Wallpaper in Small Spaces

I love to write about design trends. Check out my story in the Calgary Herald about doing a wallpaper feature wall.

Go big (or small) with a feature wall

Go big (or small)
with a feature wall

Add drama to the dining room with mural wallpaper.
Add drama to the dining room with mural wallpaper. COURTESY, PRIME WALLS / CALGARY HERALD

You like to be up on the trends. You want your new condo to look as stylish as a show suite. You’re ready to try a wallpaper feature wall.

“Wallpaper has kind of taken over from painting an accent wall,” says designer Rochelle Cote of Rochelle Cote Interior Design. “I think because people want something a little bit more unique than just a flat colour.”

Sounds good. What could go wrong?

Well, not too much, as long as you keep in mind some small-space guidelines, says Caprice Chisolm, who designs show homes for Hopewell Residential.

“In a condo setting, start off small,” Chisolm says. “Perhaps a feature wall in the dining room, master bedroom or entryway. This will add visual impact in smaller doses.”

But we want to go big. Feature wall big.

“For cohesion between the feature wall and the other walls in the room, select a paint colour that matches the negative space or background of the wallpaper,” Chisolm advises. “This will allow you to enjoy the thrill of wallpaper without having it overpower the space.”

It’s important to have all the colours working together.

“Keep your space in mind, think about the other design elements and layers, says Chisolm. “If you fall in love with a large-scale wallpaper, stick to textures and complementary patterns for area rugs, bedding and upholstered furniture.”

There’s a lovely example of this in Brookfield Residential’s Slate II show home in Cranston.

As you enter the open concept space, you see an accent wall at the far end of the kitchen/dining room. The beachy blue colour of the wallpaper is echoed in the sofa and accent chair of the living room, and again in small decor touches throughout the open concept kitchen and dining area. The overall effect is subtle and layered.

Rochelle Cote, who often works with Brookfield Residential, says a good place to start is behind a bed.

“We use a lot behind headboards,” she says. “If you have about a 10-foot long solid wall, that’s a really great place to use wallpaper to get a little more graphic interest.”

Cote has also done some really bold wallpaper moves, like the faux brick wallpaper she applied to two feature walls in the new Brookfield Residential show home in Fireside, a new community in Cochrane. It created both drama and an architectural feature.

But such moves are not for the beginner.

“Doesn’t matter that it’s a small space,” Cote says. “The key is to just do a flat wall. If has an opening or a window, it’s a little trickier — if you have one flat wall, where you’d normally do paint, that’s a good place to do wallpaper.”

Cote has also used both large-print florals and prints — the reinvented traditional patterns that are popular now — and the new textured faux brick, faux stone wallpapers. She says today’s digital imagery makes these wallpapers very realistic.

Yulia Zhuravleva, interior design administrator at Walls Alive, also recommends the new textured wallpapers.

“Texture brings warmth and sense of luxury to the space, whether you will go with a bright colour or a settled tone,” she says, adding that you have to look at the overall colour scheme of the condo.

“Pull colour out of the existing space like flooring, tiles and counters and walls,” she says. “Harmonious and complementing colours, or even tone-on-tone palettes will make the room look spacious, while harsh combinations will look out of place.”

Zhuravleva urges caution when choosing a bold pattern.

“A small to medium size pattern will provide enough presence even on a tiny area without being too much,” she says. “Large pattern will only give you a few repeats — you will not be able to enjoy the pattern to the fullest.”

But, what if you really want big drama?

“Remember, everything in moderation,” Chisolm says. “Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing.”

Is there a way to choose something classic and timeless?

Rochelle Cote says, don’t worry about that so much as finding a wallpaper that you love to look at.

“Wallpaper is trendy. If you’re going to take the leap, pick something you like,” Cote says. “Just do it, and just know that maybe in five years you might want to take it down.”

And that’s OK.