Wallpaper has, through time, been considered the height of chic and the object of scorn and revulsion. Think of the early piece of feminist literature, The Yellow Wallpaper, published by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, in which wallpaper triggers hallucinations and madness. Or consider the wallpaper designs of English mid-19th century designer and social reformer William Morris: since first introduced in the 1860s, his beloved patterns have never gone out of production.
For Colonial Americans, wallpaper was a potent status symbol imported from France. Soon American mills made the stuff and it became a favorite decorative device in urban townhouse mansions and frontier cabins alike. Many older Americans have memories of lurid floral papers on bedroom walls, but in aspirational homes, living room, library and dining room walls often wore grasscloth, faux tooled leather or fabric coverings.
Wallcoverings of all kinds went through an eclipse when the minimalist mid-century design trend turned walls beige and white. But with time, the trend pendulum swings back, and that is what has happened to wallpaper.
Fixr, the online services marketplace, parses wallpaper in Fixr.com’s Paint & Color Trends Report 2022. It finds that it is one of the most popular design choices today.
“Wallpaper can really liven up rooms. It can create a design focal point, add character to a space, and set the tone for the entire room,” the report says.
Where do we like to use wallpaper?
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An overwhelming majority, 88% of the survey respondents, said that the powder room was the ideal place to use wallpaper.
“The space is small, so the risk of the wallpaper competing with other design elements is very low.”
The next most popular wallpaper location is the ceiling. While a room’s ‘fifth wall’ has often been ignored by designers, it is increasingly acknowledged as important to a room’s décor.
Designers also like wallpaper in dining rooms, and, when asked, 35% of them prefer to apply it a whole room, while 31% like to wallpaper an accent wall.
What kinds of wallpaper do we like today? It would be hard to find examples of the nightmarish cabbage roses of the past; today’s wallpaper patterns take their inspiration from dominant art, fashion and design trends.
56% of respondents to the survey said that green and nature inspired wallpaper patterns were definitely the top choice. This preference mirrors other interior design trends, which attempt to “bring nature indoors.” Our homes have become our refuge, as well as our living and workspaces, and we want a healing, soothing environment.
Chinoiserie, long the darling of upper-middle-class decorators, is coming back strong, with preferences expressed by 28% of the survey respondents. This style is derived from European impressions of what they thought was Chinese art. Chinoiserie may include nature, architecture, people and even whimsical designs. It can have a repeating pattern, or it can be used to create a single, large mural or overarching design. Some of the most elegant examples today are hand-painted in China.
Equally popular is geometric wallpaper. Whether bold, graphic and decidedly modern or subtle and muted, geometric wallpaper can suit any design scheme.
Murals are also popular, whether as nature-inspired wallpapers that show off forests, fields and growing things, or as chinoiserie murals that showcase landscapes, architecture, or crowds. Murals may be popular in 2022 simply because it’s possible to capture a window into another place. Whether that’s a nature scene or a cityscape, a mural can give you a glimpse into someplace new.
Art Deco wallpaper is a rising trend that ties into other design trends: the Dada art movement has been surging again, and art deco is on the rise for jewelry and interior design.
We also like earthy brown and orange wallpapers, and we are rediscovering playful patterns like the trompe-l’oeil bookcase papers of the past. Whimsey, retro, optical illusions – we think they might be sticking to our walls this year.