Unikko wallpaper from Marimekko.

Unikko wallpaper from Marimekko. Credit: Handout photo

If you've stripped wallpaper, you've probably sworn "Never again" - among other choice phrases. But just as skinny-legged jeans have returned triumphantly from ridicule and exile, so has wallpaper.

"There was a whole generation that didn't put it up and has just been taking it down," said Arren Williams, an interior design expert with wallpaper company Graham & Brown. "Now, people don't want their spaces to look like their neighbor's. People are trying to un-beige their houses by adding pattern and color."

Major wallpaper companies such as Schumacher, Brunschwig & Fils and Cole and Sons are creating modern motifs - hypnotic geometrics, exotic botanicals, subtle metallics and tactile weaves. And smaller makers, such as Timorous Beasties and Palace Papers, are known for their beautiful, edgy designs.

The Worth Global Style Network recently named wallpaper as one of the top 10 trends changing interiors. One reason for the resurgence: "The technology has improved so much," Williams said.

For some nonwoven wallpapers, you paint the paste on the wall, not the paper, so the paper goes up faster. (See youtube.com/user/grahambrownwallpaper.)"And if you change your mind, it's really easy to remove, in complete strips," Williams said.

"There's no scrabbling and steaming and coming up with these homemade concoctions to remove Granny's wallpaper." Certain textured papers, Williams said, can go right on top of flawed walls, camouflaging cracks, paneling or even cement block.

A couple of warnings about wallpaper: "Once you get hooked, it's like getting a tattoo. You want more," Williams said.

Second, if you decide to make a statement by papering a hallway in horizontal stripes, or not just a powder room's walls but also its ceiling, know that you may raise Aunt Marjorie's eyebrows, Williams said.

Then, congratulate yourself privately for doing so.

Beginners can start with a simple one-wall or small-space project. Here, three of favorites:

 

A FEATURE WALL

 

Pick a wall without windows or other complexities. Behind a bed often works, but so could other locations. Just make sure what's in front of the wall is pleasing to the eye, because the wallpaper will make it a focal point. A bedroom wall that features a seating area is another good choice. The cost, starting at perhaps $100 for a single small wall, can be less than a new throw pillow. Squirrel away extra paper for gift-wrapping, decoupage (picture frames, waste cans), scrapbooking and other craft projects (lining book cases), as well as future repairs, Williams suggests.

EXPERT ADVICE: For walls with power outlets, remove the outlet cover and then wallpaper right over it. With the electricity shut off, trim away excess paper with a razor knife.

 

POWDER ROOM OR CLOSET

(especially one you want to convert to a mini home office)

 

"Oftentimes larger scale patterns work incredibly well in a small space. You can pick up the pop of color - a purple or red - on the ceiling to make the space look intense," Williams said. Walls that have a lot of shelves or fixtures help conceal small mistakes.

EXPERT ADVICE: If the room gets heavy traffic or has a shower or tub, avoid delicate papers. Check the specifications on the paper to make sure it can withstand cleaning with mild soap.

 

A CHAIR RAIL

 

Breadboard wallpaper is an option for a clean, traditional look. Because the paper resides on the lower part of the wall, application requires no ladder and furniture may cover foibles."A chair rail would be a very simple weekend project to add charm to a space," Williams said. "There are all of these great paintable wallpapers, including one that looks like a Victorian pressed-tin ceiling. I used that on a ceiling that had that nasty popcorn feeling.

It had been scraped back and was still rough-looking. The wallpaper went directly on top and looked incredible." Ceilings are too ambitious for a first project, "but you can call in professionals," Williams said. "It's probably way less expensive than you think."

EXPERT ADVICE: For paintable wallpaper, wait 24 hours after hanging before painting to avoid bubbling.

 

 

Wallpaper primer

 

These guidelines apply to paste-the-wall papers from Graham & Brown. Always read manufacturers' instructions, usually on the back of the label.

 

MEASURE

 

1. Measure the room height in feet.

2. Measure the width of all walls.

3. Multiply the height by the width to get the total square footage.

4. Divide by 50 to get the number of double rolls (56 square feet).

Better to be left with an extra roll than not purchase enough in case of mistakes or future repairs.

 

HANG

 

1. Clean the wall and patch cracks. For most papers, you should make sure your wall is sanded and smooth.

2. Prime wall with a wallpaper-specific primer.

3. Establish a plumb line and apply the first strip using that as your edge guide. Do not start in the corner of a wall; often walls are not exactly straight or level and the pattern will therefore not be straight.

4. Apply paste directly to the wall as if you were painting.

Powdered paste is recommended; some pre-mixed pastes make wallpaper more difficult to remove.

5. Apply wallpaper (dry) directly from the roll to the wall and smooth down with a brush or damp sponge. If your paper has a strong pattern, you may want to hold the roll of paper to the wall before cutting to decide the ideal positioning.

6. Trim excess paper with a sharp utility knife.

7. Apply the next strip edge to edge. (Do not overlap.) Match any pattern at eye level first and then work up to the ceiling and down to the baseboards.

8. Remove any excess paste with a damp sponge.

 

REMOVING ANCIENT WALLPAPER

 

Removing wallpaper from a previous millennium demands patience. In brief, use a sharp putty knife to help remove as much as possible while dry. Next, use 36-grit sandpaper or a wallpaper scoring tool that puts small holes in the wallpaper (warning: it can pock walls).

Then, following manufacturers' instructions, apply a wallpaper removal solution such as Safe and Simple (safeandsimple.com) with a gardening sprayer. Or rent a steamer at home-improvement hardware store.

Scrape the remains away with a wide putty knife.

 

HIRING A PROFESSIONAL

 

To find a professional wallpaper hanger, check out the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers: ngpp.org.

 

How to do it

 

These guidelines apply to nonwoven paste-the-wall papers from Graham & Brown. Always read manufacturers' instructions, usually on the back of the label.

 

MEASURE

 

1. Measure the room height in feet.

2. Measure the width of all walls.

3. Multiply the height by the width to get the total square footage.

4. Divide by 50 to get the number of double rolls (56 square feet).

Better to be left with an extra roll than not purchase enough in case of mistakes or future repairs.

 

 

HANG

 

1. Clean the wall and patch cracks. For most papers, you should make sure your wall is sanded and smooth.

2. Prime wall with a wallpaper-specific primer.

3. Establish a plumb line and apply the first strip using that as your edge guide. Do not start in the corner of a wall; often walls are not exactly straight or level and the pattern will therefore not be straight.

4. Apply paste directly to the wall as if you were painting.

Powdered paste is recommended; some pre-mixed pastes make wallpaper more difficult to remove.

5. Apply wallpaper (dry) directly from the roll to the wall and smooth down with a brush or damp sponge. If your paper has a strong pattern, you may want to hold the roll of paper to the wall before cutting to decide the ideal positioning.

6. Trim excess paper with a sharp utility knife.

7. Apply the next strip edge to edge. (Do not overlap.) Match any pattern at eye level first and then work up to the ceiling and down to the baseboards.

8. Remove any excess paste with a damp sponge.