vital. Choosing the right wallpaper for each space ensures cohesion, while picking the wrong wallpaper can create confusion.
In her article “Tempted to Try Wallpaper? 10 Tips for Finding the Right Pattern” for Houzz, Laura Gaskill elaborates. Gaskill writes that homeowners should always “consider the view from other rooms.” This is particularly important “when you’re doing just one accent wall.” Gaskill suggests taking “a step back and peek[ing] into your room from the next space over.” As you peer into the room with your new wallpaper, think about whether the “peek of wallpaper is a welcome surprise” or just jarring. If unsure, hang a wallpaper sample in one room and look in from the next before proceeding.
For example, Laura chose Scalamandre’s Dot Weave wallpaper and an electric blue paint for the entryway of her North Boulevard Show House. This bold space is visible in part from the dining room next door, which is a much more neutral and sedate space. Catching a glimpse of the entryway from the sophisticated dining room is exciting while walking from the entryway to the dining room is calming. Both effects are welcome and create a sense of flow from one space to the next.
. # 4 L I V E W I T H E A C H W A L L P A P E R F O R A F E W W E E K S .
This next step is most important when you are considering a trendy wallpaper, but is recommended no matter which design you have in mind. Before you buy an entire roll, stick wallpaper samples in each area you plan to redecorate. In her article “A Designer’s Comprehensive Guide to Using Wallpaper in the Home” for Veranda, Lauren Wicks explains why this is a good idea. Quoting Gil Melott of Chicago’s Studio 6f, Wicks writes that “‘wallcoverings are more of an intensive investment than a paint color.’”
As such, homeowners should “‘date the swatches before you marry the whole roll.’” Are you considering a bold pattern you saw in a magazine or a trending print you found on Instagram? Living with a swatch will help ensure the design “‘has longevity and isn’t a fad-ish move.’” Try to order large swatches instead of small samples to really get a feel for the print and its impact on your space.
. # 5 L E A R N I M P O R T A N T W A L L P A P E R T E R M I N O L O G Y .
Learning important wallpaper terminology before ordering online will prevent you from ordering too much or too little. Understanding industry terms will also help guide you during installation – especially if you plan to DIY. Quoting Roxana Eslamieh in her article “How to choose the right wallpaper” for The Washington Post, Michele Lerner explains.
Roxana Eslamieh tells Lerner that “‘one of the most important things to be aware of when sourcing wallpapers is the repeat and match.’” Most wallpapers are either straight match, drop match or random match. The match type refers to how one sheet of wallpaper lines up with the next. With a straight match, the pattern continues when two sheets are lined up next to each other at exactly the same height.
With a drop match, the wallpaper “‘has a design that matches up across strips both vertically and horizontally.’” This means that you must “drop” the next sheet a bit to continue the pattern of the previous sheet without interruption. Lastly, a random match “‘means that the strips of wallpaper may be hung together without worrying about the pattern matching up at the seams.’” Grass cloth wallpaper is one example of a random match.
Another common wallpaper term is “repeat.” The repeat of a patterned wallpaper refers to the distance from one row of motifs to the next identical row. Knowing the definitions of these terms will ensure you purchase enough wallpaper and line it up correctly during installation.
. # 6 S T A R T S M A L L I F Y O U ‘ R E U N S U R E .
If you absolutely love a particular pattern but are a bit of a commitment-phobe, start small. Wallpaper your home’s entryway, first-floor powder room or a niche in the living room. This will give you a taste of the wallpaper’s pattern, texture and color before you carry it into a larger space. Delicate, expensive or unusual wallpapers are also perfect for smaller areas of your home because less is needed to create a stunning space.
Hanging wallpaper in a small area first – like inside a niche or around a window seat – also creates a sense of continuity. You can see this in the photos of our Mountain Lane Show House above. Our team chose Schumacher’s Queen of Spain wallpaper for the built-in reading nook and the walls of the kid’s play room.
Of course, you need not carry the same wallpaper from one room to the next as long as certain motifs do repeat. Though you might not expect it, bold patterns are especially well-suited to smaller rooms. This is because they tend to have less furniture, artwork and other decor.
In her article “The Hot Design Trend Of 2022: Wallpaper” for Forbes, Regina Cole points to the powder room as an example. Referencing Fixr.com’s Paint & Color Trends Report 2022, Cole elaborates. She writes that “88% of survey respondents said that the powder room was the ideal place to use wallpaper.” Cole attributes this to the fact that “‘the space is small.” As such, “the risk of the wallpaper competing with other design elements is very low.’”
. # 7 G O T I M E L E S S I N S T E A D O F T R E N D Y .
Next in our tutorial of how to select wallpaper is to choose timeless designs instead of trendy ones. Neutral colors, classic patterns, graphic shapes, organic textures and prints inspired by nature have all stood the test of time. As pictured above, vertical stripes, grasscloth and dots are all classic patterns that never go out of style.
If you know you want something different, try combining traditional elements with trendy ones. This helps extend the lifetime of the design. In her article “The Wallpaper Trends You Can Expect to See Lots of in 2022” for House Beautiful, Mary Elizabeth Andriotis explains. Quoting Christy’s Heather Hacket, Andriotis writes that you should “‘first opt for classic tonal colorways to allow longevity.’” You can then add in a couple trendy elements. These will help “‘personalize your space and spark creativity’” without creating a space that quickly falls out of style.
Another option is to choose one of many iconic wallpapers beloved by designers for decades. Shumacher’s Queen of Spain wallpaper is one such design. Others include Zebras by Scalamandré and Les Touches by Brunschwig & Fils.
. # 8 D O N ‘ T F O R G E T A B O U T Y O U R A R T C O L L E C T I O N .
Of course, the walls of our dining rooms, entryways and halls are not solely covered in paint and paper. They also display mirrors, sconces, photographs, paintings and other decor elements. As such, homeowners must consider their art collection before selecting wallpaper for each space. Keep in mind that hanging a brightly colored or boldly patterned wallpaper does not mean you must refrain from displaying artwork or family photos. There are ways to frame photographs and paintings without taking away from either the wallpaper or the art.
In her article “The Dos and Don’ts of Hanging Art Against Wallpaper” for Houzz UK, Kate MacDonald explains. MacDonald recommends “framing a piece of art with a spacious white mount” around it. By doing so, “you will ‘separate’ the art itself from the wallpaper behind it.” This gives the art some “room to breathe,” letting you “see and study it without distraction.” According to MacDonald, “this is particularly useful for artworks that have the potential to jar with your feature wall.” Consider mounting smaller works of art even if your walls are otherwise unadorned. MacDonald notes that “the use of a white box frame extends this mount further and helps add impact to a petite piece.”
. # 9 C O N S U L T W I T H A N I N T E R I O R D E S I G N E R .
Consulting with an interior designer is an important step. It ensures you pick the proper pattern, color and material for the wallpaper in each room of your home. Not only do interior designers help you choose a wallpaper that meshes with your furniture and other decor. They also make sure you order the right amount of wallpaper, so you never run out or overspend. Designers can also help you pick patterns and materials that suit the function of the space. If you have children, they find stylish yet durable options that will not show fingerprints or spills right away.
In her article “How Hiring An Interior Designer Can Help Save Money” for Forbes, Amanda Lauren elaborates. Quoting Kate Lester of LA-based Kate Lester Interiors, Lauren writes that homeowners often “‘make mistakes on sizing and scale and layering color and pattern.’” The time, money and stress expended by homeowners trying to DIY “‘doesn’t work makes up for [an interior designer’s] fee in and of itself.’”
Designers will save you from choosing a trendy paper that falls out of style or a material that tears within a few weeks. Interior designers can also save homeowners a bit of cash through trade discounts. Lauren notes that “special pricing can apply to everything from fixtures to furniture, appliances and even décor.“
. # 1 0 T H I N K A B O U T H O W Y O U U S E E A C H S P A C E .
We mentioned this briefly above, but thinking about how you use each space before choosing wallpaper is essential. For example, you would not pick a delicate silk wallpaper for your kitchen or children’s playroom. Some wallpapers – like peel and stick vinyl wallpapers – are not only easy to clean but also super simple to remove. Wallpapers with busy patterns are more likely to hide scratches and spills while glossy finishes disguise fingerprints more easily. These wallpapers are best suited for high-traffic areas like bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.
Delicate, antique or expensive wallpapers are more appropriate for seldom used spaces. As such, you might choose a silk or grass cloth wallpaper for your powder room or formal dining room. To this end, we chose durable tile for the full bathroom on the left and wallpaper for the powder bath on the right.
. # 1 1 C O N S I D E R H O W M U C H N A T U R A L L I G H T T H E S P A C E G E T S .
One cannot read the complexity of each pattern, subtlety of each color and shine of each finish without enough natural light exposure. However, too much sustained exposure to natural light can damage certain wallpapers. This is why it is important to consider how much natural light a room gets before choosing wallpaper for that space. In her article “How to choose the right wallpaper” for The Washington Post, Michele Lerner elaborates.
For example, “if there is lots of ambient window light, it’s safer to use a wide range of colors from light to dark.” Metallic wallpapers that subtly sparkle in the sunlight are perfect bright spaces. Patterns with lots of detail — like the Rolling Hills wallpaper from Schumacher pictured above on the right — are also best suited to well-lit spaces. The sunlight makes them easier to decipher and appreciate.
. # 1 2 H I R E A P R O F E S S I O N A L T O I N S T A L L Y O U R W A L L P A P E R .
Last on our list of tips is to hire a professional who has lots of experience installing wallpaper. You might be able to hang straight or random-match wallpaper in a dining room with wide walls and very little decor. However, the process gets quite a bit more complicated when you have to paper around sinks, toilets, windows or light fixtures. In his article “How to Hang Wallpaper” for This Old House, Scott Gibson explains why working with an installer might be the best option.
Quoting John Dee, Gibson writes that “‘silk, grass, cloth, and textured papers require careful attention during installation.’” Even if you choose a peel and stick vinyl wallpaper with a random match, you might not be able to apply perfectly. Gibson notes that “the smooth, seamless look” comes from years of practice and extensive knowledge of materials.
Plus, you will probably need a ton of tools. Gibson recommends having a sponge, 5-gallon bucket, nylon brush and paint roller on hand. You will also need an Allen wrench, 4 foot level, torpedo level, utility knife, scissors and folding rule. Don’t forget a tape measure, scraper, narrow 6-inch putty knife, wallpaper smoothing tool and screwdriver too! If your wallpaper is not adhesive-backed, you must obtain the right type of paste. Lastly, you must set up a flat work table at least six feet long.
About Our Mountain Lane Show House Partners
Our founder Laura Umansky and the Laura U Design Collective team partnered with Schumacher and Jane Churchill for this project. The two iconic studios worked with Laura and the team as we selected wallpaper for our Mountain Lane Show House. Stay tuned for more photos of the home and additional wallpaper selections by following us on Instagram and reading the blog.
. S C H U M A C H E R .
Few companies are as iconic and enduring as F. Schumacher & Co. Founded in the late 19th century by French textile supplier Frederic Schumacher, F. Schumacher & Co. has always been a pioneer. The brand designed and distributed wallpaper shortly after it became popular in the US and abroad. From window treatments to wall coverings, the company’s influence on American interiors cannot be understated. Over the years, Shumacher has partnered with incredible designers and taste-makers like Johnson Hartig, Suzanne Clements, Inancio Ribeiro and Dara Caponigro.
Many Schumacher wallpapers are inspired by American history, architecture and natural beauty. Some are vibrant and evocative while others are subtle and serene. All are innovative, inspiring and absolutely iconic. We are so proud to have partnered Schumacher for the interior of our Mountain Lane Show House.
. J A N E C H U R C H I L L .
Known for whimsical floral prints and intricate geometric patterns, this British design studio was founded by interior designer Jane Churchill in 1982. The studio has since joined luxury international holding company Colefax Group PLC. From dynamic geometric motifs like Madison — pictured above — to delicate florals like Nerissa, Jane Churchill wallpapers are the epitome of livable luxury. This is why we chose her designs for our Mountain Lane Show House.