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Style Spotlight: Wallcoverings

Make a bold design statement with wallpaper, borders, murals, and decals.

Holly Traffas
Holly Traffas
Birch Forest Wall Mural in entryway

Wall decor isn’t limited to framed art and mirrors. From high-contrast prints to subtle textures, wallpaper can transform the look and feel of a room. It’s been around for hundreds of years, graduating from handpainted and block-printed designs to mass-produced rolls. In recent times, wallpaper has gone in and out of vogue, but it’s back in a big way — along with its counterparts, murals and vinyl wall decals. Whether your style is traditional or trendy, or somewhere in the middle, there’s an option to express your unique taste. And, decking out the walls is probably easier, more affordable, and less intimidating than you’d imagined. If you’re considering a wallcovering, but aren’t quite sure where to start, here are a few tips to choose a look you’ll love.


Popular Patterns

Here’s a sampling of popular wallpaper patterns and some decorating styles they pair well with:


Ornate and luxurious, damask prints were first used in Chinese fabric design more than a thousand years ago. The name comes from the “silk road” city of Damascus, where the fabric was traded and manufactured. Traditional damask wallpaper patterns have large medallions with symmetrical scrollwork made up of natural elements, like feathers, leaves, flowers, and vines. The motifs can be highlighted with textures or metallic foil finishes.

Damask Wallpaper Samples

Damask is a classic baroque pattern that can add a dramatic, opulent look to Victorian and traditional rooms. The new, reimagined designs can be used to make a statement in contemporary glam, industrial chic, and bohemian spaces.

The color palette is typically limited, featuring just two colors, or two shades of the same color, but can include a variety of deep shades, like this selection from the York Wallcoverings Waverly Classics II collection.  Modern updates include more stylized lines, as seen in this black and white Marrakech pattern by Brewster, quirky motifs like the gothic skulls featured in the Brewster Luther Collection, or distressed finishes like the urban-inspired Contemporary Collage pattern from York Wallcoverings.


Tidy rows of roses, precise geometric daisies, or freeform watercolor blooms — floral wallpapers have as many varieties as there are types of blooms. For a romantic look in French country, shabby chic, Victorian, or cottage designs, choose realistic images in soft colors. Bring a retro vibe to modern and boho spaces with stylized floral prints in throwback colors. Many floral collections have coordinating papers in subtle stripes or textures so you can add more than one pattern to single room.

Floral Wallpaper Examples


From big, bold tartan patterns, to neat and tidy gingham checks, plaid wallpaper can bring straight-edged order to a room. A traditional choice for libraries, game rooms, and boys’ bedrooms, plaid can add a masculine sensibility to a variety of spaces. Choose earthy tones to add warmth to rustic or lodge-style interiors. Brighter colors, like this green and lavender madras from the Brewster Bennetts Collection adds a sweet touch to country kitchens and breakfast nooks.

Plaid Wallpaper Examples


Stripes are a mainstay of wallpaper design across decorating styles for good reason. This classic pattern can trick the eye, making a room look taller (or wider when hung horizontally — more on that below), and it comes in such a variety of widths and colors, it can make itself at home in almost any room. Broad, evenly spaced awning stripes in two contrasting colors, like this blue and white striped pattern from York Wallcoverings work well in nautical and coastal cottage-themed designs. Striated wallpaper, like the textured patterns in the York Wallcoverings Reflections: Pleated Texture Collection add subtle depth and interest without committing to a bolder pattern. For an edgy, contemporary look, consider hanging striped wallpaper horizontally. If you’re a novice paper hanger, you should consider hiring a professional for this type of installation.

Striped Wallpaper Examples


Traditionally, these patterns feature intricate and idyllic vignettes of life in the French countryside. The motifs often feature couples lounging beneath trees, rustic hunting parties, or bucolic harvest scenes. Many toile patterns have an Asian flair, with illustrations of pagodas, footbridges, and characters in traditional clothing. Toile wallpapers come in a variety of colors, and can add a dramatic, and romantic flair to French Country, Victorian, and Shabby Chic spaces. These patterns can have a very large repeat — a single motif can take up the entire width of the roll — so be sure to consider the size of your room when choosing your paper.

Toile Wallpaper Examples

Paintable Wallpaper

Also known as anaglypta wallpaper, paintable wall paper is not really a single pattern or style, but we’re including it here because of its unique flexibility. This type of wallpaper comes in virtually every style, and a variety of patterns, but only one color — white. The texture is the star here, and you make it shine with your choice of paint. Once hung, you can roll on your favorite color, and even highlight the design with one or more coordinating colors.

Paintable Wallpaper Examples

Wallpaper Borders

Designed to stand on their own, or pair with coordinating wallpapers, borders can be applied next to the ceiling or mid-wall at the chair rail. To add visual interest, consider framing the top and bottom of chair-rail borders with trim molding.

Wallpaper Border Examples

How Much Wallpaper Do I Need?

It’s not enough to just calculate the surface area of your walls. You also need to factor in “pattern repeat,” and allow for installation cuts and mistakes. Pattern repeat is the distance between two identical elements of the design, measured in inches. This number will be listed in the product description of the wallpaper you choose. The larger the repeat, the more waste you’ll have. Be sure to order generously so you don’t risk running out of paper halfway through your project. Here’s how to estimate the minimum amount of wallpaper to purchase:

  1. Measure the height of the room in inches.
  2. Factor in the pattern repeat by calculating an adjusted wall height as follows:
  3. Wall Height (inches) ➗ Pattern Repeat (inches) = modifier
  4. Modifier X Pattern Repeat = Adjusted Wall Height
  5. Convert the adjusted wall height from inches to feet by dividing by 12.
  6. Calculate the surface area of the wall(s) in feet by multiplying the width by the adjusted room height to arrive at Total Square Feet (TSF).
  7. Subtract the measurements of openings (doors and windows) from the TSF. However, remember that cutting around these obstacles can result in more waste, so be conservative with your allowance for openings.
  8. Add 10% for waste

For example, let’s calculate a single wall measuring 96” tall and 120” (ten feet) wide with a 24” x 36” window, for wallpaper with an 18” repeat:

  1. 96 (wall height, inches) ➗ 18 (pattern repeat, inches) = 5.33 (Round Up to 6) This is your modifier.
  2. 6 (modifier) X 18 (pattern repeat, inches) = 108 This is your adjusted wall height in inches.
  3. 108 (adjusted wall height, inches) ➗ 12 = 9 This is your adjusted wall height in feet
  4. 9 (adjusted wall height, feet) x 10 (width of room in feet) = 90 This is the wall surface in square feet.
  5. Subtract the window opening (in this example it’s six square feet) 90 - 6 = 84 square feet.
  6. Add 10% for waste: 84 + 8.4 = 92.4, Round up to 93

So, if the pattern your considering comes in double rolls, which are typically 56 square feet, you’ll need two double rolls for this project.

Coffee theme wallpaper in dining room

Getting Ready to Hang Wallpaper  

Be sure to start with clean, smooth walls. Fill any nail holes, gouges, and other imperfections with spackling compound, then sand smooth before you hang your first strip.

Have textured walls? Wallpaper is best hung on a perfectly smooth surface. Bumps, ridges, swirls, and dimples in the plaster will show through the paper and, with all those hills and valleys, it can be tricky to match up the seams.  Rough walls can be smoothed using a skim coat of sheetrock compound, then sanding the walls to a perfect finish. The process can be messy and time consuming. Lining paper can also be used under wallpaper to cover imperfections, but you will essentially be doubling your efforts - hanging one layer of paper atop another. If the wallpaper itself is textured, like grasscloth, it can hide minor imperfections on the wall.

Determine whether the paper you choose is prepasted. Prepasted wallpaper is activated with water. Unpasted wallpaper requires you to brush on special adhesive to adhere it to the wall. Wallpaper paste kits are available to get you started.


Today’s high-resolution wall murals let you create a peaceful forest in your bedroom, a waterfall in your office, or an ocean beach view in the middle of the city. In addition to realistic photo designs, wall murals are also available in bold patterns, like this bohemian mandala pattern from Brewster or the sleek, contemporary silver orbs mural. You can also add an accent wall in faux finishes like wood paneling, stone, or bricks.

Wall Mural Examples


If you’re not quite ready to commit to pasting patterned paper to your walls, these peel and stick decor pieces are a great alternative. Most are easily removable and can be repositioned (be sure to read the product description for specifics). You can choose a trio of giant daisy decals to brighten a living room corner, or add a licensed Disney character decal like Mickey Mouse, Goofy, or a Disney princess to your child’s bedroom wall.

Wall Decal Examples