Back in the noughties, wallpaper was all the rage, with feature walls de rigueur in every stylish home. Then other trends came to the fore for a while, with the new neutrals, minimalism and Scandi chic all contributing to an altogether cleaner and more stripped-back aesthetic. Wallpaper didn’t quite disappear, but it wasn’t really a talking point.
Fast forward to 2021 and, as the world emerges from a year of being confined to our own four walls on and off, one thing is amply clear: wallpaper is back – and it’s making quite the entrance. Get ready for some seriously stylish options with a few sassy surprises mixed in.
Top wallpaper trends
Perhaps it’s because many of us have spent more than 12 months feeling fearful, uncertain and stressed, but the most standout wallpaper trends are big, bold and bright. From oversized botanicals and colourful tropical prints to every shade of yellow you can think of (you can thank Pantone's colour of the year 2021 for that), we’re talking designs that will make you, your family and your guests smile.
Some of our favourite looks this season are travel-inspired, tapping into the frustrations of having been so limited on holidays over the last year. Think geometrics that speak of Greece and Morocco, island-inspired palm trees (there are those botanicals again), and even safari-style animals, from elephants to leopards to giraffes. So if you have a dream destination in mind, but no means or inclination to travel there quite yet, why not create the local look in your own home?
Scenic wallpapers and murals are still big (if you’ll excuse the pun), as is colour, so don’t be afraid to express yourself. There are plenty of designs on the market that pull together half a dozen or more shades to create a spectacular effect.
Or, if you fancy something a little more refined, we’re seeing more in the way of textured wallpaper popping up now, and these designs are much more sophisticated than their chintzy 1970s cousins.
One last trend we’ve noticed – though it’s not yet mainstream – is wallpaper on the ceiling. This is a great trick if you want to create more intimacy by “lowering” a ceiling with a darker shade, or drawing the eye upwards to a lighter shade. You could even indulge your whimsical side by papering your ceiling with a sky blue paper studded with birds or butterflies.
Flocks, foils and fabrics
Designers aren’t just putting their efforts into wowing us with bold colours and dazzling prints, either. They’re also turning their attention to materials that stand out from the crowd. There’s a real decadence on offer here, a chance for us to turn the homes we’ve spent so much time in recently into little oases of luxury.
There are now more fabric wallpapers on offer, adding a subtle texture and real richness to a room. Choose uber-tactile flock with its velvety embossing, or smooth and elegant satin in a range of vibrant tones. Sure, you don’t want too much of this unless you’re going for an in-your-face statement, but use it wisely and you can bring new life to your walls.
Foils are another great way to add interest to your style, with silver, gold, brass and copper options creating a subtle reflective glint all around. Or, if you really want to get your guests talking, why not consider crystal-studded wallpaper? Nothing says luxe like living inside a literal glitter ball.
Dos and don’ts for buying wallpaper
When it comes to choosing wallpaper for your home, trends and personal taste are only part of the decision. You also need to consider a number of factors to ensure the print, colour, pattern and so on actually enhance your room. You wouldn't want your carefully chosen design to either not have the impact it should or to overpower the space. Here are a few things to consider.
The size of the room: The smaller a room, the more a pattern or print will dominate it. In general, a larger print will give a room a more cosy, intimate feel, while a smaller one will create a sense of space. Common sense suggests pairing the size of the print with the size of the room – ie small room, small print and large room, large print. But you might want to play around with this and take advantage to create a dramatic effect.
How you use the room: How much time do you spend in the room you’re considering wallpapering, and what do you do when you’re in it? A busy, vibrant print might work brilliantly in a bathroom, for example, where you’re only stopping by for a short time. In your living room, however, it might start to feel a bit much. Likewise, you don’t want too much going on in a room where you’re trying to sleep or concentrate on work, unless you’re a creative who needs ongoing stimulation.
The kind of traffic it gets: Are you wallpapering a guest bedroom that only gets used occasionally? A hallway that is regularly full of people coming and going? A playroom that belongs to young children and is often frequented by the family dog? The more traffic a room has – and the more messy that traffic is (ie, pets and kids) – the more you have to think about durability. If you know your wallpaper is going to have to take a battering, avoid pale colours and delicate fabrics that will snag or be hard to clean.
Once you’ve got it down to a few options, make sure you get samples so you can hold them up to furnishings and fittings in your room and reassure yourself that they blend in. Prop your samples up where you can see them regularly as you go about your daily life – which ones keep catching your eye and making you smile? Which ones leave you feeling a bit meh? Once you’ve done the head work, feel free to make a final decision by following your heart.