Wallpaper as Art: The Cross’ Peter Wilds on New Patterns and Textures

Wallpaper is back in and its latest incarnation will add style to any room

Credit: Courtesy The Cross / Jamie Hodge

Iguana wallpaper by Timorous Beasties is a bold traditional print with a contemporary edge

The latest offerings in wallpaper will have you eyeing every surface in your home, scouting for an area that needs a little pick-me-up

I spoke with The Cross’s in-house designer Peter Wilds to get some tips on navigating the new world of wallpaper. Nominated last year as one of House & Home’s stylemakers, Wilds has some creative ideas to help you incorporate wallpaper into your own home.

Why is wallpaper so trendy again?

Wallpaper has been huge in Europe for the last 10 years. The reason there’s such a resurgence is due to what wallpaper is today – it’s art. And it’s being done in an edgier and sometimes hotter way. Lines that we carry like Designer’s Guild and Timorous Beasties out of the UK are known for their graphic organic and geometric patterns in dynamic and modern colours.

What makes it fresh this time around?

Neutral colours are still timeless and essential to decorating, and there are countless wallpaper options that complement this scheme. What’s new is the texture, the shimmering quality and sometimes the edgy patterns.

Elements have been applied to paper so they have a raised texture – three dimensionality. Some papers have a shimmering quality, like a modern gilt effect, where natural and artificial light create a glow in the room. Patterns such as florals or stripes are bolder in scale. And sometimes the subject matter is unexpected and humourous.

The same goes for colour. Bold, confident and saturated colour plays a big part in where wallpaper has gone. Now wallpaper acts as a giant canvas in a room. This is where it acts as art.

What’s the best way to introduce wallpaper into an existing home? Do you need to redo your entire interior scheme, or can it be done in on a smaller scale?

Sometimes a room is missing that one element that ties the space together. Wallpaper is a great way of accomplishing that. While it doesn’t necessarily mean papering an entire room, doing a feature wall in a bedroom, living room or dining room can really transform an environment.

An effective way of incorporating wallpaper is to put it in a small contained space like a powder room. Since it’s not a high traffic area, you get that “wow” effect every time you open the door.  It’s an invitation to use a bold patterns and colours that you wouldn’t think of using in a more open area of your home.

Large-scale wallpapering projects can be intimidating. What are some smaller projects people could try?

If you rent a home or apartment, you might not want to make the investment of papering a wall that can’t go with you when you move. So I love the idea of papering a large panel that can lean against the wall. You can even go as far as papering both sides of the panel (one in a subtle pattern/colour and the other in something bold and edgy), that way you have two looks that can be changed out depending on your mood or desired effect. This way it actually operates as a piece of art.

Which wallpaper would you love to put in your own home?

I’m obsessed with the papers by Timorous Beasties. They take classic historical patterns like botanicals and French toiles and put a modern unexpected twist on them with colour, humour and bit of edge.

However I’m all about timeless elegance, too. Designer’s Guild has a series called Tsuga and they are stunning fields of shimmering colour (neutrals and pastels). Some of the applications I’m really into are wallpapering ceilings, mixing patterns in a room and wallpapering the face of a fireplace. People often forget about the ceiling and just paint it white. But it’s a great way of doing something unexpected in a room.

What are your thoughts on mixing patterns?

Mixing patterns is a modern twist on the traditional use of wallpaper. Often wallpaper companies give a variety of patterns in the same colour palette, so you can easily mix a stripe with a floral. Working tone-on-tone is a great way to achieve a mix that’s not overwhelming. You could put the stripes on the two walls facing each other and the florals on the other two opposite walls. I’m also really into hanging stripes on the horizontal. 

Is there such a thing as foolproof wallpaper?

Nothing is foolproof. It’s like asking the fabric on your sofa to be indestructible and completely stain resistant. It is only paper and I use common sense on where and when to use it. The wallpaper we carry [at The Cross] is high quality and we recommend contracting out so the paper’s hung perfectly and you get the most out of your investment.

See more gorgeous wallpaper designs in our wallpaper gallery.

Catherine Tse is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver who brings her love of style to a variety of print and online publications. She discovered early on that writing and an ambitious penchant for lovely things was a good combination.