clashing prints

8 new ways with wallpaper

The great wallpaper renaissance continues apace. This flexible, affordable way of transforming a room is not only back in vogue, but pushing the boundaries of how it can be used. We have moved through the phase of the single feature wall, and now wallpaper can be used either for the basis of a whole scheme, or just to add a playful, pattern-filled accent. We’ve rounded up eight suggestions for using wallpaper in your interior in easy, unexpected or innovative ways.

wallpapered ceiling

Tessella wallpaper by Farrow & Ball

Make a feature of your ceiling

Wallpapered ceilings were once only seen in rather ancient French B&Bs. However ceilings are attracting much more attention from decorators of late, being recognised as a potential feature in their own right rather than a blank, dead space. A wallpapered ceiling, surrounded by sympathetically painted cornicing, is a fresh, fun way to add pattern and interest to a room. Don’t be afraid of a heavy pattern – just keep the walls light to balance the whole.

wallpapered cupboard

Tessella by Farrow & Ball

Emphasise architectural features

Wallpaper doesn’t have to be the dominant feature in a room. Instead use it to create a surpassing detail, drawing attention to a small area or feature. Lining recessed shelves, alcoves or even the inside of cupboards with wallpaper will bring a hit of colour and print to your space without overwhelming the whole room.

wallpaper panel

Gable by Farrow & Ball

Create a pattern panel

Fresher-looking than a feature wall, softer than an all-over wallpaper job, creating a panel effect works brilliantly to add interest to an otherwise pared-back, white space. Keep a wide band of white around your wallpaper at the edges and top of the panel for an simple, unfussy area of pattern that draws the eye through your chosen space. Or, for a more dramatic effect…

framed wallpaper

Chromatic Stripe by Farrow & Ball

Put it in a frame

Make a stronger statement with this look by using architrave to create a frame around your wallpaper panel. Somewhere between decor and a work of art, it will draw more attention to the print and give it pride of place. This example above uses the frame to emphasise the height of the stairwell, using the diagonal slant of the stairs to create a dramatic juxtaposition with the bold vertical stripe print.

wallpapered stairs

Shouchikubai by Farrow & Ball

Paper the stairs

Another example of wallpaper on the stairs reveals an often forgotten space where pattern can create a visual thrill. Papering the underside of the stairs draws attention to what is normally a totally ‘invisible’ space in the home, adding a feeling of drama and surprise. Combined with the same print of the walls of the stairs, you can make an intimate, cosy space in strong contrast the the rooms around it.

clashing prints

Hornbeam by Farrow & Ball

Clash two prints

Have fun with wallpaper! The trend for clashing prints isn’t just for the world of fashion. The maximal look is also big in interiors right now, so why settle for one wallpaper print when you could cram two, three or more into a single room. Papering with different prints above and below a dado rail offers a natural seam between the two – play around with the scale of print above and below the rail to achieve different spatial effects or go for two colour ways of the same print for a more sophisticated take.

wallpapered doors

Gable by Farrow & Ball

Do the doors

Secret doors to hidden rooms are a staple of many childhood books, or country house-set mystery novels. The idea of a hidden door retains its fascination and continuing your wallpaper from wall to door also gives a very unusual and modern look to a space. For a seamless appearance you will need a flat panel door without an architrave frame – and choosing a smaller print should make any gaps or mis-matches in pattern all but invisible.

kitchen wallpaper

Gable by Farrow & Ball

Hang it in the kitchen

The last place most people think of wallpapering is the kitchen. But a pretty pattern can give this functional room bags of character, even if your units are plain, minimal white. The best way to paper a kitchen is either to focus on a wall away from the main cooking zone, or to paper above a plain tiled splash back. For a wipe-clean finish and resistance to steam and moisture, add a coat of Decorator’s Varnish.

For more ideas on how to add unexpected colour to your home read our Look Closer article.

Ros Anderson


Ros Anderson is an interiors journalist and blogger who has worked for The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Ideal Home and many more. In 2009 she co-founded cult interiors blog My Friend's House with Jill Macnair, as a place to write about design in a more honest, spontaneous and humorous way.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist