Not Your Grandmother’s Wallpaper

Transform spaces with new low-maintenance wallpaper that shows off some personality.

Shunned for decades in a fevered pursuit of interior design sterility, wallpaper has made its grand return, and this time it’s personal. 

Interior by Susan Jamieson of Bridget Beari Designs.

Photo by Joe Bernado

Today’s reimagined décor diva carries with it opportunities to transform walls (and ceilings!) with unique artistic designs. As a richer approach to design has found acceptance in recent years and recharged our decorating batteries, wallpaper in a dizzying assortment of textures has emerged as the perfect tool to apply a little art to our spaces and show some personality in our homes.

“People have started to realize that it’s a great way to let your hair down a bit in interior design and show a little more of their personal style,” says Wyndi Carnes, a Richmond-based designer.

The best part? If you don’t like the look, you can remove it and replace it with something different almost as easily as applying a fresh coat of paint. Gone are globs of sticky paste and painstaking steaming and scraping. Manufacturers of new paper options have dramatically improved the processes of application and removal, paving the way for wallpaper’s revitalization as what used to be notoriously problematic has become low maintenance. 

“It’s not your grandmother’s wallpaper,” says interior designer Susan Jamieson, a founder and principal of the Richmond-based design firm Bridget Beari Designs, Inc. In addition to her internationally acclaimed design work, she offers 16 wallpaper patterns in 76 color palette options (known as “colorways”) and both matte and metallic options. “Clients like lots of textures, like grasscloth, and smaller patterns have a broader interest,” says Jamieson. 

The renaissance of wallpaper also caught the attention of Richmond-based artist Lindsay Cowles, who paints large-scale abstract paintings filled with bright, bold colors and movement. A few years ago a friend suggested that her art would make great wallpaper, and now she converts patterns from her works to digitally produced wallpapers. Her signature creations translate a unique interplay of color, layering, and texturing in paint from the canvas to walls in homes around the world. These artful designs can be customized in color, repeat, and material for use in both residential and commercial projects. “These are wallpaper designs you would not have seen 20 or 30 years ago,” says Cowles.

Prices for the new custom wallpapers vary greatly. Collection staples can be as little as $30 per square yard for in-stock colorways or as much as $500 per square yard for grasscloth, metallic, or flocked textured papers. 

“Customized wallpapers let us choose something that no one else has for our rooms,” points out Blaine McDermott, an interior designer who works with Carnes. “We had a client who had a treasured painting of Nantucket, and we used the color in that painting to inform the custom color selection for wallpaper created for their project. It simply allows homeowners to express their personalities in décor. It’s essentially a massive piece of artwork.” 

This article originally appeared in our House + Garden 2019 issue.

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