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With new artistic designs, wallpaper is hip again

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 8:17 p.m.
Bold prints and vivid colors sum up the HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams line
HGTV/Sherwin Williams
Bold prints and vivid colors sum up the HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams line

Wallpaper is hip again.

A new generation of designs could easily be labeled as works of art — eye candy that runs the gamut from decadent to delicate.

“It's not grandma's paper anymore,” says Donna Masberger, a sales associate at the Sherwin-Williams store on Babcock Boulevard.

Brilliant colors and new uses of textiles are now commanding the attention of home owners looking to add a pop of personality into their space, creating a high-end vibe.

“People can use wallpaper in their home and it looks like a designer has been there,” says HGTV designer Meg Caswell.

In business since 1895 and still occupying its original location in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley, York Wallcoverings offers collections with sassy titles like “Risky Business,” “Glitterati II,” “Rhythm & Hues,” “Tres Chic” and “Bling.” Specialty materials — including Swarovski crystals, flocked fibers, recycled glass bead, glitter, mica and sand embellishments, as well as embroidery — are used to put a new spin on familiar designs.

In its high-end lifestyle, “Walt Disney Signature” brand, soft color palates and artistic designs are used to gracefully interpret beloved classics such as “Steamboat Willie,” “Fantasia” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

“It's anything you want it to be today. A lot of the stuff that's popular is the bolder, graphic and more modern presentation than in the past," says LeRue Brown, York's director of marketing. “The sand and glass beads we put on our product (for) bling. We have five different types of presses and one of them is the original press, it's called surface printing, and we're still using that to create a dimensional, almost like handmade, wallpaper. So, we've taught an old dog to learn new tricks. We're always looking for something we can twist or push the envelope to create something new.”

From vibrant geometrics, bright florals, smoldering metallics and bold black and whites to dreamy, whispering designs and cascading, raised-print patterns, products are made to be hard to resist. The design team at York plays attention to what's going on in the world of fashion to determine trends, Brown says.

“(There's a) continuous appeal of metallic inks — from silver and gold to copper and bronze,” he says. “And we are also printing with glitter to add more light play and interest to our prints. Another design trend which continues to be popular in fashion apparel, as well as home fashion, is animal prints. And in our kids' line of wallpaper, while anything Disney still sells, there is a definite trend toward more sophisticated wallpapers for young people.”

Regardless of what direction you are heading, it's becoming much more common to move beyond the paint can when looking to add personality and dimension to a room.

“I think decorating your wall and adding more pattern and color everywhere can only be good in my book,” says Brooklyn-based artist Julia Rothman, whose whimsical, hand-drawn patterns turned into a line scooped up by Hygge & West. One of her bestselling patterns, “Daydream,” a sugar-spun-soft design of swirling clouds and gently swooping swallows, is popular in rooms from nurseries to powder rooms.

Today's buyers are opting for a “less is more” mentality — highlighting a focal point rather than covering every square inch.

“People aren't putting wallpaper up the same way they used to,” Rothman says. “They used to put wallpaper on every single wall. Now it can be done on an accent wall to add color or pop to one area of your room in small areas.”

It can also be done without major headaches. Gone are the days of impossible-to-work-with glues and guaranteed damage to your walls. Most of the wallpaper today comes pre-pasted. It is used without risk of buyer's remorse thanks to the introduction of removable wallpaper, also known as “renter's wallpaper.” Patience still remains a virtue, but the product has become much more user-friendly.

When debating whether you want to commit to adding wallpaper, remember, Rothman says, you don't have to cover every wall.

“If you put it in your bathroom or the lining of your closet or one small accent wall — it's just one small wall,” he says.

“Get used to it and see how you feel. It's like having a tattoo — are you going to love this pattern? Are you going to love seeing it every day? Starting small is the best thing to do.”

Kate Benz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-380-8515.

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