Decorate Your Living Space with Wallpaper: Tips from Sharon Halpin of Fruition Design

Not your parents' wallpaper - these posh papers add pizzazz

Credit: Terry Guscott / Styling by Heather Cameron

No longer just for grannies: This wallpaper will make your living space stylish

Forget boring old paint. Wallpaper is back and it’s anything but old-school

Sharon Halpin of Fruition Design suggests ways to dress up your space with inventive colour, patterns and textures that add personality and warmth in a way no mere coat of paint could.

Dark and Exotic

“Animal prints, stripes, damask, black-and-white … never go out of style when used appropriately. High-impact and visually appealing, these patterns are perfect for those neglected little spaces in your home,” says Halpin.

How to use it: “I would love to see an unexpected zebra or leopard print on all four walls in a powder room to add a little pizzazz to a space. The powder room is a space where you can be a little bolder and more playful, so using a strong pattern like the Marcel Wanders Suzanne as a feature wall, with the remaining walls in a black-and-white stripe would be fantastic. Both patterns are traditional in nature and the co-ordinating colour scheme allows them to blend rather than clash.”

“As a designer, I am constantly searching for new and inventive ways to infuse personality, depth and texture into a space. One of my go-to ways to achieve this lofty goal is the introduction of wallpaper,” says Halpin.

Pale, with Personality

“Like black and white, neutral tones never go out of style,” says Halpin. Subtle hues, hits of silver and un-expected patterns like leopard print make these new neutraals anything but boring. 

How to use it: Halpin’s pick for adding some warmth to a kitchen nook: the Eastern Expressions wallcovering with raffia overlay. “The Gossamer Collection for a feature wall in a master bedroom would be divine.”

Designer note:
 “Master bedrooms should be restful and relaxing, but far from boring. These neutral tone-on-tone patterns can bring your walls, bedding and carpets together to create a cozy retreat.”

Easy Elegance

“The ornate patterns of these wallpapers are a throwback to years gone by and add a touch of elegance to any wall,” says Halpin.

How to use it: “The entryway is the first impression given by your home. I love these patterns for a foyer,” says Halpin. “The Flock wallpaper adds a depth with the raised velvet against a backdrop of warm silver. The metallic background 
of the Wallquest adds a hint of glamour to the walls. Adding curtains and upholstery in the same pattern or colour can 
create a wow factor with a playful scale.” 

“Wallpaper seems to be one of those products that has saturated our memories of the grandparents’ home and the inability to move a crookedly hung picture for fear of exposing the faded flock wallpaper that every uncle has tried to remove – and failed,” says Halpin.

Designer note: “When using wallpaper, remember to maintain a theme and flow throughout your home. Think about what you want your home to say about you and your personality.”

The Not-So-Secret Garden

“Not your grandmother’s wallpaper!” Halpin exclaims. “The larger size and scale of the 
patterns, and the bolder and stronger colours make these wallpapers more modern. Overall, 
a fresh take on an old favourite.”

How to use it: The trick to using any floral or pattern with a strength of colour is to use it as a backdrop to neutral furnishings. Have a cream sofa and a boring carpet? Add Beauty with tones of purple, turquoise and citronella and instantly brighten and freshen your space. 

“I admit, the merest suggestion of wallpaper renders even the most savvy of clients slightly suspicious of my design motives,” says Halpin.

Designer note: 
”A more traditional pattern can be used to soften the often colder edges of contemporary furnishings and add an unexpected element of interest to any room.” 

Nouveau Riche Reds and Pinks

“Fashion-inspired reds and fuchsias are bold colours that easily impart a strength of character to a room,” says Halpin.

How to use it: “I love these patterns for a dining room as a way to make the room feel warmer and inviting,” says Halpin. “The richness of these tones is perfect to complement the warmth of wood or the coolness of tile.”

Designer note: “When trying to make a space feel larger, a mistake is made in keeping the colours light: The opposite is actually true,” says Halpin. “Using deep, rich colour and texture gives a striking look and feel to a room that makes you forget about its size.”

Do-it-yourself Design

“Wallpapers today give you the ability to really add your own personality,” says Halpin. 

How to use it: “Frames is perfect for a children’s playroom or bedroom. So – gasp! – let your child draw on the wall. Superfresco paintable wallpaper lets you repaint time and time again. I love this pattern and would use it on the ceiling of an entertainment room,” says Halpin.

“Once converted to a wallpaper devotee, clients seldom go back to regular painting,” says Halpin.

Designer note: “The pattern and texture provides some insulation, rendering better quality of sound. It’s also taking a more traditional approach to wallpaper and adding a modern twist.”

Off the Wall

Though wallpaper fell from favour in the past few decades, it’s all the rage now. Just ask the designers at Rollout, an award-winning Vancouver-based company that supplies custom-designed wall coverings (like this scroll pattern produced for the Joey Restaurant Group).

If you lack the creative credentials to design your own patterns, don’t worry; you can also choose from a variety of stock styles created by industry-leading illustrators, graphic artists and photographers. Custom wallpaper designs start at $1,250, making wallpaper a budget-friendly alternative to a hand-painted mural.

Get more wallpaper tips from The Cross’ Peter Wilds.

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.