Creative Ways to Use Modern Wallpaper
Modern wallpaper offers a slew of desirable features, not the least of which is the abundance of colors, patterns, and styles that can help you to achieve your desired aesthetic and ambiance.
You’ll also find that updates to this classic decorative form allow you to choose from a range of materials — some of which are incredibly easy to apply and remove (peel-and-stick) and some of which (like vinyl) can be wiped clean like a satin finish paint!
Once upon a time, papering walls was a challenging process best left to professionals (unless you wanted to end up covered in goopy glue).
Today, any homeowner can give it a go. The real difficulty is picking the perfect modern wallpaper and deciding where to put it.
There are several appealing options if you want to try your hand at updating your décor with wallpaper, such as:
- Creating a focal accent wall
- Wowing with a wallpapered entrance
- Pairing wallpaper with wainscoting
- Adding flair with wallpaper behind shelves and cabinets
- Hiding flaws with wallpaper
- Adding visual interest to saturated hues
- Getting fun and funky with modern wallpaper
- Subbing modern wallpaper for a tile backsplash
- Skipping the walls and papering the ceiling
Interior decorating is a personal pursuit, one that helps you to turn a house into your home.
If you want to elevate the style and sophistication of any (and every) room, wallpaper is a great step up from paint.
It’s easier than ever to get into the wallpaper game. Arthouse has everything you need to transform your living spaces with the traditional, trendy, and timeless styles you crave. Here’s how!
Create a Focal Accent Wall
If you’re new to the world of wallpaper, you might naturally be a bit intimidated by the thought of an entire room covered in bold patterns. Never fear – you can dip your toes in, rather than jumping feet first, by papering a single accent wall.
An accent wall allows you to add visual interest to a room by creating a focal point. Some rooms already have a natural focus, due to a fireplace, a vaulted ceiling that adds height, or another architectural feature. Modern wallpaper can help to enhance the outstanding characteristics of an existing focal wall.
What if your room has no such feature? This is where you get to choose the wall you want to accent!
The rule of thumb here is to pick a solid wall — ideally one with no windows or doors to interrupt the pattern. Oftentimes, you’ll know where to place the focus based on furniture placement.
For example, you might choose a retro block print to act as the backdrop for an entertainment center in your living room. Or you could select a classic, ornamental print of blush Moroccan damask to paper the wall behind your bed.
You can also go smaller scale with accents. If you don’t want to paper an entire wall, create a faux headboard that spans from floor to ceiling, but only runs the width of your bed. Paper the over-mantel area of your fireplace with a faux brick or weathered wood print.
There’s even the option to attach molding to walls in the shape of frames or panels and stick wallpaper inside, creating an easy and attractive art wall feature. If all you want is an accent of patterned wallpaper, there are several options that allow you to scale to your level of comfort and your preferred design.
Wow with a Wallpapered Entrance
Curb appeal goes a long way toward making a good first impression when people visit your home. Keep the momentum going by creating a stylish and welcoming entry.
Modern wallpaper makes it easy. This is particularly essential if you live in a condo or apartment where you may not have control over the exterior of your home.
Because entryways can be small, enclosed spaces, you’ll need to be careful about the colors and patterns you choose, as well as the placement of your wallpaper. You don’t want to use a busy or dense pattern that can overwhelm the senses, or deep, saturated tones that could make a small space feel absolutely claustrophobic.
A bright, breezy print — such as tropical palm fronds against a white backdrop — offers a joyful, casual, and welcoming entry into a home, but it may not suit certain regions (namely, the wintry ones!). If you live in a colder climate or your home features a formal architectural style, a geo print wallpaper could be a better choice.
The trick is to choose an expansive print in a limited color palette, such as a luxe, octagonal design in white and silver or simple, color block striping in trendy gray and yellow tones if you want a pop of color.
What if you encounter a stairway immediately upon entering the home? There are a couple of ways to use wallpaper here.
You can paper the entry walls and the spandrel (the triangular space under the staircase), but skip the actual stairwell to clearly delineate functional zones.
Alternately, you could add horizontal strips of wallpaper to the risers (the front-facing portion of each step on the staircase). This modern use of wallpaper is sure to surprise and delight anyone entering your home!
Pair Wallpaper with Wainscoting
Wainscoting and chair rails can add decorative appeal to any interior design. They can make a room feel more traditional, break up space on a large, blank wall, ground a room with a tall ceiling, or of course, add visual interest to an otherwise unremarkable space.
With wainscoting, you can use modern paper sparingly on the upper portion of the wall, perhaps allowing for a bolder color or print choice that might feel overwhelming when installed floor-to-ceiling.
Decorative chair rails and wainscoting are often seen in dining rooms, living rooms, bathrooms, or sometimes all throughout the home.
When adding wallpaper above the midline of the room, choosing the right color, pattern, texture, or shine options may depend on the room in question, the style of the home, and the ambiance you’re trying to achieve.
If you’re working with a large, sparsely decorated, formal dining room, for example, you could easily get away with rich, saturated tones or a bold print, such as colorful ferns against a navy background or an ogee pattern in matte navy and shimmery gold metallic.
These deep, bold prints will add personality and make the space cozier, without necessarily weighing down the room, thanks to the wainscoting below.
A tartan plaid could work well above wainscoting in a living room or den, adding homey appeal to these family-centric spaces, while a whimsical, botanical songbird print could serve as the perfect addition to a powder room.
Add Flair with Wallpaper Behind Shelves and Cabinets
Home storage comes in many forms, but cabinets and open shelving can be found in nearly every room in the house.
In most cases, these storage nooks are constructed from plain wood, laminate, or perhaps painted surfaces. They’re not necessarily meant to be the focal point – instead, they’re just a base from which to show off the items inside.
Whether you’re filling cabinets with dishes or linens or you’re populating shelves with books and tchotchkes, you can add some zest to the visual equation with a wallpaper backing. This not only helps to personalize your space, but it can draw attention to otherwise unnoticed items.
If your living room is a study in soothing, neutral tones, you can easily add pops of color with accessories like throw pillows, vases, and art. You could also spice up book or media storage shelves with a fun, Scandinavian-inspired print featuring triangles in yellow and shades of gray.
A more formal palazzo damask might look beautiful as a backing for fine China or everyday dishes in a hutch or cabinets with glass panels.
A botanical crane print in pink and gray could provide the perfect backdrop for a bedroom closet, while a blossom forest creates the serene ambiance you’ll love in a secluded reading nook.
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to the hidden recesses of storage spaces or architectural alcoves in your home. You can also put modern wallpaper front and center in your décor by covering door or drawer fronts on dressers, side tables, and more.
Hide Flaws with Wallpaper
When it comes to design, damage is best left to artfully distressed jeans and tees! It’s not nearly as fashionable when you’re dealing with chips, cracks, dents, and other damage to your walls.
While some small amount of settling is natural as homes age, even minor cracks around window and door frames or the seams of a house can prove to be unsightly. They can make your home seem poorly maintained, even if you do a lot of upkeep.
Whether you’re entertaining guests or looking to sell, you want your home to appear well-maintained.
Still, you don’t necessarily want to replace drywall every time a tiny crack appears, or even paint over cracks or chips. This is where modern wallpaper can provide an ideal solution, covering minor imperfections so every room looks new.
If you’re planning to cover whole walls beset by surface flaws, you’ll want to choose a busy print with an organic feel, as opposed to, say, an orderly geometric print. A dynamic botanical featuring a spray of flowers and fronds would work well, as would an intricate and winding damask pattern. An abstract stone-like texture could also do the trick.
Of course, you might not need to cover every wall, in which case you could simply create an accent wall to cover a single area of damage. Or if you’re only seeing cracks near the ceiling seams or the top of doorways, consider a wallpaper border just around the top of the room.
Add Visual Interest to Saturated Hues
Jewel tones have long been a great way to imbue your space with the richness of ruby reds, sapphire blues, and emerald greens.
However, painting your walls in these deep shades poses two problems. First, an expanse of saturated color can make a room feel dark and small. Second, it’s incredibly hard to paint over if you change your mind and want something lighter!
Modern wallpaper offers a solution on both fronts. If you love the luxurious, elegant ambiance of saturated colors, but you also want your space to feel livable, opt for patterned wallpaper in deeper tones that creates some movement to lighten the visual weight of the color and keep it to a minimum by choosing an accent wall.
A decadent damask in black and silver, for example, is a bold choice that falls under the less-is-more caveat.
If you’re planning to do an entire room, you might select a wallpaper with simple or minimalistic patterning, like a print that offers the illusion of wall panels in a trendy, navy hue. You could also opt for a simple pattern of metallic waves or a delicate lacework of foil swirls.
A bold, dark, saturated color stands out because most people are too scared to give it a try. However, if you’re willing to stray from neutrals, you can create a dramatic effect that elevates sophistication and personalizes your space in the process.
Get Fun and Funky with Modern Wallpaper
Traditional wallpaper can be updated in a variety of ways to make an old room look new again. Just consider a tapestry floral that could look dated if not for the use of a playful, modern color combination like pink and teal.
With that being said, adopting a modern look all around might mean skipping traditional botanicals or geometric prints and opting instead for more abstract designs that eschew the shapes and repeated patterns of old.
By selecting funky, indistinct prints and patterns, you’ll get a trendier look that nonetheless offers lasting appeal because it doesn’t tie itself to a certain era.
For example, instead of a repeating dot or stripe pattern, you could select a tribal motif that features different sizes of spots in irregular shapes, as opposed to perfect circles. With a modern color like ochre, this pattern will update any room in your home. Or you might choose a pattern of overlapping twists in tonal, silver hues.
A print featuring undulating striations could also give the impression layers of sand and silt or perhaps a feeling of visual texture similar to a chunky wood grain. A swirling, agate-like design in bright silver over a white background provides a sense of beauty and serenity.
The idea with fun and funky abstract prints is to make people look twice and spend some time interpreting what they see. Modern wallpaper designs can add a fun, artsy vibe to your space that’s difficult to accomplish with more traditional styles.
Sub Modern Wallpaper for a Tile Backsplash
Wallpaper was traditionally a staple in enclosed kitchen spaces, likely because whoever was in there prepping and cooking meals all day wanted something pretty to look at instead of a bare wall!
Today, open-concept kitchens that allow for socialization with other entertainment areas of the home are a lot more common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still add some visual interest to the space with wallpaper.
It's a little trickier if you don’t want the paper to extend out along open wall space into the living or dining room of your open floor plan home.
One great option for containment is to install a wallpaper backsplash. This is also a great way to save time and money over installing a stone, tile, or more traditional backsplash material — and it’s certainly more attractive than simply leaving the drywall bare.
You could, for example, get the look of tongue and groove or mosaic slate in wallpaper, instead of using actual wood planks or tiles. You could skip the major expense of popular Carrara marble and opt for wallpaper that features the look of interlocking marble tiles.
You might go with something more traditional with a modern twist, like an updatedcalico or a more motif.
Since the kitchen can be messy, it’s not a bad idea to look for modern materials like vinyl that are resistant to moisture and easy to clean.
Skip the Walls, Paper the Ceiling
Wallpaper isn’t just for walls anymore. In fact, it never was! Believe it or not, the first use of wallpaper in the 16th century was to decorate cabinets and panels.
If you’re looking for new and innovative ways to decorate, consider placing modern wallpaper on the ceiling instead of the walls.
Are you interested in adding rustic appeal to a room without necessarily installing wood paneling? Instead, try adhering a cabin wood wallpaper to the ceiling for an unexpected twist.
You can also add visual interest in a bedroom with an illustrative floral motif in muted hues. You could drift off to dreamland looking at the clouds with a soft muddle of blue and white tones.
Coffered ceilings are especially fun to add wallpaper to, as the recessed ceiling provides delineated panels in which to place neat squares of wallpaper.
Older styles of wallpaper can make your interior feel dated, but when you get creative with modern wallpaper by adding accent walls, embellishing cabinets and shelves, papering the ceiling, and more, you’ll end up with a trendsetting, style-forward home that can be the envy of all who enter.