Wallpaper is back, in a big way

It's not just for grandma's house anymore

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

Wallpaper in interior design is having a big moment. For anyone who shudders at the memory of 1970s papers in mod prints and shiny finishes or anyone who was traumatized removing that 1970s paper from the walls of their home, the good news is that the paper today bears little resemblance to what you painstakingly peeled off your walls 15 years ago. 

Oak Park designers Kim Daunis and Natalie Papier, who together run the home design business Home Ec., share a love for bringing bold color and design into local homes and say that wallpaper is one of their favorite ways to do this.

Papier and Daunis say that wallpaper has come a long way from its somewhat questionable past. 

"It was very grandma before," Daunis said.

Today, the two agree that the quality of wallpaper is different. It is easier to apply and easier to remove if you change your mind down the road. Wallpaper can also be practical in Oak Park and River Forest's older homes. Aging plaster walls that have grown bumpy over time can be cleanly disguised with the right paper.

While the Home Ec. ladies recommend having a professional install the wallpaper if you've never done it before, both say it is a skill that can be learned and one that they have tackled in their own homes as well as those of clients.

Removable wallpaper is great for the commitment-phobe and makes a good choice for renters or in a small space. Daunis took the cabinet doors off in her kitchen and used a peel-and-stick paper to add some pattern to the backs of her cabinets.

Themes from the past are still trending today, but the duo notes the looks are refreshed. 

"Florals are back but in a larger scale, and grass cloth is coming back but in bold colors like emerald green," Daunis said. 

Papier says graphic, modern patterns are also back but are toned down from the disco-days of the 1970s. 

"Palm Beach chic is back as is the Mad Men, 1960s style," Papier said.

What to avoid? According to Papier, "Something that's super-dated that has not come back is the border."

With those caveats in mind Home Ec. tends to use wallpaper in almost every project and Daunis and Papier liken it to art work for the wall. 

Art for the walls

Papier says with a laugh that they are almost becoming known as the wallpaper ladies, but they find the old houses in the area are great canvases for wallpaper.

"One room can always use it," Daunis said. "It's great in entries and powder rooms."

Papier says these smaller areas are a great space to try out wall paper. 

"It's really fun, and there are fewer competing elements in the room," she said.

That said, they love applying wallpaper in larger rooms of the home as well. They recently transformed a dining room into a family lounge space and used a dark wallpaper on one wall to create a statement and add depth to the room. 

For another client looking for a funky vibe in her dining room, the duo chose a Dwell Studio citrine colored paper with a peacock print. 

"It is reminiscent of some of the original wallpaper upstairs in the house but in a more modern way," Daunis said.

While they are big fans of adding a modern twist to older homes with wallpaper, Daunis and Papier state that the paper needs to fit the character of the home as well as the personality of the inhabitants.

"It needs to be cohesive with your style," Papier aid. 

They both agree that wallpaper can be a great way to think outside the box in home décor. A recent nursery project featured a gold peony print paper, and they used a boom box print paper for a tween hang out space, saying the subject matter was retro and the application was modern.

Sometimes they find that clients seek them out because they need a nudge to embrace a bolder style. 

"We do find that happening more," Papier said. "You need a little push out of your comfort zone to try something."

Client Liz Cardwell turned to them for that push in the right direction. 

"We wanted wallpaper in the entry to give it a sense of fun and whimsy and warmth," Cardwell said. "There are so many good wallpapers out there, that it's exciting to choose. I got the room most of the way there, but then I needed help picking a paper. The one we chose was out of print, and we ended up going with an Anthropologie paper that I like even more than my original choice. Natalie and Kim were my design gurus through the process."

Favorite sources

When it comes to sources for paper, the market has grown in leaps and bounds. 

"That's the beauty of this," Daunis said. "It can be affordable and DIY, or it can be very high end."

Favorite brands include Hygge and West, Rifle Paper, Aimee Wilder and Anthropologie. For harder-to-find prints from the UK, the pair turns to a Canadian retailer, www.finestwallpaper.com.

Larger online retailers such as Wallpaper Direct and Wayfair offer a wide variety of designer prints. 

"They have a lot of brands from Schumacher to York," Daunis said. "It can vary from $100 to $1,000 a roll."

Papier says that she chose an inexpensive graphic pattern from Wayfair when she papered her home's stairwell. 

"People love it," she said. "I spent about $50 on the tools to install it and $120 on the paper."

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