Why we’re crazy about wallpaper again, writes LAURENCE LLEWELYN-BOWEN

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For 20 years, we have had walls that tell us nothing at all.

They treated us with insolent and hugely expensive contempt, staring at us with their impossibly long greige (gray and beige) noses, the disorderly humans rushing inside them.

There was nothing comfortable or attractive about these interiors. We had to settle for a “play of light and shadow” on a textured wall – which is fine if you’re that kind of person.

But let’s face it, if you’re that kind of person, you’re going to die alone and friendless.

Most of us want a space that is welcoming, warm and attractive. Which is why I’m not surprised that wallpaper is making a comeback.

A carpeted room is a friendlier space. You are accepted there, you are part of the story, the joke, the furniture.

When you paint a wall, you change its color. But when you wallpaper a wall, you take it somewhere it’s never been before.

Jennifer Lopez on the catwalk wearing a dress similar to Versace’s green jungle print wallpaper

Versace's green jungle print wallpaper.  Fashion houses, such as Gucci and Versace, love to create wallpaper because it's great branding

Versace’s green jungle print wallpaper. Fashion houses, such as Gucci and Versace, love to create wallpaper because it’s great branding

Big names such as Gucci, Versace, Ralph Lauren and Hermès all have wallpaper lines, with prices ranging from £76 per roll for Christian Lacroix to £365 for a roll of Gucci.

Big names such as Gucci, Versace, Ralph Lauren and Hermès all have wallpaper lines, with prices ranging from £76 per roll for Christian Lacroix to £365 for a roll of Gucci.

Too expensive ? Just stick it on your furniture!

The cost of some designer wallpapers is enough to make most homeowners feel bad. That’s why so many of us choose fancy wallpaper for the downstairs toilet – we get all the pizzazz of four colored walls with just one roll.

But there is another way to get the most out of a minimal amount of a premium wallpaper; by not putting it on your walls at all.

Instead, the trend of “luxury-cycling” (i.e. luxury upcycling) is to cover furniture with it. “You can literally paper anything,” says luxury cycling expert and TV presenter Zoe Pocock, of mucknbrass.com, who reveals that thicker papers, regardless of price, work better.

“I suggest starting with a coffee table, as they have a simple shape – but you can upholster the cabinets [right], sideboards and dressers, too, getting the designer look for a fraction of the price.

‘You just need to paint the piece of furniture first, then glue your paper with PVA glue instead of wallpaper glue, before cutting off any excess.

To protect your paper, finish with a coat of Polyvine Decorator Varnish, which has been developed for use on high-end wallpapers in hotels and restaurants, and gives a washable finish.

Another trick is to frame a sample wallpaper – usually costing less than a few pounds – as wall art. You can even use beautiful wallpapers to cover tiles to make coasters.

Wallpapers have a lot to say, and their resurgence marks the revival of the “chatty room”. I am a big fan.

And I am clearly not alone. Experts say online searches for wallpaper have increased by 50% since the pandemic.

Wallpaper is an incredibly British thing. In the 18th century, we became obsessed with the idea of ​​”pattern”.

But the model was incredibly expensive and very high-end.

Then suddenly we were able to print and mass-produce designs.

It was a way of giving the middle classes a look that the super-rich and powerful loved.

This is wallpaper’s biggest draw – snobs hate it. Whenever design connoisseurs get together, what they hate the most is fake opulence, a clear ape of the high end of the market.

That’s why, after the last 20 years of plain beige minimalism, wallpaper seems like the naughtiest thing you can do.

Wallpaper had its last heyday in the mid-1980s. It feels very Dynasty, Dallas, Diana, Princess of Wales.

It’s Sloanes, shoulder pads, frilly Laura Ashley – everything the past three decades have despised.

We want something new – but, inevitably, it’s something old, which is why the taste is so fabulously cannibalistic; it will always be eaten.

My own house is mostly 17th century and takes wallpaper very well.

I’ve had so many arguments with upholsterers over the years who wanted to smooth the walls, but I insist on the paper going over wobbly walls – it creates something very rich and decadent.

Back home in Cornwall, all the ceilings are lined with pale gray stars – my wife’s idea – and I love it. It’s a very cool way to work with wallpaper.

As for the cost, you get what you pay for. When I first started designing wallpaper 25 years ago there was a perceived financial barrier of £15-25 per roll.

A model wears a dress during the Ready to Wear 2-15 fashion event.  The wallpapers were inspired by fashion shows

A model wears a dress during the Ready to Wear 2-15 fashion event. The wallpapers were inspired by fashion shows

Menagerie wallpaper described as

Menagerie wallpaper described as “a whimsical pattern adorned with hearts, colorful trailing flowers, exotic butterflies, birds of paradise and playful monkeys”

From the track to your living room

Not content with covering us from head to toe in their expensive designs, fashion designers now want our walls to wear them too.

Big names such as Gucci, Versace, Ralph Lauren and Hermès all have wallpaper lines, with prices ranging from £76 per roll for Christian Lacroix to £365 for a roll of Gucci.

With the average living room requiring at least six rolls of paper, your walls could end up costing more than your designer handbag.

But these days people seem happy to spend around £70 a roll, and good quality wallpaper goes up well which has an immediate impact. Something thin and disposable looks crap.

At the very top you have companies like de Gournay, who are completely dedicated to hand painted wallpaper and charge around £1000 a metre. It’s exquisite, turning your wall into art, but clearly only a few are going to pay for it.

Fashion houses, like Gucci and Versace, love creating wallpaper because it’s great branding.

And while you can fake a shade of Farrow & Ball paint, you can’t fake something like Cavalli leopard print wallpaper, rich and lyrical and a little trashy in the chicest Italian way.

Bold and big is the only way to go with the design.

My very first wallpaper collection dates back to 1999 and the mandate I received from Graham & Brown was to do it on a very small scale, as few patterns as possible and to use very discreet colours.

I drove a tractor through it all and we did bright purple with huge flowers and it was amazingly successful.

You don’t want the wallpaper to be an understatement, you want it to be a statement.

However, most homeowners still seem to prefer wallpaper on just one wall – which I’m still not sure I entirely approve of.

The feature wall was invented in the 1950s, and if done right, it should make your room feel bigger.

But the only way to do it right is to make sure the other three walls have a very close relationship to the patterned wall.

If you have flamingos all over your fireplace, you really need to think about having three pink walls, otherwise you have this excess of richness and ornamentation in one space.

The last two years of confinement have pushed us much more to think about our interiors. Frankly, we are tired of looking at the same four walls.

Step back to when our homes were created – whether it was the 1880s or the 1930s – and all of those spaces would have had wallpaper. Their plinths, chair rails and bay windows demand it.

Wallpapers will still work in these rooms. They make them look charming and cheerful and give them a welcoming suburban smile.

While wallpapers may seem quirky, by adopting them we’re celebrating the ordinary a bit more – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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